Simple Articulation Strategy: 5 Ins and 5 Outs

Most teachers groan at the mention of “articulation.” It’s not that we don’t see the value in the articulation process but getting everyone on the same page is time-consuming and cumbersome.

In my role as a blended learning coach, I value clear goals.

When teachers know what they are trying to achieve, they design lessons with intention and a clear sense of purpose. Click To TweetIn my role as a coach, I had the opportunity to facilitate an articulation day with a group of middle school English language arts teachers.

As I researched articulation strategies, I found “5 Ins and 5 Outs” mentioned in a Teaching Channel video. The basic idea is that teachers identify 5 “outs” or skills students will master by the time they leave their class. These “outs” become the “ins” for the next grade level. So, if I say that students will leave my 9th grade English class able to “correctly cite strong textual evidence that supports analysis” then the 10th-grade teachers can feel confident that the incoming sophomores will be able to demonstrate that skill.

Obviously, we want students to leave our classes with more than 5 skills so articulation teams can identify categories of skills. English Language arts teachers might want to create 5 ins and outs for reading, writing, language, and soft skills/study skills.

The outs are grounded in the standards, but standards are daunting in their detail and verbosity. The ins and outs strategy is a manageable way for groups of teachers to identify the specific skills they want to emphasize and make sure students master.

This vertical alignment strategy helps teachers in the same subject area but across grade levels identify which skills are most important.

It was interesting to work with a room full of 6-8 grade English language arts teachers as they worked on their ins and outs. A few things became clear:

#1 Teachers used different language to describe similar strategies.

For example, one group of teachers was using the word “signposts” when teaching students what to look for in a fictional text, while another group of teachers used the phrase “note and notice.” Both groups were teaching the same strategies, but the lack of continuity in the language may confuse students as they move from one grade level to the next. The more consistent we are with the language we use, the easier it will be for students to move from one grade level to the next.

#2 Teachers interpret the standards differently.

There was a debate about whether the word “claim” was synonymous with “thesis statement.” It’s important that teachers dig into the language of the standards, clarify any areas of confusion, and reach a consensus, so students don’t hear conflicting information or definitions from different teachers.

#3 Transparency between grade levels helps teachers identify skill gaps.

We worked collaboratively on a shared Google Document so teachers could see the outs for the previous grade, ask questions, and make suggestions. The conversations about what teachers were seeing in terms of skills at the start of the school year helped to refine the outs for the previous year.

These are challenges that most departments and schools face, so finding a way to encourage an articulation process that feels valuable and manageable is crucial for schools.

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Learning Beyond the Classroom

The discussion about learning and what constitutes “good learning” is almost always couched in the context of a classroom. Today’s students have more access to information and resources beyond the classroom than any prior generation. They can jump online and watch a video tutorial to learn how to do something that interests them. They can explore the globe with Google Earth, go on a virtual tour of the Louvre or the MoMA, or tinker, build, and create in the comfort of their homes. Is this learning less valuable than the learning that happens in a classroom? I would argue this self-directed learning is in many ways more powerful for kids because they decide how they will learn, what they will learn, and when they will learn.

I had an experience with my daughter that hit home the importance of encouraging kids to pursue their own learning outside of school. I’m not talking about homework. I’m talking about spending time investigating and learning about things that matter to THEM. 

My 10-year-old is curious, creative, and does well in school. So, I was alarmed when she came home one day and announced, “I don’t like science.” Surprised, I asked, “What makes you think you do not like science?” She mumbled something about not being very good at it and thinking it was kind of boring. It was clear that she didn’t enjoy the work she was doing in school that was labeled “science.” As an educator who is hyper-aware that we need more females in STEM fields, I immediately sought out fun and engaging science stuff online. I did not want my child to write off science because she didn’t have a positive experience with it in school.

I found Tinker Crate, a science project in a box. It’s delivered each month and presents kids, ages 6 and up, with hands-on tinker challenges. I opted for a monthly subscription ($19.95/month) to try it out.

When the first box arrived with Cheyenne’s name on it, she was excited. She laid out the parts and the directions and got to work. She loved building the flying contraption and was fascinated to read about how it worked. The kit also came with a Tinker Zine booklet with additional science experiments and activities. 

When I asked her if she would enjoy more science experiments from Tinker Crate, she informed me that what she had done “was not science.” A long conversation ensued about what is and what is not science. When she, at last, believed that the Tinker Crate experiment fell under the umbrella of “science,” she said, “Well, maybe I do like science.”

Between Tinker Crate boxes, she searched YouTube for fun science experiments she could do at home. One of the first videos she found was titled “10 Science Projects for Elementary School Students,” which introduce 10 simple experiments and follows each with an explanation of what is happening. She was excited to show me how raisins dance and how socks can be used to make snake bubbles! My kitchen has become her laboratory. I guess, we all have to make sacrifices in the name of science!

I’m happy to report that my daughter is now a fan of science. Even though I ordered that first Tinker Crate, which piqued her interest and curiosity, she decided to continue learning. She sought out YouTube videos. She decided to sprout beans and lentils. She documented the insects in our backyard and did Google searches to learn more about them. In almost all of these instances, she was her own teacher. Technology connected her with the information she needed to answer her own questions and make sense of what she was learning. 

As I watch my children grow and develop, I am convinced we can learn a lot from them about what learning looks like. Educators often wrestle with the most effective ways to engage students, but how often do we ask them how they would prefer to learn? Are we taking cues from our students to better understand how they learn both online and offline beyond the classroom? Are the assignments we send home with kids teaching them how to learn beyond the classroom or robbing them of the time they need to explore and learn on their own?

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Self-Paced Lessons with Nearpod

“How do you keep students engaged and on task?” I am frequently asked this question when I train teachers on blended learning models. The concern implied in this question is that if I am not working directly with students that they will immediately be off task or disruptive. In actuality, classroom management has never been a big issue for me. In part, I credit my lesson design for keeping them interested, engaged, and on task. I blend a mix of online and offline work that allows students opportunities to self-pace through activities, work collaboratively with their peers, and make key decisions about how they learn.

Nearpod is one tool I use to create interactive lessons that encourage students to pace their own learning and collaborate with classmates. Nearpod lessons are perfect for online stations in a Station Rotation Model or self-paced whole group lessons when I need to meet individually with students.

Nearpod allows the teacher to run “Live lessons,” which are teacher-paced, or “Student-paced.” When teachers select the “Live lesson,” they dictate what students see on their screens. As a teacher moves through a lesson, the slides automatically change on the student device so they are looking at the element of the presentation that the teacher is talking about or focused on. When the teacher selects “Student-paced,” students can navigate through the multimedia, multimodality lesson at their own pace.

Designing a Nearpod lesson is easy. Teachers can mix and match media, link to online websites, and engage students in polls, collaborative brainstorms, and written responses.

There are even “brain break” activities, like a matching game, and a drawing feature to keep kids interested and engaged.

Below is an example of a student-paced lesson I designed for our Of Mice and Men unit that combines video clips, an audio recording of the novel, a poll, open-ended questions, a matching game, and a collaborate board.

Nearpod lessons make engaging stations in a Station Rotation lesson and free me up to meet one-on-one with students to have assessment conversations or provide individualized coaching and support for students who need it.

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