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Curriculum Design

            Below, I have documented three artifacts that show my growth in lesson design. While I did not have the opportunity to design curriculum at Gilman or in my subject methods course, these lessons each reflect elements of backwards design in my lessons that would translate to curriculum design. The first artifact here is from my first year, when I was trying to design a more engaging way to talk about a text. It contains a written out lesson plan.  The second, a video, shows the implementation of a lesson designed to improve writing, one focusing on specific details that I added to the curriculum after noticing challenges on the previous essay. The final artifact, another written lesson plan that also includes a worksheet of sorts, is from a pivotal moment in my Inquiry project. 

             In the first artifact, the written lesson, I tried to focus on differentiation within the backwards design framework. While I have three stated goals, I note that these goals are perhaps too broad as to direct any learning. Looking especially at the second goal, I feel I might have been more effective had I built a better goal, one that sought to identify why my students should consider morality. You can see in these non-specific lesson goals the difference between building a lesson for curriculum and building a lesson for student differentiation, a gap Tomlinson and McTighe (2006) argue must be bridged. Teachers who do both effectively "focus on clarity of goal and flexibility in arriving at that goal" (p. 144). Here, I believe is where I erred. While there is differentiation in the lesson, I do not identify the ways the groups of students can get to the goal through that differentiation. I seem to have gone in blind. Since this lesson, I have been conscious of addressing differentiation more explicitly in my lesson plans, forcing myself to consider it as I put together the enduring understandings from which everything else will stem. 

             This specific details lesson was one of the first lessons that I built from scratch, rather than adapting from curricular materials. In teaching writing, I felt we had not been as specific as we could have been in the department, and students were having a hard time translating feedback to their written word, not knowing how to connect thoughts. We graded "flow" for instance, but never really said how to create it. In this lesson, I wanted everyone to consider the intricacies of sentence building. What I like about this lesson is that I am letting the students construct these lists of words, rather than simply leaning on a Powerpoint. "To learn something deeply, students need to internalize it and make it their own," Eric Toshalis and Michael Nakkula argue (2012, p. 31). By allowing them to work together to build these lists, they could come to see these words as more familiar when they began writing. What I wish I had done is cede the whiteboard to a student or students, especially as we were putting together a paragraph. Where I did not want to sacrifice efficiency, I then compromised the student voice, and centered the room around myself unnecessarily. Despite that, as the weeks and months that followed, I was shocked by the effectiveness of this lesson, as many of these students began using words like "moreover" and "furthermore" in their paragraphs to great effect. "Moreover they know how to read and write," Andreas wrote in his journal that week, "so they already have the upper hand in the society." Scores for flow shot up, and stayed up. It made me wonder what else I could do in ten-minute segments that could target writing. 

             In the final artifact, I built a lesson for my inquiry project that involved the creation of an activity to replace doing mindless worksheets with something more engaging. What the students did not notice was that the worksheet element largely stayed the same. By adding an element of competition at the end, however, rather than a typical review, they were significantly more focused in its completion. Additionally, as per my inquiry, I wanted to test the efficacy of popular culture in the classroom. Relying on Mary Helen Immordino-Yang & Antonio Damasio's socioemotional work as I did through a lot of my project, I sought to bring positive emotions into my classroom through their inclinations towards nostalgic films and lyrics. As I mention in my inquiry analysis, this lesson became an instant sensation, with students coming up to me all week asking to do it again and again. However, the ideas that endured were not what I targeted, as the balance of grammar and popular culture knowledge in the competition did not prioritize understanding of the more important material. From here, I used this information to make sure all future competitions were still based in skill-building. Popular culture could can an agent to improve that, but could not be such a focus as to make grammar learning subliminal. 

             One element of lesson planning I am actively trying to do more of in general is building in opportunities for feedback within lessons, something not seen to great end in any of these three artifacts. John Hattie and Helen Timperley (2007) reinforce the value of giving students frequent, process level and self-regulation level feedback.. They write that "such feedback can have major influences on self-efficacy, self-regulatory proficiencies, and self beliefs about students as learners, such that the students are encouraged or informed how to better and more effortlessly continue on the task" (p. 90). While I think I do a good job of providing opportunities for task-level feedback and process-level feedback as we review grammar exercises, I need to build in times where I can provide self-regulation-level feedback during class discussions. Students frequently need assurance in those times, and choose to remain silent. I have tried using exit tickets for this effect, but want to develop a more immediate way of building feedback opportunities into discussions. While across the three lessons, I achieved varying success in achieving my goals, there is more creativity in the construction as I moved through the fellowship. I am going out of my comfort zone to be an innovator, to get to deeper learning for my students. And as long as I push to do that while considering the important elements of backwards design and differentiated instruction, I am moving in the right direction in my growth. 


This is a written lesson for chapter 5 of Chasing Lincoln's Killer.


February 2018

     The students began class with a 10-minute writing prompt included at the end of the preview slides attached below. This two-part question asked students to think about the actions of the two doctors from the chapter, Dr. Leale and Dr. Mudd, and their care for Lincoln and Booth. First, my students were asked to decide whether the doctors act benevolently or malevolently in performing their duty. Second, they considered the responsibility the two doctors bear for their patients’ actions. For the next two minutes, they shared their claims with their partners at the desk next to them.

     After they shared, I broke the class into four groups, predetermined and created so that the groups were differentiated by skill. The two stronger groups were given questions asking them to think about the moral responsibilities of doctors, while the two weaker groups were asked questions that honed their ability to find evidence in the text (they were asked to provide page numbers). I sent them to four separate areas of the room, all with whiteboards, with a question to discuss and put notes on the board.

     The four questions were:

  1. Describe the nature of the relationship between Mudd and Booth

  2. Why did Booth choose to stop at Mudd’s house and how was he received?

  3. What questions should doctors ask before helping someone?

  4. Are doctors responsible for helping anyone who needs care?

     After 5 minutes to create a bullet-pointed list of answers to these questions, the students were asked to return to their seats and each group had a minute to present their answers. In the final 10 minutes, when students returned to their desks, we had a full-class discussion of two final questions.

     First, I asked if my students were manhunters who arrived at the farm later the next day, after Booth had left, what questions would they need to find the answers to in order to determine Dr. Mudd’s guilt? I ended with an open-ended question. Based on the evidence we collected on the board at this point, should Dr. Mudd be held responsible for aiding Booth’s escape? The whole plan built to giving the students tools to answer that question thoughtfully.

Lesson Goals

  • To continue building analytical writing skills with emphasis on having specific details from the text support a main claim

  • To get students to consider the complicated moral responsibilities of doctors

  • To develop students’ abilities to thoughtfully discuss literature with classmates while utilizing on evidence from the text

This is a lesson specifically designed to teach how to create specific details that support a claim in writing.


October 9, 2018

This is a lesson and worksheet I designed for the sentences grammar unit.

November, 2018

Lesson Plan:

  • Introduce sentence types on board

    • Simple = SV

    • Compound = SV+SV and SV; SV

    • Complex = Adv SV, SV and SV adv SV

  • Partner kids up and introduce game. Every group gets one point for identifying sentence type correctly and one point for identifying movie/song that these quotes/lyrics come from.

  • On slideshow, reveal one sentence at a time, offering students 45 seconds each with their partner to come up with answers. All answers revealed after exercise is complete.

  • Once we have done all 10, project this sheet, so they can see all the sentences together. Volunteers use Notability app on my iPad to label and identify sentence on the board in front of the class.  Each group keeps track of own points, and notes mistakes.

  • After grammar review, return to slideshow to reveal images from the movies and music videos from which these are taken. Points noted down.

  • After announcing winner, finish by taking example or two from students and doing them on white board.

These are the presented sentences



1. The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake_______.


2. People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day. _______


3. If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true. _______


4. You’re only a fool if you give up. _______


5. Darlin, forever is a long, long time, and time has a way of changing things. _____


6. Hey, I just met you and this is crazy. ______


7. I like it when money makes a difference but don’t make you different. _______


8. And I was wrong but let’s be honest you were too. _______


9. Thought I’d end up with Sean, but he wasn’t a match. _______


10. On a Wednesday, in a café, I watched it begin again. _______


11. [Your example].  ______________________________________________________________________

Lesson Goals

  • To allow students to understand the real ways language uses all three sentence types

  • To reinforce that grammar exists outside the sphere of the classroom

  • To build skills in working with different types of sentences.


Hattie, J. & Timperley H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

Immordino-Yang, M.H. & Damasio, A. (2011). We feel, therefore we learn: The relevance of affective and social     neuroscience to education. LEARNing Landscapes, 5 (1), 115-131.

Tomlinson, C. A., & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction & understanding by design: connecting   content and kids. 1st ed. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Toshalis, E. & Nakkula, M. (2012). Motivation, engagement, and student voice. The Students at the Center Series, 1-42.

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