Standards-based instruction raises your teaching game. When you move away from the textbook, the standards become your road map. You embrace backward design and move to a higher level of teaching.
Ms. Sneed Ponders the Standards
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, paged through the teacher’s edition of the science textbook. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. “This doesn’t even touch on my standards!” she said to herself. Worse than that, instruction was text-heavy, and the experiments were lame.
The door opened, and Ms. Sneed’s mentor walked in. “Ugh oh,” she said, “I know that look.”
“The science textbook…”
“Say no more,” replied Mrs. Brown.
Standards Provide Road Maps
The mentor walked over to the computer and began searching. “Here they are: your science standards.”
“I know!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “The book doesn’t cover them.”
“Forget the book. Let the standards guide you. Fortunately, they provide a clear road map for instruction. What topic are you addressing next?”
“We’ll be studying plants beginning next week.”
Begin by Deconstructing the Standard
“First,” said Mrs. Brown, “you must deconstruct the standard.”
She started typing and soon pulled it up:
Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
“Hmm. The standard is rather broad. I’ll have to pull the plant parts out of this,” said Ms. Sneed.
“Yes, and you need to focus on internal and external structures that serve specific functions.”
“I guess that means plant parts: roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. But how will they understand photosynthesis without knowledge of cells and organelles like chloroplasts?”
“Bingo!” said Mrs. Brown. “You have to front-load kids with necessary information.”
She moved away from the computer. “Here. You sit and type. We’ll make a list of what kids need to know at the end of the unit.”
The two set to work creating a list of scaffolding outcomes:
- Understand that cells are the building blocks of life.
- Use microscopes to explore plant and animal cells.
- Explain functions of organelles in plant and animal cells.
- Explore plant parts: roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.
- Make arguments that explain each plant part’s function.
Standards-Based Instruction Works with Backward Design
“Now,” said Mrs. Brown, “you need to make the final assessment. From there, you’ll decide the activities your kids need to do.”
“Backward design?” asked Ms. Sneed.
Over the next few days, Ms. Sneed developed two units. First, she would introduce cells. Then she would launch into an activity-based unit on plant parts. As she worked, the corners of Ms. Sneed’s mouth turned up. Yes, this would be fun – and effective.
Standards-Based Instruction Is the Key to High Quality Teaching
A few weeks later, Mrs. Brown again appeared at Ms. Sneed’s door. “I came to see how your plant unit was going. Oh my goodness, your walls tell the tale! I love this bulletin board.”
Ms. Sneed beamed. “With your help, this unit rocks! That, and a little standards-based instruction.”
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.