Where do I even start?!

I’ve used choice in my classroom(s) for years – I was “full TAB” (More info on TAB) when I taught elementary school but couldn’t wrap my brain around doing the same model in High School. I kept reading how difficult it would be to do it in an Urban setting because those kids need different things than non-Urban kids – I couldn’t and still can’t figure out what different things my urban kiddos need that a non-urban kid should get instead.

So here’s how I begin my planning for creating a student centered, choice based, voice finding, art making, totally awesome school year for my kids. It begins now – like today – sometimes before today – but always in the summer. It’s imperative to begin when you have some time to roll things around in your brain and time to move things around and time to dig into things. I’m going to share EXACTLY how I plan – each step, so I apologize if this gets a bit tedious.  My intent is to use all the things – ALL THE THINGS – standards, contemporary practice, Studio Habits of Mind, District curriculum, assessment, loads of choices, skills and techniques, and elements and principles. (plus way more stuff of course… but these are the big things).

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So I start with a HUGE sheet of paper and divide it up into the large units and semesters and quarters of the year. The large units come from the District Scope and Sequence. I also have this year added room for the final exam – because I really do want to think about where I want my kiddos to end up – and be able to plan back from that. IMG_1699.JPG

Then I print off the Proficient Standards from the National Core Arts Standards. It was like 6 sheets of paper and I know that this isn’t the MOST green way to plan – but it’s vital for me to see it all. I then cut out the standards themselves to remove them from the Anchor Standard, Enduring Understanding and Essential Questions – I will return to those eventually but initially, I need to isolate the standards. I put those up to keep those in mind in order to always return to the standards – even in choice, the standards are vital.  IMG_1703.JPG

After having all of the Nationally “required” things up – I look to our District Curriculum (which I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be a part of writing, so there’s loads of choice and options put in) and begin to look at each unit section and the larger goals. I put those into each area of the year. Here’s the Drawing portion. This also has some of the district lessons – they aren’t prescribed with how they’ll be executed, but they are there.

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Now that each aspect of the “required” pieces to the curriculum and plan are in place I can begin looking for the big ideas, the projects, the activities, the methods of teaching/learning/assessing. Some of these have already been created, tested and used in my classroom – and I look to my student feedback and surveys to hear which things worked well for the majority of kids and which ones were awful for kids. AND THE THINGS THAT WERE AWFUL FOR MORE THAN 3 KIDS GET DUMPED. This is important. If more than 3 kids have a bad experience with something specific, I need to rethink it completely OR offer significant alternatives. It doesn’t matter if it’s what has always been done – if it doesn’t work for MY KIDS – then it doesn’t work. So I begin to write down the assignments, artists, activities that I want to do, that we’ve done before and things that need to be combined – I put these on post-its so they can be moved, because even if we have done something in a painting unit – it can be done in drawing or 2D design. IMG_1705.JPGIMG_1708.JPG

These apples and other colored post-its are goals, choices, workshop ideas, and artists. My plans have not been completed (because I just started today) but this process is a process. It’s something that takes some time and doing it now gives me room to move things and really think deeply about why I would choose to do something one way rather than another.

So I get it, you’re now asking, WHERE’S THE CHOICE IN HERE LIZZIE?! I see all the mandates, but where’s the choice? This looks like what my boss/principal/coach expects me to do – but I want to offer choice for my students.

Having each of these pieces in place creates the framework to then embed choice as well as teaching students how to choose within your classroom.  I will be able to offer multiple forms of engagement, representation and expression (Check out UDL for more on these ideas) as I move from broad large goals and into more specific daily activities. As I muddle through this process, I’ll continue to share how my brain explores the ideas and the options along with some of the new things I’m going to try out in my classroom this year.


Thanks for reading this first blog post! Let me know what you think and what topics you’d love to hear about! 


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