Thursday, December 13, 2007

Instructional Flow Map

NUA has introduced the Instructional Flow Map this year as a tool for curriculum planning. I have seen the presentation on the instructional flow map three times: 1) at large group with Carlton, Alexis and Norman, 2) at EHS's site visit with Alexis, and 3) at Cornelia's site visit with Stefanie. Each presentation has brought me closer to a full understanding of the power of this curriculum planning tool.

The boxes of the instructional flow map follow this order:
  1. Introduction
  2. Concept Development
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Skill Development
  5. Teach The Lesson (Guided Practice)
  6. Mediate for Mastery
  7. Teacher (self) Reflection
  8. Release the Lesson (Independent Practice)
  9. Review
  10. Student Reflection
  11. Concept Confirmation
  12. Assessment
As I have begun to use the instructional flow map in planning my lessons and coaching other teachers with their lessons and units, I have had these initial reactions:

Teaching the lesson does not occur until a lot of priming has happened for the students. In the introduction stage students need to be informed explicitly at the beginning of the lesson what are the goals, standards, strategies, and assessment for this lesson. Lately, I have been more careful telling students the what, why and how of each lesson, and specifically, I write the "explicit strategy instruction" on the board when students will be learning a new strategy.

Another priming observation that I had with the instructional flow map is that teachers need to front-load vocabulary. When Scott, the math coach, and I were discussing ways to introduce the ray, segment, and line unit for geometry students, we kept the instructional flow map in front of us so that we realized that the time taken for vocabulary development before teaching the lesson would be time well spent. So Scott planned to have students create a tree map or use defining format for the terms.

Next week before my World Literature students read "The Infant Prodigy" by Thomas Mann, I will spend a lot of time on vocabulary development before reading since the short story includes a number of musical terms that will be unknown to many students. During the vocabulary development stage of the instruction, I will employ the "Possible Sentences" strategy in Denise Nessel's Thinking Strategies book.

Another part of the instructional flow map that I felt has been neglected in my lessons in the past is the student reflection component. Stefanie pointed out that students need to be included in the equation when deciding if they are ready for the assessment. The day after Stefanie's instructional flow map presentation at Cornelia, I implemented this student reflection step by using the red light/green light approach that Stefanie had discussed.

The red light/green light strategy is simple yet effective. I gave students three cards--yellow, red and green--to keep on their tables as they prepared for a group fishbowl discussion on an assigned sonnet. If the group did not feel that they were ready to discuss their sonnet, they had the red card displayed. If they felt that they were close to being ready, they put out their yellow card. And if they were 100% ready to have their sonnet discussion assessed, they put out their green card.

My seniors were sceptical at first because they didn't understand why they couldn't just tell me when they were ready to present. I informed them that the visual display of cards around the room would allow other groups to also keep an eye on the progress of others, and if they noticed that many groups were going "Green," they would have to pick up their pace. The other benefit of the red light/green light strategy was that on-task time seemed to increase. As I circulated around the room, if I heard a group with a red card displayed talking about something unrelated to the assignment, I could flip their card to yellow, saying, "You must be close to being finished." I only had to do that to a few groups to keep everyone focused.

The instructional flow map has immediately impacted my curriculum design in the ways mentioned above, and I am sure that it will have an even greater impact as I use the tool even more.

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