Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leverage Point Series: Materials of Practice

In the right setting, teachers quickly learn how to modify and adapt materials to increase achievement for mainstream, ELL, and SPED students. Creating the environment in which teachers collaborate on these materials is a leverage point for implementing and analyzing classroom improvement.

As teachers brainstorm and share ideas about materials that teach content and create readers and writers, they have an opportunity to individually test and fit new ideas. More important, during design as materials take form and define instruction, teachers develop a sense of predictability and control for trying new strategies. Failing to provide this planning opportunity is where we fail to help teachers prepare for change. They need the rich ideas and support of working together to answer questions as they make materials classroom ready.

Once prepared, written materials payoff in classrooms as they help facilitate research-based, reading, and writing strategies. Students have materials that help them clarify objectives, ideas, and patterns as they develop images of learning. After instruction, students have an historical record of their learning to study, build, and revise.

For teachers, written materials provide instant feedback that can be shared with students. After instruction, teachers can use the student work samples generated from materials to conduct an analysis that targets more improvement and revisions. And the materials provide evidence to all stakeholders of high-quality teaching.

Consider how Wiggins and McTighe classifies evidence of learning:

1. Final products: (e.g., projects, models, exhibits)
2. Quizzes and tests
3. Public performances (e.g., presentations, role play)
4. Oral responses (e.g., questioning, interviews)
5. Observations (e.g., using observation checklist)
6. Written responses (e.g., Organizers, notes, summaries, papers, reflections)

In the chaos of our system, in place of custom written materials, we often find quickly manufactured quizzes and end-of-chapter questions. However, students struggling to read, write, and understand need more. Raising achievement requires more.

Defining similarities and differences, note-taking, summarizing, cause and effect, problems and solutions, and main ideas and supporting details, requires teacher who can adapt and modify materials to make content accessible and understandable to their students. The students of these teachers master content while becoming readers and writers.