Today, we have guest blogger Charity Preston. Charity has an amazing blog called "The Organized Classroom Blog". Charity is an elementary teacher, but teachers of all age groups and subject areas will benefit from the materials on her blog. I hope that you will take a look at her blog because I know that you will come away with something you can use in your classroom. You can also visit her on her Facebook Fan Page.
"Narrow Your Curriculum Focus"
by Guest Blogger, Charity Preston
Do you really know what each individual student in your classroom knows? Knowing that information is imperative for you to know what you need to be teaching on a daily basis. Begin by giving a pretest of the next chapter, unit, or entire year. Do an item analysis of every question. I do know it is tedious work, but the result is being able to condense your workload in the end. After completing item analysis of how many students incorrectly answered each question, step back and look at it again.
If 10% or less of your students answered a question wrong, you are now able to "skip" or "skim" that skill throughout your lessons! Why? You should not take the time to reteach something almost all students already know. Jot a note regarding the few students who answered incorrectly, to make sure to cover the skill when it arises within a small group. An entire lesson devoted to a skill the class already knows is a waste of your time (which is limited as it is), as well as the students’ time.
Keep in mind, if the majority of students answer a specific question incorrectly, the opposite is also true. Cover that skill several times throughout the year just to make sure it is not incorrectly answered the next time. You should start to see a "road map' of what should and should not be covered in the curriculum. This is differentiation at its finest. Narrowing the focus of your entire school year to hone in on what students specifically do and do not need to learn is eye opening.
Some students may average very high on this "master pretest." Being aware of this is extremely important! If a student already knows 85% or better of the material that should be mastered for the entire school year, it is your responsibility to make sure that the student is challenged in other ways. Just because he or she already "gets it" does not warrant an excuse to allow a student to not learn anything new. Each child should have an opportunity to a learning growth of at least one year in any given school year.
With your item analysis in hand, start matching up standards yet to be learned with your district’s curriculum series. Finally, take a blank school year calendar, with all vacation days blocked out, and begin filling in the page numbers or lessons you need to teach for each subject (skipping the items already mastered by the majority of your class). This is your "road map" that is specifically designed for your class and their learning needs! Any day of any week in the school year, you will know that the lesson being taught is essential to their knowledge base, without wasting time on skills that are already known. Of course, this "map" is fluid so that as schedule interruptions happen (as they always do), you can move lessons up or down. Stay close to your map, and you will never have to know if you are on target again - you have already hit a bull's-eye!
Charity L. Preston is an author, teacher, and parent. Most importantly, she is an educator in all roles. The ability to teach someone something new is a gift that few truly appreciate. Visit her now at http://www.theorganizedclassroomblog.com or at her Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/TheOrganizedClassroomBlog to sign up for a free newsletter that offers free downloadable classroom resources every month delivered right to your inbox! Check it out now!