Going Beyond the Standards

I sat in my empty classroom on Monday, spring break just started, and looked at what I have to cover in quarter four of 7th grade English.  What the standards tell me a 7th grader needs to know.  Great things, and yet…We need to get back to the basics.  Somewhere in the mad rush of trying to cover everything within the 45 minutes that strangle our English class, we seem to have lost touch with what English is really all about; amazing books, deep conversations, and writing, so much of it so that we lose our fear of being bad writers and just start to embrace the process.

So as I looked around at the empty chairs, I knew exactly what to do.  Monday morning we will start with a circle, a to-do list of dreams facing the students.  I will ask them to discuss expectations and rules, I will ask them about their thoughts on what the standards say we need to get to and then I will ask them this is this quarter to please

Find one poem that speaks to you

Read one amazing book that you must pass on to someone else

Write something that makes you proud

And have a deep conversation with someone face to face

Those are the opportunities that I need to create, those are the things that matter.  Beyond the standards, beyond what we need to cover.  We need to have incredible experiences in English, not just survive the last quarter.  Our students are bigger than the standards we teach.  What are your plans for after the break?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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6 thoughts on “Going Beyond the Standards

  1. So agree! It’s really rough when “covering” the curriculum drives the learning. Love what you have ready for your students. Tuesday after out Spring Break (teachers come back Monday) going to leave lots of time for my kinders to share their time away and PLAY. Combined with starting our unit on the Amazon Rainforest. Wonder what they’ll wonder about?

  2. So agree also! Sometimes we just need and want to branch out and enjoy literacy ( from a personal choice aspect) expressing ourselves through writing, reading, viewing, and speaking.
    Love your plan Pernille. We are currently enjoying our Autumn break – plan to also do this with my Year 5 students during our last quarter (Sept- Dec). Great way to assess literacy skills and strategies that have (hopefully) been learned during the year.

  3. I had a similar epiphany just two weeks ago too. The week before my own Spring Break. I rethought a lot of what I was doing and decided to add things that I had put a side or given up along the year I order to teach specific curriculum or to drive to meet IEP benchmarks. It’s a hard hard balance. I fight it every year. And every year around this time this same thing happens for me. This time I decided next year I’m not waiting. It’s starting from the beginning of the school year.

  4. Pingback: High-Stakes Learning | From One Teacher To Another

  5. Funny that you talk about meeting with your class and as I finished inputing the “required minimum grades for the quarter” I asked myself a similar question. How can I get the kids to really reflect on their own learning, take some responsibility for it and use these last 8 weeks as an elementary student to really develop themselves as readers, writers, mathematicians, scientist and historians? I will be having my meeting this morning and asking the kids their input. Yes, we will talk about what we need to cover but I like some of the ideas that you mention because I too have readers that have yet to finish a book and can overall have a negative mindset about learning. I have eight weeks to change that!!

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