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

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Meeting the Unexpected

Finding time was our greatest challenge. Juggling schedules to plan meetings, for example, was difficult. Time also affected implementation. DeTullio and Midgley found that they couldn't complete the entire planned curriculum—the first mini-unit took more than four of the seven weeks. In deciding what to cut, the planning team reviewed the know, do, be bridge and the culminating activity.

Another challenge was to cover all the standards. We often went over the list of standards and looked for areas that we had missed. For example, one standard that we had not covered was "to know environmental causes of pollution then and now." We planned to add this explicitly as a category in students' research questions. But this addition was an unnecessary safeguard because the students as researchers selected pollution as crucial to understanding everyday life in medieval culture.

DeTullio commented that, in hindsight, any standard that did not fit into a broader idea did not seem vital to the curriculum. He wondered what would have happened if we had worked with different content. "Does it always work so easily?" he asked. We all agreed that the answer was yes—given careful planning and good content areas.

Did we cover the standards? We checked which standards we had covered after implementing the Peasants and Kings mini-unit. Students brainstormed research questions, completed the research, presented the research in chart form, and held a mock interview. They also created a dance, drew a portrait of a knight, wrote in their ongoing medieval diaries, and read fiction.

We listed all the required standards and checked off those we had covered. We covered a number beyond our expectations: writing, 16 of 25 standards; reading, 19 of 25 standards; oral, 12 of 18 standards; drama and dance, 17 of 21 standards; visual arts, 9 of 17 standards; and social studies, 19 of 21 standards.

There were other surprises. During implementation, we found natural connections with math and realized that we could have legitimately included math in the unit. Students also insisted that we add physical education, and they created medieval dances and played Capture the Flag.

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