More on Backwards Designing-Reflections from Teaching

Posted on 10 November 2009 by urbanmusiceducation.org

Started teaching the first of my Backwards Designed units today (How to Blues- 5th grade) and I thought I’d reflect on the experience. Up ’til now I’ve just been puttering along, re-designing each “unit”(or rather set of fun, but otherwise meaningless, activities) that I have scrapped together and taught since the beginning of the year. A post-thought if you will. This is the first unit that I designed whole-heartedly from the beginning with the end in mind.

First, being the scrapbooker I am, I went out to buy a nice 1/2″ binder last night with a clear cover and printed a pretty insert in cool pastels with the following passage for inspiration:

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

I printed each unit (I’ve completed 9 so far) and bought those little Post-it tabs to color code them by grade level. (Side note: Why do those only come in 5 colors when I need 7 for K-6!?) Anyway, then I placed them in order of trimester, basically putting all of the ones I already taught in the front and the 5 new units for this trimester in the middle. Filling the empty section in the back will be my future goal:) So with pretty notebook in hand, I entered ready to conquer the day, and despite discovering one broken keyboard which threw off my morning a little trying to troubleshoot, the lessons I designed went rather smoothly. I liked having my “activities” already planned out and at an arms distance- something I have gotten away from in the last few years as I have felt like I’ve just been flying by the seat of my pants some days. And yet, I didn’t feel constrained by the activities because I knew I had planned enough to build in the understandings . In 5th grade, I began by passing out the “textbook” packet I made and went over where to get materials which took most of the class period. (Mental note for next class: need to build in time for these “teach-to’s in order to maintain high expectations for materials management.) I showed the students my EQ’s and EU’s but i’m not sure it really sunk in this first day. I’m curious to know how other’s who have done this approach “Hook” the students with these questions and understandings instead of just teaching them by rote. I felt like the students were just being polite and listening to my rambling about what I had in store for them.

But the Blues Unit is going to be fun to teach, and my favorite part of the lesson today was reading one of my favorite books, I See The Rhythm by Toyomi Igus. I love seeing the students reaction when I say the words “Negro” and “I’m Black, and I’m Proud” from the book and the kids look at me in astonishment like I said a cuss word and they are going to go home and tell their parents on me! lol I have a few reservations about teaching about African American culture, when I, the whitest of the white girls from NE can’t even eat Popeye’s chicken because I’m so Gringo and can’t stand the spiciness! Oh well, it will be a lesson for all of us to open our minds and hearts.

A few have asked for the template I used to create my units. It can be found and downloaded here. Also thanks to Joel at SYWWT and Ken at Music Is Not For Insects for reading, subscribing and encouraging. Always good to know when you are listened to and supported. Be sure to check out their blogs too!

Until next time, Sarah

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