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Senior 2 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 2
Planning, Teaching, and Learning with Learning Outcomes - Part 3

Using Initial Assessment for Planning

During the first few weeks, teachers gather information both about the learning of the class as a whole, and about individual students. Reflecting on these data is an essential part of the process of making decisions for future instruction, assessment, and student learning. Teachers need to ask:

  • What have I learned about the class as a whole?
  • What implications does this have for instruction? for assessment?
  • For which students are these generalizations not accurate?
  • How do I need to differentiate instruction to meet the learning requirements of those particular students?

Purposes of Initial Assessment

Initial assessment helps teachers decide

  • how much time to allocate to various learning outcomes
  • which learning outcomes to focus on first
  • what materials and learning resources are most appropriate
  • which teaching and learning strategies to use
  • how much independence students can handle

End of Third Week

By the end of the sequence of initial assessment tasks, Leslie has collected a great deal of information about the class, and has begun to know the students as individuals.

The most unsuccessful experience, and one that entailed some revision of her plans, was the day at the library, when she asked students to select and summarize articles on the adolescent experience. Using a checklist, Leslie observed that most students did not use information systems in the library beyond browsing through the magazine rack. Scanning their notes later, she discovered that many of them had selected articles about current entertainment sensations as information about the adolescent experience. Because so many of the articles were inappropriate, Leslie decided that having students share their articles with other students in groups as she had initially planned would not be a valuable experience. Something to remember for next time, Leslie thought, was not to piggyback one activity on another until she was sure that her students could successfully complete the first.

Leslie was able to note, however, that identifying, evaluating, and locating sources (learning outcomes 3.2.2, 3.2.3, and 3.2.4) would need to be a focus of instruction and student learning. The two-column notes that the students made also confirmed something that Leslie’s assessment the first day of classes had suggested: that several students do have difficulty summarizing ideas. Several appear to lack scanning and skimming skills, and were unable to complete the assignment in the allotted time. She will need to do more reading assessment with expository texts, but there is some evidence here that her students do not have the skill in reading exposition that they have in reading narrative texts.

The "Generation Next" presentations, however, showed a great deal of insight and creativity, and demonstrated the students’ ability to collaborate. By the time this initial assessment sequence is complete, Leslie has arranged a conference with each student, looked through the Senior 1 literacy portfolios that were available, and feels that she and her students have taken important steps toward becoming a learning community.


Planning the First Instructional and Learning Unit

Selecting Targeted Learning Outcomes

The maps Leslie has been highlighting throughout the initial assessment sequence suggest several alternatives for the first unit. Because Leslie intends to make inquiry the foundation of much of the work in the course, she decides that she will focus on needs that became evident in the students’ search for and use of articles about adolescents. She stars three clusters of learning outcomes:

* General Learning Outcome 3 (Manage ideas and information)
3.2.2 Identify and discuss the purpose and usefulness of specialized information sources relevant to particular inquiry or research needs.
3.2.3 Determine the credibility, accuracy, and completeness of a variety of information sources for a particular inquiry or research plan.
3.2.4 Access information using a variety of tools and sources.
* General Learning Outcome 5 (Celebrate and build community)
5.2.2 Identify and examine ways in which texts reflect cultural and societal influences.
* General Learning Outcome 2 (Comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, print, and other media texts)
2.1.2 Select, describe, and use comprehension strategies to monitor understanding and develop interpretations of a variety of texts.
2.1.3 Use textual cues and prominent organizational patterns to construct and confirm meaning and interpret texts.

Leslie’s goal is to develop an inquiry unit that will

  • require students to draw on a range of current sources in the library
  • require all students to move through inquiry stages at more or less the same pace to allow for instruction in inquiry processes
  • allow for some degree of student choice in subject

In the students’ selection of articles about the adolescent experience, Leslie observed a need for more awareness of the role the media play in constructing images. She decides to build a unit around those individuals who, for whatever reason, are selected for media scrutiny: news makers. Asking each student to select a different news maker to research allows a degree of choice. And the decisions students will have to make about the credibility and value of various sources of information will provide opportunities for instruction. The unit will also, Leslie hopes, open the door to an important discussion about the social values that shape the decisions journalists make. She sets about selecting the instructional activities that will be most effective for these purposes, ensuring that she is drawing from a range of instructional approaches.

(To be continued)

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