Jedi Academy & Curriculum

Some musings as my husband is in surgery (minor), my hands can now both type (finally!), and my wishes are also with the Compose our World teachers now on vacation and hopefully getting some well deserved rest and rejuvenation.

My eight year-old has a new book that she loves. Several of her friends already had it, she begged to order a new one, and she checked our Amazon account constantly to get updates on the delivery status. And, lo and behold, it’s a Star Wars book that offers ideas on project-based, language arts curricula: design your own spaceship, for example, create aliens and build one’s own class schedule.

Jedi Journal Page 1Please forgive me. I’m not trying to sell Disney’s Star Wars, though I am drawn to the refreshing, whimsical nature of my daughter’s new treasure.

I’m also struck by the connection between this book and a challenge for our design team: the public sharing of newly developed project-based learning units with other educators. We’re in a new phase of our work, as we recruit new teachers to use and test – and of course, to continue to improve – the curricula we have been developing as a co-design project. What will we “give” to these teachers? What will we share on our online interface? What will we discuss with them and examine more closely in their classroom as the new units unfold? These are not new questions for us.

When I think of curriculum maps I often do not picture ‘choose your own adventure,’ as the book my daughter is now turning to each day reflects….but maybe it’s time to do so a bit more. Whatever the case, there are principles of practice that a curriculum supports (e.g., for us, the big six) as well as structures (e.g., student handouts, lesson plans) that can be helpful for illuminating what the principles may “look like” in action. In addition to what each of us as designers – teachers and researchers alike – bring to the process, we can turn to examples of what other language arts curricula looks like, at least on paper, such as:

  • Expeditionary Learning’s (now EL’s) emphasis on learning targets and the ease at which one can pull up an overview sheet on a module and scan for the key aspects of any of the lessons within a larger packet of materials.

Or to repositories of lesson plans and resources, such as:

  • Read, Write, Think and its tabs above each lesson overview.
  • Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), with the start to an element of ‘choose your own adventure.” Just fill in some blanks (I am a ______, and I’d like to see growth in my student’s ability to___________) and sample lessons pop up. Our offerings of the ‘blanks,’ however, need to be different as our design principles do not always warrant a flow-chart type response to goals for students.

We are well on our way of a new, curriculum creation adventure; some of us started on page 1, some jumped on later. We have pulled together resources, brainstormed, tested, drafted some more. We want to have different ‘entry points’ for teachers. We also consider a human dimension to this work – the norms we set as teams, the sense of belonging that can evolve from being a part of something bigger than ourselves. This human element deserves an entirely new post, as our team decisions lead to ‘next steps’ and it is the teacher and student interactions that can make this curriculum ‘tick.’ Our goal is not to replicate school, not to “do school” per se for the sake of completion or habit.

With her Jedi AcJedi Journal Mapsademy journal, Siena gets to create a secret handshake, draw maps, finish stories. When I watch her engrossed in a new page, excited to share what she’s working on, I feel a sense of joy. I think about Compose our World teacher Anne Sutton’s recent Twitter post, “station work & playing w/Legos is not elementary! Bring FUN back to HS!” AS Tweet_160401The Jedi Academy book is not the answer to all my daughter’s problems as a young girl, nor will our curriculum be the answer to all education’s ills. Yet, both can serve as a resource – a map of materials, an idea of where we want to head with students, and a structure and purpose to our time in the classroom.Jedi Journal What Want

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