Friday, August 21, 2015

Guidance for Creating Essential Learnings

What is an essential learning? It takes the standards and breaks them down to 10 or so things that you want students to learn during a semester.

Why are they important? We should be basing our instruction on these 10 things.  Therefore, we should be basing our assessments on these 10 or so things.

How are they developed?  Collaboratively with group of people who teach the same or similar things.  See Bill Ferriter’s blog

What do they look like?:  They look kid friendly.  They are probably on a one page document listed out as bulleted points or simple statement.  Again, only about 10 items for a semester.

Are essential learnings basically just standards?  They are not just repeating the standards.  They are making them into words that you can understand and words that students understand.  A standard might ask a learner to do several things all at once. See the standard below

Nebraska Social Studies Standard 12.1.1
Students will analyze and evaluate the foundation, structures, and functions of the United States government as well as local, state, and international governments.

Breaking this standard down, it asks no less than 24 things.  Analyze 3 things (foundation, structure and funtion).  Evaluate 3 things ( foundation, structure, and function).  That’s 6 tasks.  Now do each of those 6 tasks for 4 different types of government (US, local, state, and international)

How can we make that student friendly?  
  1. First we’ll need to break it down.  In an American History class, we can look why (analyze)  the US government was structured the way it was.
  2. Now we can use an “I can” statement or “a student will be able to” statement.
    • I can explain the reasons that the US government has 3 branches.
    • A student will be able to explain the reasons that the US government has 3 branches.

Finally, PLCs are based on 4 main questions
1) What do we want students to know? (essential learning)
2) How do we know that they've learned this? (common formative assessments)
3) What do we do when a student doesn't learn? (intervention)
4) What do we do when a student already knows? (enrichment)

This is the simple version but it is exactly what every PLC in the district should be doing every week.  Determining what we want students to  know and then how to get there.  
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