Development of Instructional Units
Classroom teachers, with support from the five subject-area specialists, are diligently developing instructional units to meet the newly-adopted Mississippi College- and Career-Readiness Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. Because of advancements in technology and the ease of access to information, the focus of the newly-adopted standards shifts from rote memorization and recall to the development of higher-order thinking skills.
Pam Briscoe, K-5 English Language Arts Instructional Specialist, expounds on the standards embedded within a unit. “The Language Arts Standards are comprised of four strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Additionally, Reading is divided into three sub-strands: Reading for Literature, Reading for Information, and Reading Foundational Skills. Multiple standards are integrated into each unit.” Lisa Jordan, K-5 Math Instructional Specialist, explains the structure of the mathematics standards. “Mathematics standards include an integration of both mathematics content standards and standards of mathematical practice.”
Instructional units are comprised of research-based best practices and strategies, which are implemented through daily tasks and activities and measured using formal and informal assessments. Dr. Julie Riales, K-12 Math Instructional Specialist, describes the standards within the math units, “Teachers are designing lessons to provide opportunities for students to reason and use mathematics, along with appropriate tools, to solve real-world problems while attending to precision. In addition, students analyze, evaluate, and critique the reasoning of others.” Emily Tindall, K-12 English Language Arts Instructional Specialist, comments, “Teachers are developing language arts lessons, within the instructional units, that furnish opportunities for students to think critically, evaluate, and synthesize information by engaging in close readings of both literature and informational texts, writing and citing evidence from their readings, and conducting research projects to integrate information from multiple sources.”
Christa King, the K-3 Reading Instructional Specialist, also states, “Teachers are working collaboratively within their grade-level teams to design instruction, built to assist students in developing strategies and skills for reading.” Lisa Jordan adds, “The math teachers are also working in grade-level teams to develop instruction that provides opportunities for students to understand mathematical concepts by connecting to prior experiences through hands-on tasks, incorporating real-life situations.”
Teachers and specialists collaborate and carefully select resources that meet the needs of our students and community. Because students have information at their fingertips with personal smartphones, tablets, and computers, today’s students must meet new learning challenges in order to be competitive. The instructional units, for both English Language Arts and mathematics, aim to prepare our students to analyze, reason, evaluate, think critically, and synthesize information to prepare them for future success.