1 September 2001 Making Standards Work Castles, Kings and Standards Susan M. Drake

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Exploring the Big Picture

The topic. I asked DeTullio to look through his 4th grade mandated curriculum for possible connections among required units of study. He selected Medieval Times (social studies) and Pulleys and Gears (science and technology). We also added the subjects of language arts and the arts.

The standards. Our first step was to read all the relevant standards in those subject areas. We looked for standards that were broad-based and cross- disciplinary. Although the content differed by subject area, the skills that students needed were similar. Each document, for example, required research or inquiry skills. We found the following grade 4 standards that promoted research skills:

  • Begin to develop research skills (social studies and language arts);

  • Formulate questions about and identify needs and problems related to structures and mechanisms in their environment and explore possible solutions and answers (science); and

  • Solve problems presented through drama and dance and evaluate the effectiveness of each solution (the arts).

The content. Somewhat embarrassed, we remembered little about the Middle Ages from our school days. We needed a big picture of the content area, so we inquired into other teachers' experiences and surveyed children's books from the school library. DeTullio viewed a CD-ROM and used the Internet. These avenues triggered our memories and offered potential resources for the students.

We felt ready to start.

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