The Literacy Design Collaborative has developed a process for unit planning that I think is the method we should use in the classroom level of PBGR implementation. Their process is well thought out and constantly being field tested by educators around the country. The process is based on the principles of Backwards Design with some added benefits. The developers at LDC have created a set of templates that help teachers structure their summative, and to a certain extent their formative, assessments.
Here are some examples of the kinds of templates LDC has produced. These happen to be for grades 6-12 in the area of "argumentation". There are also templates for grades 2-6 and in science and math now. If you look at the structure of these "task templates" you can see the consistency in language without dictating content or teaching methods.
Here is how this plays out when teachers fill these out. Notice that while each is very different notice that each maintains a consistant format and a clear statement of outcomes. Think about how we could not only have productive conversations between teachers but also communicate expectations to students and families in a clear and consistent way. These are examples from teacher work at Green Mountain:
[What are the best possible outcomes of the attached scenarios? After learning and applying the rules, skills, and strategies of the games describe either through paragraph form or drawing what movements and strategies will lead to the best possible outcome.]
What would you like to save up for? What makes the most difference in how soon you reach your goal? After deciding what you are saving for and researching current interest rates, write a proposal for how best to reach your goal in which you argue how different initial investment amounts, interest rates and frequency of compounding will impact the length of time it takes to reach your goal. Support your proposal with mathematical reasoning and representations.
After learning/reading about the characteristics and vocabulary connected with
macro photography and Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, you will use your iPad or a
phone or camera to capture an up close/macro photo of something around you that
appeals to you. You will then use your favorite photo and paint it in the style of Georgia
How diverse was the migration experience? After researching the 1880 census for Windsor write an essay in which you analyze how the 1880 census contributes to our understanding of migration to America. Support your response with evidence from your research.These template tasks fit within a larger template system/format. That involves identifying key skills and texts. Then developing an "instructional ladder" that spells out what instruction will happen and what formative assessment will happen. I have adapted an overall template from the LDC Template. The template follow 6 basic steps: developing a summative task, identifying keys skills that are part of that task, identifying appropriate texts, developing a sequence of "Mini tasks" that teach or allow students to practice the key skills, identification of formative assessments that fit with those mini tasks and finally a rubric for the summative task. Imagine building a living curriculum based on these tasks.
The summative task is written out as the prompt that students will see. Often times that prompt has a larger question it addresses but not always. The same is true with the background statement. I submit that if we take this common format and approach we will have a much clearer picture of what teachers are asking of their students.
This next section looks fairly straight forward, but we are going to need to invest some serious infrastructure work to make it useable and consistent. In the template I have developed I have stressed including content skills. The folks at LDC have developed common skills lists to use with reading and writing tasks. They are a good start but I want to refine them an target them to the PBGR's we select.You can see an example of theirs in "Skills Cluster 1" In the following skills cluster I departed from the LDC list and pulled the three skills from a concept organizer created by some folks in Delaware. Building the skills list is tedious and will look dangerously like other shelf documents we have produced so we have to ensure that anything we produce gets used. Power of a common skills list is again in its consistency and sharability. If two teachers are identifying the same skills then we have much more focused discussions about the instruction and assessment of those skills instead of trying to suss out skills might be embedded in any lesson.
For me the real power of this planning template lies in the "What Instruction" section. Essentially this is an instructional ladder that targets the skills listed in the "What Skills" section. First of all it is brief. It is more-or-less a statement of the prompt or perhaps a short description of a learning task. The table also lists the formative assessment product the teacher plans to use. My experience in creating this ladder has been that it forced me to focus on the essential instruction and not on activities that I liked or thought I should use. Think about this also as a communication tool. If students and families, communities or even other teachers could find this posted in a common place (school or SU website) they would have a much clearer picture of what the teacher was focusing on. Each one of these mini tasks and it associated formative assessment would also provide us with the opportunity to look at student work.
The final part I want to touch on is the "Single Point Rubric". This is a big departure from the LDC format but I think it is an improvement. This rubric only targets "proficiency" and then provides room for teachers to provide feedback.
Here is an example of one developed for a for a Task on polynomials:
So you can see the teacher has specifically targeted what she wants to see as proficient. She does not have to worry about constructing something with multiple variations and then trying to plug her student responses into the right box.
Here is an example of how one might be used:
I have gathered a few of the LDC's reading materials and other supporting materials here. The bottom line is if we are going to take this route it is going to require time, deliberate practice and plenty of feedback along the way. Yet another reason for half days.