Sunday, October 13, 2013

Curriculum Conversations

There are three elementary music teachers in my district (myself included) which serve four K-5 schools.  The three of us have been together for 11 years now - long enough that we can finish each other's sentences.  We know each other's areas of expertise.  We are a high-performing team.

But in the last two years, we have stepped up our game to a new level.  In my last post,  I mentioned the curriculum work in which our district has been engaged.  As a music department, we needed to take every course we taught (that's 23 courses K-12) and list out the:
Enduring Understandings
Essential Questions
Academic Vocabulary & Prerequisites
Academic Vocabulary & Common Assessments
Links to materials or websites
Learning Targets
Alignment to Standards

This was not a normal "scope and sequence" activity.  This has been a detailed work-up of every course (did I mention we have 23 courses ...) and entering all of this information into an online tool called Build Your Own Curriculum.

Back to the three of us elementary music teachers.  This meant sitting together for the last two years, hashing out not only what we taught, but how we taught it, and why we taught it.  Remember, we are three teachers with similar styles, curriculum, and expectations.  But we still found so many things that we do at different times, with different outcomes, and for different reasons.

The purpose of our conversations was not to get all three of us to teach exactly the same way.  Rather, the conversation was focused on best practice:
• What is one person doing that results in better achievement on a particular unit?
• What are the skills and steps students need in K-2 so that reading traditional notation is a logical next step in grade 3?
• What are the skills that need to be in place so students can sing in harmony by 4th and 5th grade?
• What might I have to drop or add from my teaching to help students become the best musicians they can be, both now and in the future?

If you have never engaged in "curriculum talk" at this level, beware.  You have to step away from your own egos, realize that your songs are not your curriculum, make peace with the fact that you don't need to change the art of how you teach, and be open to new ideas.

We were already a high-performing group.  Now, we have higher-performing curriculum as well.

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