Common Ground: Clear, Specific Content Holds Teaching, Texts and Tests Together

Heidi Glidden 352K PDF:

Imagine for a moment that you are a new fourth-grade teacher with 25 children squirming in front of you. There’s a test at the end of the year, though you really aren’t sure what’s on it, and there are stacks of enormous textbooks— too enormous to tackle cover-to-cover—on the shelf. The one thing that is abundantly clear is that you are supposed to teach to the standards.

So, when you open up that standards document, do you hope to see something like this?
Analyze the style or structure of a text.
or something like this?
Describe the differences of various imaginative forms of literature, including fantasies, fables, myths, legends, and other tales.

Example: After reading some of the Greek or Norse myths found in such books as Book of Greek Myths or Book of Norse Myths, both by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire, discuss how myths were sometimes used to explain physical phenomena like movement of the sun across the sky or the sound of thunder.
Both are from current state standards, but one, obviously, offers much more guidance as to what your fourth-graders need to learn. If your instruction is guided by the first standard, you may or may not adequately prepare students for the test—or for fifth grade. But if your instruction is guided by the second standard, your students have a much better chance of being on grade level. And we can imagine an even clearer, more specific standard that would give you greater confidence that your instruction was on target.
For example, instead of merely suggesting books to draw from, the latter standard could specify exactly which myths, fables, legends, etc. students should read and ensure that none of those selections is repeated in other grades.