As part of my district’s plan to realign our curriculum with the Common Core State Standards (which we are calling the C4 Project, for Cheltenham Common Core Curriculum), I will be developing a Toolkit for Principals. Each month, I will prepare a four-part package of resources and activities they can use both for their own professional development and as part of faculty meetings with their staff members. The four parts each month will be
- Think: a warm up article, blog post, or video to set the stage for a faculty discussion
- Share: two activities principals can use with staff members during the month in faculty or team meetings
- Test Drive: A key instructional practice that teachers can try out in their classrooms without expectations
- Explore: Links to other resources with more information for those who want to dig deeper
Though these kits will be geared heavily towards the particular needs of our own district, I thought others might find them useful, and so I’ll be posting them here. Enjoy, and please do give me feedback on what is working and what you’d like to see in future toolkits!
January Toolkit: Focus on Transfer
Before the next faculty meeting, begin by reading this article from Grant Wiggins’ Blog: Learning about learning from soccer.
Consider these questions as you read:
- What parallels do you see between soccer and the learning that happens in your classroom?
- What do you agree or disagree with in Wiggins’ post?
- BONUS: Write a comment on Grant’s blog with your reflection or reaction
Try one or both of these activities in a faculty or team meeting:
Transfer in Practice
- Bring one upcoming lesson from any class you are teaching, preferably in the next week
- Identify the transfer goal implied by the content and skills in the lesson. What is it that students will be using outside of school and in life beyond graduation? What is the “game condition” for this topic or skill?
- With a grade partner, plan an activity or project where students can demonstrate that transfer goal.
- BONUS: Try out the activity before the next faculty meeting.
Thinking about Understanding
(Adapted from an activity in the Understanding by Design Professional Development Workbook)
Understanding is a key prerequisite (or at least a co-requisite) of transfer. So what do we mean when we say someone “understands” something? Think about these quotes, then in a small group write a statement that completes this phrase: “Someone who understands…”
Men just don’t understand women!
I didn’t really understand it until I had to use it.
Although I disagree, I can understand the opposition’s point of view.
She knows the answer but doesn’t understand why it is correct.
Each day this month, try one of these simple techniques for focusing on transfer in the classroom:
- Alert: Explicitly draw students’ attention to the transfer goal by pointing out how the skill is useful outside of school, or by demonstrating an example of how you have used it in practice.
- Predict: Ask students after a lesson to predict when the skill, concept, or topic would apply to something outside of school, or how their parents might need to use it.
- Connect: Talk about how this topic or skill connects to something they learned earlier in the year, something they will be learning in a later unit, or something from a different subject.
- Reflect: Ask students to reflect on their own use and understanding of the skill. What works? What doesn’t? How could you understand better?
- BONUS: Try one of these techniques yourself when thinking about your own planning and instruction, or share your own reflections in the comments below.
Here are a few more resources on transfer that you can check out if you want to learn more or dig deeper:
- The Science and Art of Transfer
- Education at Bat: Seven Principles for Educators
- Learning and Transfer (click link on right for Chapter 3; from How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School)
Coming next month…
You may be asking, “This is all well and good, but what does it have to do with the Common Core?” In the next toolkit, we will make the connection explicit and explore how transfer plays a key role in successfully implementing the Standards.