What is this thing you call a state curriculum?? by Cheri

There are so many things to think about as a new teacher that it is very easy to miss something…like when I missed the fact that Texas has a STATE CURRICULUM!  Hello…where was that during my college courses????

Most states have a group of people who decide what teachers should teach each year.  This is your state curriculum standards.  I work in Texas, and because everything we do in Texas is different, of course we have our own curriculum.  If you work in Texas, you should know that we have TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which are our skills we teach.  They are organized by our state by grade level and subject area.

Most other states use Common Core.  These too, are your skills your state expects you to teach.  If you work in some states (like one that I worked in), you have a “version” of something.  However, all states have skills that are expected to be taught in certain grade levels and covered under certain subject areas.

Why is this important?  Although your district will organize your skills, which will show you when to teach them, you will teach the skills in the state curriculum.  AND…most likely…you will be tested over those skills.  These skills must be covered and taught…and as a teacher, you are responsible for doing that.

So…what do I recommend?  Look up your skills required by your state.  You most likely can find these on your state’s education website.  Once you find them and your grade level/subject area, study them.  I don’t believe you should memorize them, but you should be familiar with all of them and if you come across vocabulary you don’t understand, ask.  This will save you time in the future.

Let me share what I ask my teachers to do.  I attend as many planning sessions with my teachers as I can.  Our district, like most, take the skills required by the state and organize them into a scope and sequence (like a timeline) of when to teach each skill.  We have a standing agenda for each planning session.  I have outlined it below:

  1. What are we teaching?  What does this mean?
  2. How will it look in the classroom?  How do we “teach ” it?
  3. How do we know kids understand it?  How do we assess and check for understanding?
  4. What do we do if they don’t get it?

In my opinion, the most important component of the agenda is item number 1…What are we teaching and what does this mean?  If I am teaching, infer the theme of work, distinguish between theme and topic…I need to understand all of this vocabulary first.  I ask my teachers, what words in this skill are unfamiliar to you?  Once we clarify misconceptions, then we discuss how many “things” we have to teach…which in this example, we need to teach inference, theme, topic, at the minimum.  Then I ask if anyone is confused and we once again, clarify misconceptions.  Then we move to the remainder of the agenda.

I hope this has helped you understand WHAT you are to teach to your students and what a state curriculum is.  Remember, if you don’t understand, ask.  If you are confused, get help.  It really will help you be the best teacher you can be!  Go forth my friends and SPARKLE!

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