Summer is often a time for relaxation and spending time with family in the great outdoors.But this summer, 27 teachers packed their bags and took a road trip to ESU 10 to journeythrough a 5-day class with Dianah Steinbrink and me. Dianah and I were eager to lead our travel companions through Enhancing Instruction with Grade Level Learning.
When considering grade-level learning, participants were first asked to tour the Opportunity Myth from TNTP. This research from 2018 emphasized the importance of four key resources which improve student learning: high expectations, strong instruction, grade-appropriate assignments, and deep engagement. Using this foundational research, participants began to journey through what grade-level learning looks like.
Their first destination was Tier 1 instruction, which involved understanding how the Nebraska standards aligned with the unit they packed for the journey. Participants had pre-selected a unit from their current instructional materials which they were looking to enhance. Along with examining their units, a central component of their learning journey through Tier 1 Instruction centered around how standards related to curriculum and what Nebraska’s instructional shifts look like. They finished the first leg of their trip by understanding that Tier 1 instruction includes all learners and that making adjustments to instruction to meet learners’ needs is still a responsibility of classroom teachers.
On their second day of their learning journey, travelers explored the impact of high expectations on student achievement along with the difference between rigor and difficulty. Another essential stop along the way included the role of practice and how to deepen practice opportunities for stronger learning. Finally, participants mapped out their unit through a process called a unit analysis, where they examined the grade level standards their unit sought to meet and made decisions to plan their units to achieve that standard.
Their third destination was all about scaffolds, which is the idea of supporting students to achieve grade-level learning. Participants toured the different types of scaffolds as well as designed scaffolds that students may need to achieve the grade-level standard for their unit. One important aspect of scaffolds is fading -- just like using a GPS for the first time you find your Airbnb for your vacation, scaffolds may be useful at first, but your reliance on them fades over time. As you become more familiar with the tasks, steps, and learning goals, scaffolds may not be needed, similar to how you begin to recognize familiar sights and know where to go based on experience rather than direct guidance.
On the last two legs of the journey, participants explored facets of strong instruction, utilizing the road map of the Core Teaching Rubric from TNTP. By exploring what effective instruction may look like in their own classrooms and through observing others, participants brought their planning home through considering what strong lesson design looks like in action.
Over the course of the week-long class, memories were made, planning was solidified, and participants had a summertime opportunity to enhance instruction to feel ready to tackle their next journey: the 2023-24 school year.