Finding Harmony From Theory to Practice: Questions Teachers Ask In The Real World

We are both big fans of Pitch Perfect movies.  We love hearing how they can take different types of music and blend them together to this dynamic harmony that just draws you in.  At first it seems chaotic but then the music is transformed into thought out harmonies that are a musical celebration of sound.  These are mash-ups, a fusion of disparate elements that when fused together become something amazing. This is sort of what planning a Unit of Study is like for us as we merge content, process and student needs. It’s not chaos, it’s a process. It’s easy to think it’s all just a big mess when books and magazines are sprawled across the backseat of your car. It’s all going right when every librarian looks at you with suspicion and  knows your name, because every month you’re borrowing the most books your card can carry (50 books).  This post aims to  construct a window into our planning process. We know questions are more important than answers as surely as we know that process is more important than product.  Questions are the underpinnings of the teaching process and it goes like this:

Setting Up for our Informational / World Communities Unit of Study

Interpreting Curriculum Goals: What is your intention for teaching this unit of study?

  • How do we integrate social studies content with the reading process?
  • What are the content standards we are accountable for?
  • What are the components of the process for informational text?

Making A Plan: How can you create engagement around the work in this unit of study?

  • What do our students need right now?
  • What are our students’ strengths?
  • How do our students learn best?
  • How do we meet the needs of all learners in our class?
  • How do we make the content relevant to our learners?

Finding Resources: Building banks of materials, for a controlled choice, to match the interests/needs of the learners in your classroom

  • The big grab: putting it all together to build the materials for the Unit of Study
    • Content (Does it have the information we need?)
    • Engagement ( Will it spark interest in the students?) (Is it visually appealing?)
    • Mashups (Does the text match up to the interests and strengths of our students?) (Can the text help extend their individual strengths and move students further through the process?)
    • Variety (Do you have text that shows different perspectives and text structure?)
    • Leaning Into Critical Thinking Goals: (How do these materials lay the foundation for flexible thinking?) BLOOM / QAR
    • Making Connections: (How can students use these materials to create contextual knowledge, to build a knowledge base?)

Experience The Process:  You Do It First. This is a time for us to immerse ourselves in the resources, evaluate all they have to offer learners and then reflect on their utility.

  • Is this a realistic plan?
  • Do the resources offer exemplars? How can we use them?
  • How do the materials inform the sequence of the teaching?
  • How can we use these resources to get the most varied results?
  • What supplements do we need to these resources to make learning more accessible?

This is as far as we are right now in the process.  Our next step is to put the learning in the hands of our students and to see where they take us.  As we do this we will be asking questions around:

  • Creating Context Through Student Ownership: Kidwatching to assess relevancy (observation) Are students engaged in the work?  Is the work helping them work towards their individual goals?  Are they being resilient learners- what makes you say that? Are students challenged?  Are there signs for spontaneity for their learning? Is learning joyful?
  • Tweaking  (reflection) What is working?  What needs to be changed?  How are our observations informing future practice?

Planning for this unit is a mash-up of grand scale. We are fusing content, literacy processes, student ability, social dynamics, creativity, student choice, and our own learning process for our teaching to create a context for ownership and growth for us all. We are trying to use the end of the year as our Pitch Perfect finale. So get your groove on This is about thinking through the process. We may end up with a product but it’s the work in between that counts and makes the biggest impact.  This is the time to celebrate learning with vibrant energy and joy! This is our send off, our final act and we want our students to shine.

Jill’s favorite Pitch Perfect Mash-up

Jenn’s favorite Pitch Perfect Mash-up

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