If you’ve already checked out Perspectives for a Diverse America, you know it’s full of ready-to-use classroom readings and hundreds of teaching strategies that build reading comprehension. Sure, you can use these resources a la carte—but you may have wondered: What is a learning plan and why don’t they just call it a lesson plan?
The short answer: A learning plan is a comprehensive, customizable, multi-day plan for instruction and assessment. Today’s teachers need to differentiate instruction and connect it to learning outcomes. The learning plan does that by building students’ reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. It includes multiple opportunities for differentiation, including selecting essential questions, readings, and instructional strategies and assessments—all organized within a framework based on backward design and aligned to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy.
Here’s how it works.
First, establish an essential question based on your instructional goals. (We offer dozens or you can write your own.)
Second, select a reading. At the heart of Perspectives is an anthology of 300 diverse texts (readings, short videos, audio clips and images) that have been leveled by experts and reflect best practices for balanced literacy instruction and culturally responsive pedagogy.
Next, you’ll decide what students will do to demonstrate their understanding of the reading. For students in grades 3-12, Perspectives offers an array of narrative, explanatory and argumentative writing assignments in Write to the Source. For all students, the multiple performance tasks in Do Something integrate community and civic engagement. (We provide handouts and rubrics when needed.)
Finally, you’ll select a teaching strategy from each of the instructional phases: Word Work, Close and Critical Reading, and Community Inquiry (for grades 3-12) or Exploring the Text and Responding to the Text (for grades K-2). These strategies will prepare students for the performance assessments you selected previously by working through vocabulary, reading, and speaking and listening skill development. Differentiate as needed by choosing different strategies for different students. Save your plans in your personalized “My Learning Plans” page.
Here’s an example of a learning plan for grades 3-5 using the essential question “What clues help me identify when and how people are being treated unfairly?”
Students read “Mama Played Baseball” by David Adler, in which Adler describes how his mother played in the women’s baseball league during World War II.
Using the vocabulary building strategy “Word Cheering,” students sing, chant and move to the new words. Then in a close reading, students use the “Annolighting” strategy to annotate text, highlight important facts, summarize what they read and capture main ideas, concepts and details. After the close reading, use “Save the Last Word for Me” to build speaking and listening skills while increasing comprehension in a text-based discussion.
Then students demonstrate their argumentative and analytical writing skills through textual evidence-based writing using the prompt “What’s the Argument.”
Lastly, students write and share original poems and stories about community issues or themes from “Mama Played Baseball” in a “Poetry and Storytelling Café.”
The complete learning plan delivers every element of literacy instruction and includes possible adaptations for English language learners. A complete learning plan, from start to finish, averages two weeks of instructional time, depending on the extent of the chosen Do Something task.
So, why not call it a lesson plan? This pick-and-choose approach to planning means you can build countless possible versions of a learning plan—each designed to best meet your learners’ needs.
AND, the strategies and tasks promote social action while helping students develop social emotional skills and meet the literacy goals of the Common Core.
Want to know more? Check out How to Build a Learning Plan with Teaching Tolerance’s teaching and learning specialists in this on-demand webinar.
Find additional blogs, articles and professional development resources on Perspectives here.
Wicht is the senior manager of teaching and learning for Teaching Tolerance.
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