Calling all Teachers!
What lesson/unit exemplifies teaching and learning excellence in your classroom?
Could you capture your design in print to support others in their classrooms?
This spring, Achieve posted the EQuIP Call to Action offering $1500 to individuals and/or groups who could write an exemplar unit (evaluated using the EQuIP review process). As one of 84 EQuIP reviewers I have had the opportunity to review submissions and work directly with unit designers as they honed their instructional materials to better fit the call and evaluation tool. The spring call ended in June but Achieve continues to search for lessons and units of excellence that will be posted on their website to be shared with teachers across the country (click here for Process & Guidelines for Submissions to the EQuIP Peer Review Panel).
The requirements of an Achieve call are specific—both in terms of standards content and in terms of design. Although the reviewers are format agnostic (units can use the LDC template, the UbD template, or even a local unit template), the submission must meet the standards prescribed and the criteria described in the four-part EQuIP Rubric. For example, the spring ELA call asked designers to focus on one specific area of need among three identified by a nationwide expert panel of Common Core literacy specialists: 1). units for supporting English Language Learners; 2). units supporting Speaking & Listening Lessons; 4). units integrating quality content and literacy, “Topical Reading and Writing.”
Once unit designers submit their materials to Achieve, the product is assigned to three EQuIP jurors for independent review and rating. Jurors first work through the submission individually. In that process, reviewers evaluate the assigned unit/lesson against specific criteria in EQuIP’s four categories: Alignment to the Depth of the Common Core; Key Shifts in the Common Core; Instructional Supports; and Assessment (learn more details about the EQuIP Rubric). Each category is awarded a score from zero to three. The overall rating is assigned based the sum of the scores in each of the four categories–with the greatest score being a twelve.
Following independent reviews, jurors meet as a team to discuss their individual ratings for each category and the overall unit score. Discussion of scores supported by evidence within the unit allows the three jurors to reach a consensus on each category and a final overall rating for the unit. This rigorous process culminates in one of four possible ratings: Exemplar (E), Exemplar if Improved (EI), Revision Needed (R), and Not Ready to Review(N). All submissions are fully documented for both strengths and weaknesses. Those submitting the units/lessons are provided with explicit feedback and encouraged to make appropriate edits and/or revisions. Exemplar and Exemplar if Improved units are immediately published on the Achieve website while all other units are returned to the sender for follow-up at their discretion. Achieve welcomes edits, rewrites, and resubmissions.
“Were the EQuIP Rubrics and quality review process used in the creation or revision of this lesson/unit? If so, how?”
- The most frequent response: “No.”
- The occasional response: “Not Applicable.”
Throughout this process, what has surprised me most is how few units/lessons can successfully make the “exemplar” status on an EQuIP review on the first pass. The rubric, from my perspective, seems clear and detailed. But often, too often, unit designers fail to look at the rubric choosing to submit the unit on its face value. How do I know this? On the submission form is this question: “Were the EQuIP Rubrics and quality review process used in the creation or revision of this lesson/unit? If so, how?” The most frequent response: “No.” The occasional response: “Not Applicable.”
So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. And now…for the point of this blog. 5-tips on how to write an ELA unit that can survive the EQuIP process.
Tip #1: Select targets set of standards the unit/lesson will address
- The definition of “set of standards” does not mean all standards within a domain. Rather select standards from each domain that integrate throughout the lesson and target or focus on those standards.
Tip #2: Have a purpose statement
- I suggest designers of ELA units target two or three reading standards, a speaking and listening standard, and one writing standard from Text Types & Purposes and one from Research to Build & Present. Additional standards can be addressed through the unit as supporting standards but not as targeted standards. The targeted standards are those the lesson is driving towards mastery.
- A purpose statement is not an objective. A purpose statement is bigger–make it a paragraph that addresses how the selected targets paint a bigger picture of what learners will be able to do as a result of this unit/lesson.
- Non-example: Students will be able to identify the main idea of in the story, “…..” and write a summary of the plot.
- Example: The importance of identifying story elements that contribute to a main idea cannot be minimized when teaching readers about the functions and purposes of literature. Through a careful analysis of several literary texts, students will not only learn about common text structures and features that support readers’ understanding of the main idea, learners will also be able to apply this learning to novel, independently read texts and detail their findings through analytic essays.
Tip #3: Write clear and explicit instructions describing what the teacher is supposed to do throughout the lesson
- One four-day lesson I reviewed was captured on two pages. Impossible. Not only must the lesson/unit present a purpose, introduce the standards and provide grounding in text complexity, the unit must build a guide for users and walk them through the steps of instruction.
- One tip I offer is for unit writers is to think about the reader of the unit. The teacher that comes looking for a unit is doing that because s/he already has a great unit in their repertoire. S/he needs help to meet the standards demand. Think about the first day, first year teacher—what does that educator need to make this unit come alive in their room the way it comes alive in your room.
Tip #4: Include instructional options for students below, well-below, and above the unit’s instruction
- This tip originates from weaknesses in units that do not provide supports for the diverse learning and language needs of the classroom, the needs of second language learners, special education students, and struggling learners. Note that research indicates such supports are generally good for all learners, not just the targeted audience.
- But, in developing these supports, unit designers must also keep in mind the unit must give all students multiple opportunities to interact with complex text; therefore, adjust the language of the text to change the Lexile will not meet the criteria.
Tip #5: Include aligned rubrics and student samples
- Assessment must be aligned to the targeted standards and offer students multiple ways to show what they have learned.
- As you write the unit, integrate formative assessment pieces that lead to the summative piece leaving a clear trail of purpose and product.
- Provide keys, teacher talk, and samples of student work, especially anchors for writing assessment.
If you were to submit a unit or lesson for EQuIP review, how would your work measure up against the rubric criteria?
What lesson or unit might you share?