Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Grades 5 to 8
Planning for Instruction and Classroom AssessmentUsing Learning Outcomes - Part 3

Sample: An Inquiry Planning Model

"Students will listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent to manage ideas and information."

The following planning example traces one method for addressing a cluster of learning outcomes in General Outcome 3 at the Grade 8 level (see General Outcome 3.1, p. 30, Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes and Grade 6 Standards, 1996). The preliminary stage in an inquiry -- the Plan and Focus stage -- is provided on page 33. The learning sequence would continue through selecting and processing, organizing, recording, and assessing stages, and culminate in composing and presenting.

What do we want students to know and be able to do?

A summary sheet at the beginning of each cluster of learning outcomes in the four-column section identifies the knowledge, skills and strategies, or attitudes and habits of mind targeted by that cluster of learning outcomes.

Excerpt from a Grade 8 Inquiry Planning Model
Specific Learning Outcomes (Grade 8) Plan and Focus
Knowledge, Skills and Strategies, and Attitudes
3.1.1 Use personal knowledge

Determine personal knowledge of a topic to generate possible areas of inquiry or research.

  • exploring, reflecting, and accessing personal knowledge of a topic (map, list, do K phase of KWL Plus)
3.1.2. Ask Questions

Formulate relevant main and subordinate questions on a topic to establish a purpose for gathering information.

  • develop inquiry questions
  • categorize and organize main and subordinate ideas
  • maintain topic
3.1.3 Contribute to Group Inquiry

Contribute ideas, knowledge, and strategies to help identify group information needs and sources.

  • listen, maintain topic
  • use group participation skills
  • demonstrate knowledge of sources and their uses
3.1.4 Create and Follow a Plan

Prepare and use a plan to access, gather, and record relevant information in own words.

  • focus topic
  • plan for identifying and accessing resources
  • choose formats for recording and presenting information
  • develop time lines for inquiry
  • write an inquiry proposal

What instructional methods, materials, and strategies will help students develop the competencies to achieve the learning outcomes in 3.1?

Steps in Plan and Focus 3.1 (Grade 8)

  1. Students and teacher choose topic for inquiry
  2. Students and teacher discuss prior knowledge of the topic and generate general questions [3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, and 5.1.2]

Teaching opportunities:

  • question development
  • group processes
  • discussion skills
  • connecting prior knowledge
  1. Students complete preliminary searches of the topic by viewing videos, checking newspapers, researching electronic web sites, general information, and microfilm sources in the library [3.1.1, 3.1.2, and 3.1.3]

Teaching opportunities:

  • critical viewing
  • newspaper search
  • library skills
  • notemaking (including use of graphic organizers)
  1. Students revisit their original question and choose an area of interest for further study [3.1.2]

Teaching opportunities:

  • question development
  • focussing a topic
  1. Students write inquiry proposal including formats they have chosen, ways they will represent information, additional resources they will access, and time lines for completion (3.1.4)

Teaching opportunities:

  • framing inquiry proposals
  • time management
  • resource use
  • celebrating successes

What is our purpose for assessment? How will the assessment be used?

Assessment information is used by teachers to shape instruction as the inquiry proceeds. Some of the specific purposes of assessment in the Plan and Focus stage are:

  • to determine whether students have an adequate foundation of prior knowledge on which to build the inquiry. This information will be used

    — to identify individual students who will be provided with support in developing a conceptual base for the inquiry subject
    — to select resources and activities that will address gaps or misconceptions in students’ prior knowledge

  • to determine need for further instruction in collaborative skills and strategies
  • to determine whether students need further instruction in differentiating between main and subordinate questions

What assessment tasks will allow students to demonstrate their understanding in authentic ways?

Assessment information can be collected as students are engaged in various tasks of planning, focussing, and inquiry. For example:

  • Students complete the K column of a KWL Plus chart to activate prior knowledge. By looking these charts over, the teacher identifies individuals for a follow-up conference to assess gaps in prior knowledge.
  • Students work in co-operative groups to develop an inquiry plan. The teacher assesses co-operative skills (staying on tasks, building on the contributions of others, questioning others) using an observation checklist.
  • Groups post and share their inquiry plans. The teacher and students assess the plans according to the criteria established with the class.

Summary of Key Steps in Results-Based Planning

When teachers determine that students require instruction in a particular area to ensure balanced language arts programming, or to achieve a specific learning outcome, a number of steps may be of value in planning. See the chart that follows, Summary of Key Steps in Results-Based Planning, for an outline.

Summary of Key Steps in Results-Based Planning
Plan with the end in mind.

  1. Read the learning outcome carefully to identify the key aspects of instruction and assessment. (What do we want students to know and be able to do?)
  2. Determine the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes that students need in order to achieve (or move toward achieving) the learning outcome.
  3. Choose the Standards of Student Performance that will be used as indicators to demonstrate that students have learned this knowledge, gained these skills and strategies, or acquired these attitudes.
  4. Design or select authentic assessment strategies and tools (observations, conferences, checklists, logs, journals, rubrics, performance tasks) to gather information about student learning in a variety of contexts.
  5. Ask: How would this outcome be assessed and taught in a topic or theme I wish to use?
  6. Choose activating, acquiring, and applying teaching and learning strategies, materials, learning resources, and learning experiences that will help engage students to achieve the learning outcome


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