Time to Design: inquirED's Elementary Social Studies Curriculum Supports Teachers
Sarah Milo Hoskow, inquirED’s Director of Learning Experiences, is the author of this week’s blog.
Over the past week, inquirED’s curriculum team did our final vetting of a 5th grade Social Studies Unit - and I found myself reflecting on the meaning of the work we are doing.
The process we go through in a final vetting is complex. We don’t just dot our I’s and cross our T’s. We critically analyze the Unit, asking:
Does every Unit meet its target C3 Social Studies standard?
Do all lessons include a formative assessment that clearly and efficiently helps teachers identify students understandings and struggles?
Does every lesson include quality and trustworthy resources?
Do the lessons require students to inquire, build knowledge, and make claims supported by evidence?
Were the learning experiences engaging?
Was the series of lessons designed to guide students toward answering the Inquiry Question and inspire them to take informed action?
The analysis involves various voices, invites professional discussion… and at times debate. Each member of the curriculum team is fully determined to create a Unit of the highest quality. Toward the end of the current Unit, I felt both proud and… well, a little...guilty!
I realized, never, in my entire career as a classroom teacher, had I designed a Unit this intentionally. I stewed on this while washing dishes, a good time to chew on big ideas, and finally, it occurred to me… the answer was “of course I hadn’t.”
My job as an elementary school teacher was endless. Designing Units was a part of the role, but it was among a list that included: instructing multiple subjects, communicating with parents, sitting on committees, writing progress reports, maintaining a classroom that was organized and fostered creativity and learning, and most of all, connecting with my students. (And that’s just a list of professional to-dos. Let’s not forget that teachers can and should have meaningful personal lives!)
At best I could redesign the curriculum for one subject a year. And even then, I could never get down to critically analyzing the formative assessment for each lesson (or checking out, and reading, over 40 children’s books in order to pick the just right book for each lesson, as our 1st grade Social Studies Curriculum Developer has done). To do it all would be superhuman.
As inquirED’s curriculum team continues our work, I feel a great sense of awe and appreciation for what teachers do daily. I also feel proud about the work our developers and designers are doing - making the curriculum flexible and adaptable via our platform. Teachers get our comprehensive, intentionally-designed curriculum, but they still get to be creative and use their knowledge and skill to choose the lessons and projects that meet the needs of their students.
And I don’t feel guilty anymore, but I do feel excited and hopeful that the work we are doing at inquirED can lessen the workload of partner teachers and allow them to focus more on connecting with their students.