I am in my second year of implementation of the New York State Modules and now I see this quote come to life in my room every day. One of these bright spots happened while my students were doing a vocabulary lesson. It involved students Making Word Models of Key Terms of Mythology (Grade 6. Module 1. Unit 2. Lesson 5). My initial impression was “We are going to spend most of the class time asking students to make meaning of one word?” Since one of the six shifts in ELA/Literacy is academic vocabulary I knew the importance it held. I do want my students to “constantly build the transferable vocabulary” they need to be successful. But was this a good use of my time? I could create a quick vocabulary activity, provide the students with the definition and surely build their “transferable vocabulary”. The mistake I made was thinking about “my” time. As my students toiled, discussed, argued, and discussed some more about which definition applied, the appropriate antonym, synonym, symbol and sentence, they did all the work.
The glowing point of the lesson came when one of my students said “Hey Mrs. Kondrick!!! I get it! One of the maps in my video game at home is titled Map of Origin. I just thought it was a cool word, a cool name for a map. But now I get it, the map is of where the zombies started, the source of them. That’s why it’s called the Map of Origin! It makes so much sense! I just never knew that, isn’t that cool!” When he shared his definition of his word with his classmates one of his classmates had the same epiphany.
Yes I could have just provided my students with the meanings of some of the key terms of mythology, but since the students did the work, not me, they personalized their understanding of the words. They learned!
This inner conversation is one I have many times while implementing the NYSED ELA Modules. As with many teachers implementing this curriculum, I think I know what I’m doing: years of education and experience have gone into making me a great teacher. My students need me to share with them what I know and they will know it too. The Common Core Standards and these modules ask that the students be the center of the learning, they should be the critical thinkers. It is what I have always wanted for my students but not what my previous lessons had fostered. In this instance, I trusted the curriculum, used my expertise as a teacher, and found myself in the glorious moment where my students were the critical thinkers, rejoicing in their newfound knowledge.
Karen Kondrick is a Grade 6 teacher in Ripley Central Schools in her second year of module implementation. She is also an E2CCB Network Team Ambassador and a member of Communities for Practice. Additionally, Karen serves as President of the Chautauqua County Reading Council and is the 2016 Charlotte Award Chair.