Assessment, Critical thinking, Curriculum, Growth mentality, Learning Maps, Lesson ideas

How I’m introducing learning maps to my students.

As I’ve gone through course work this summer I’ve dug deep into my own thinking behind learning maps and developed a better understanding of what they are and how I will be integrating them into my instruction. My students, however, were not along for that ride. Some of them have not used learning maps before, but all of them will need an introduction to the learning map for their grade that approaches the structure from a student perspective.

Introducing the structure of a big idea

I’ve created small group sorting tasks for my students, with each group focusing on just one big idea and its proficiency descriptions. I’ve cut up the proficiency descriptions and mixed them up, and students will be working in groups to read them and organize them on a chart. As they do this, they will have to pay attention to small differences between the description of one level and another, and at the end of that process they should be able to describe the two basic differences between the levels. The answer I’ll be looking for is that as you go up the scale from emerging to proficient, learners use skills more frequently, with greater ease/fluency, and in ways that are more complex or show more depth of learning.

Here’s an example of what each group will be working with:

Students will sort the Big Idea and proficiency descriptions into the appropriate category in the chart.

By getting them to focus on one big idea and its proficiency descriptions at a time, I hope to make students more aware of the success criteria. They will need to return to these criteria over and over as they go through the course, and knowing how they are organized or how to progress from one level to another will be helpful.

Once all groups have completed the task, we will share our answers, and discuss the following questions:

  1. How did you determine which description fit with each level?
  2. Can you think of an example of speaking, listening, reading and writing tasks that would fit in this Big Idea?
  3. If a student is performing at a C level for this Big Idea, what might they do to move up to a C+?

Connecting everyday tasks to a goal

Because we have had only three official days of school so far, we’ve focused on some review, getting to know each other, and other typical first week of school activities. Before we get going into the courses, I want to build awareness of the learning maps and make students aware of the goals we will be working towards. In the day to day work that will follow that introduction, I hope to create an awareness that each small step we take is moving us towards those larger distal goals represented by the big ideas in the learning maps.

To illustrate this idea, I will be using this video:

Following the video, we will talk about our next discussion question: What similarities do you see between the video and the connections between day to day learning and a long term goal?

Keeping a future orientation

The distal goals on the learning map represent what students will be able to do at the end of the course. Given that we are currently at the beginning, they will not see themselves as being able to do all of the things listed on the map. As they look at the full version of the learning map with all five Big Ideas, I will ask them to think about what they know so far that can help them be successful with the Big Idea they looked at in their group, and to share that with the others in their group. In order to foster a growth mindset, I want them to see that they are not starting at zero, and to be willing to embark on new challenges with a belief that they will be successful.

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