It’s About Time for a Quiz


Our faculty members do an amazing job of working together on unit planning. Our daily schedule has dedicated common planning time for grade-level teams for just this purpose. These planning discussions often begin with a focus on the title or theme of the unit, then they move on to how they’ll introduce a unit, the activities their students will do, field trips they might take that will enhance learning, etc.

Often, toward the end of the discussion when the planning is just about finished, the question of assessments will come up. How will they assess students’ learning? Will they begin the unit with a pre-assessment? Will student self-assessments be used? Then the teachers might look back over the unit with an eye toward deciding where to place quizzes or give an end-of-unit test. “This is a good place for a vocabulary quiz,” they might decide. Or, “This would be be the best time for an assessment. It’s halfway into the unit and it’s right before a long weekend holiday break.”

What’s interesting is that as a group, our faculty do understand what it means to build a meaningful curriculum. They know that assessment isn’t an add-on that needs to be squeezed into a unit of instruction. But with everything else they have to do every day… with all of the competing priorities they juggle to ensure that a class of 20 children are learning… how can they push themselves as educators to begin with the end in mind? How can we facilitate those discussions so that they begin by identifying exactly what students should learn and then setting the expectations around how the students will show their learning?

Third grade teachers discussing math with our numeracy coach.

Third grade teachers discussing math with our numeracy coach.

One way we promote these conversations is through our math coach. She does an amazing job of leading grade-level teams of teachers through the units of Everyday Math, the primary math resource that we adopted last year. She guides the teachers to compare the learning as outlined in the EDM materials with the Common Core Standards to gain clarity around the goal of exactly what students will be expected to learn – and to be able to show that they’ve learned – at the end of the unit. With that goal in mind, the job of identifying the relevant lessons and activities that will facilitate that learning goes quite quickly and easily. Impressive!

In January, a group of ASD teacher leaders and administrators will be attending “Designing an Understanding-based Curriculum Around Common Core Standards,” a workshop with Jay McTighe, during the NESA Winter Training Institute 2014 at the American International School of Muscat. I’m looking forward to the discussions and learning we’ll experience, but more importantly I’m looking forward to bringing our learning back to the entire faculty. With some hard work and focus, this time next year all unit planning will begin with the end in mind.


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