Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Supporting instruction: the teaching around the literacy tasks

The Literacy Design Collaborative strategy discusses in yesterday's post starts with the template tasks and then backs them up with an instructional design.

That instructional design provides "mini-tasks" for each of the key skills students will need.   For a particular task, the reading skills might be:

  • selecting relevant and credible texts
  • analyzing essential vocabulary
  • taking notes
  • sorting through those notes to identify central points.  

The Supporting Instruction monograph comes with examples of mini-task prompts, including four that build those four skills, followed by the kind of product students will produce:
Because the teacher applies a simple scoring rubric to each prompt, the mini-tasks have a powerful feedback loop. The student learns quickly what to improve, and the teacher also sees clearly which areas need further support.

Some key point to note about this approach:

  • The template tasks are teaching tasks: they are meant to be used in the process of classroom learning, rather than as an outside measure separate from the instructional process.  
  • In keeping with that focus, the LDC assumption is that teachers can and should make professional judgment about which skills their own students need and about which mini-tasks will build those skills most effectively.  The design offers a prototype list of skills and mini-tasks, but innovation at the classroom level is built into the expectations.
  • The design illustrates formative assessment practices in active use: both students and teachers are actively figuring out how to take the right next steps to deeper understanding and higher performance.

Further illustrations of the template tasks and the mini-task design can be downloaded here.  Earlier PrichBlog posts on the Gates Foundation's investments in supporting instruction around the Common Core Standards are here, here, here, and here, with the press releases on participation by Kentucky teachers and the Prichard Committee here and here.

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