Know the Materials

Voices | December 12, 2016

By Bethany Lockhart, Teacher, CA
Bethany works with one of her students.I'm always thinking about what I need to teach and how to structure my lesson to best support my students. Until recently, I’d been trying to do this all from scratch, which led to lots of sleepless nights and hours and hours of lesson planning and searching the internet for quality lessons. Recently it hit me: I don't need to create lessons every day in order to support the students in my classroom!
Instead, by knowing the material in my textbook and knowing my students through formative assessments, I can make adjustments and tweaks to existing resources and best serve my kids without having to recreate the wheel. By understanding data and the lessons and units in our curriculum, I can see which standards and skills I need my students to learn. Knowing the curriculum and knowing my students means that I can tweak and adjust the material to better serve each student in my classroom.
I offer some ideas on how to know the materials AND your students:
  1. Know the materials. Building a shared understanding of the lessons and units in our curriculum helps my co-teacher and me to see which standards and skills we need our students to learn
  2. Know the students through good assessment practice including data collection. (Where are we? What does the data tell me? How will I respond to the evidence?) When I take the time to collect and review data – even if it’s only on a specific point or two – my next day and next week of instruction is richer and connects more directly to student needs.
  3. Set goals and a timeline. By looking at the data we were able to set goals, adjust the lessons to meet these goals, improve lessons to meet these standards, and set look fors.
  4. Determine success criteria. (How will I know we met the goal?)
  5. Plan instructional strategies and adjust curriculum to meet goal.
Bethany Lockhart is in her second year of teaching Kindergarten at Community Roots Academy charter school in Laguna Niguel, California. Bethany received her BA from University of California San Diego, and her credential and MA from University of California Irvine. Prior to teaching Kindergarten Bethany taught theatre and dance, bringing the arts into elementary school classrooms and working with classroom teachers to find ways to incorporate the arts into their everyday lessons. In addition to teaching Kindergarten, Bethany is a California Core Advocate and a reviewer with