Standards and Benchmarks and The Classroom Teacher

First of all, you need an up-to-date copy of the curriculum for your grade or course

Standards, benchmarks, and indicators are becoming common in the world of educational jargon, but are we as teachers dealing well with the changes we are expected to make in the classroom. Many states are requiring state assessments based on the state curriculum. Here are six helpful hints in dealing with the new curriculum.

1. Look at the curriculum you must teach. Group like benchmarks by looking for a common topic where such a group could be taught. For example map skills might include learning the vocabulary, creating and using of a variety of maps, and identification of symbols on a map. (Concept: There is a place for everything.)

2. Next it would be beneficial to see if there is an overlapping with another subject. There is no need to teach the same concept twice. For instance, math might be covering scale drawing. Figuring the distance between two places might easily be taught at this time. (Concept: Kill two birds with one stone.)

3. Remember your activities MUST FIT INTO THE CURRICULUM. It is not effective to have a pet project that does not fit. One of the major obstacles to successful teaching is doing this backwards. (i.e., choosing an area of study and trying to “stick” the benchmarks into it). Be willing to let go of units that no longer fit the curriculum. (Concept: Only if the shoe fits, wear it.)

4. Understand the depth that is to be taught at your grade level and teach for mastery of that level. Some teachers cannot find middle ground. If it is introductory, then teach for mastery of the introductory concepts. If it mastery, then teach for mastery of the entire concept. (Concept: Water seeks its own level.)

5. Teach to the curriculum; do not teach to the test. If the testing genuinely tests the curriculum, then teaching the curriculum will make your students successful. Teaching the test gives limited understanding and is not responsible teaching. (Concept: Don’t miss the boat.)

6. Incorporate fun activities. Just because the curriculum is well defined does not mean it will not fit into fun units. I teach how to buy cars when I teach economic concepts–think about it–when you buy a car you pay all kinds of taxes; it requires licensing and fees; understanding of supply/demand is necessary, acquiring savings, obtaining loans,etc. Can you think of anything an 8th grader would love to study more? Well, there are a few. But the point is the fun unit fits the curriculum. It also put the level of understanding into immersion because we pretend to buy the car at the lot (salesmen meet with the students and fill out a contract), loan officers actually review loan applications, etc. (Concept: Learning is fun.)

Okay, so are you tired of the cliches yet? Well, I stuck them in as reminders of the main points. If you work to do these things, teaching to standards and benchmarks won’t be so bad. If fact, you know exactly what your responsibility is and that can make teaching easier.

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