Strong lessons are planned well.
“Effective lesson planning begins with crafting clear standards-based learning targets in student-friendly language. Teachers plan strategies that ignite student curiosity and track student understanding, and they maximize opportunities for student voice, critical thinking, and leadership. Thoughtful lesson design leads students to want to learn, to work collaboratively, and to be aware of their learning process.” - EL Education Core Practice 10
At WHEELS, we backward plan daily learning targets from long-term learning targets based on Common Core Standards, progressing students toward producing high-quality, authentic, and complex work. We see learning as a social process, so we value student-student discussion, feedback protocols that prioritize peer use of rubrics and exemplars, self-reflection, and daily debriefs so students can reflect with each other on their progress on the learning target.
One example is in our Math lessons across our PreK-12, where most lessons include the following:
Math at WHEELS
Teachers develop math routines and structures that promote flexible thinking and math discourse for ALL students. This approach will support students to become flexible problem solvers who apply and analyze multiple strategies.
Math Opening- The Grapple:
The goal of these openings is to provoke student inquiry, genuine class discussions, and productive struggle. The prompt is intentionally open-ended so that multiple threads of thinking can be pulled and built upon. Many of the openings do not have a single correct answer, thus prompting students to defend their stance in a healthy debate. Other openings do have one correct answer, but are designed to surface misconceptions through student discourse where students are expected to justify their thinking. Turn & Talks and Accountable Talk routines are utilized as part of the student discourse while the teacher steps back as facilitator instead of the leader of the discussion. Students may use whiteboards and the teacher may notate what students do or say to make student thinking visible. We expect student thinking to change from the beginning to the end of the grapple as they actively listen to and learn from their peers. This practice is supported by brain science. As Zaretta Hammond explains, “The brain physically grows through challenge and stretch, expanding its ability to do more complex thinking and learning.”
Math Planning- The Anticipatory Framework (AF)
By completing an AF prior to each lesson, teachers think through the task and possible strategies students may use. During the lesson, teachers use the AF to collect data for all students, tracking strategies used, supports needed and possible misconceptions. The data then informs the debrief focus, next steps and subsequent lessons.
Math Closing- The Debrief
All classes end with a math debrief which effectively responds to student data collected during work time on the AF. During a debrief, while teachers may pose questions that promote critical thinking and justification, it is expected that students do most of the talking, contesting others’ ideas, building on ideas and initiating inquiry.
Critical thinking is engaging.
“[Teachers] promote critical thinking by asking that students make connections, perceive patterns and relationships, understand diverse perspectives, supply evidence for inferences and conclusions, and generalize to the big ideas of the discipline studied.” - EL Education Core Practice 11
At WHEELS, we leverage the Qualities of a WHEELS Graduate and the Deeper Instruction Framework to ensure our lessons are asked to engaged in complex ideas and tasks a majority of the time. We value depth over breadth, interdisciplinary pursuits over traditional disciplinary pursuits, interrogating texts from multiple perspectives, and authentic research questions derived from uncovering real-world problems.
All students can, and it is our responsibility to build on their strengths and address their needs.
“In the EL Education model, differentiation is a philosophical belief and an instructional approach through which teachers proactively plan instruction to capitalize on students’ varied assets and meet students’ varied needs based upon ongoing assessment. Teachers differentiate for students with disabilities, for advanced learners, for English language learners (see also Core Practice 20: Teaching English Language Learners), and for students whose differences are not formally evaluated but have been identified through informal learning and interest inventories. In whole group general education instruction, teachers use flexible groupings of students and design respectful tasks that allow for different approaches to the same goals. Teachers build a culture that honors diverse assets and needs and holds all students accountable to the same long-term learning targets, putting equity at the center of the school’s commitment and vision. At the same time, general education teachers make accommodations and modifications for students who have identified exceptionalities and collaborate with a team of school professionals to provide additional supports or extensions.” - EL Education Core Practice 19
At WHEELS, we begin with the belief that all students can. We have done significant work for the past few years, including during the pandemic, on how best to support and challenge all students. From implementing Dr. Rhonda Bondie and Alane Zuscho’s ALL-ED Framework to norming on expectations of co-teachers to creating high-quality IEPs, we have significantly improved our student services. You can see more here: Co-Teaching and Special Education.