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. [clickToTweet tweet=”When teachers know what they are trying to achieve, they design lessons with intention and a clear sense of purpose. ” quote=”When teachers know what they are trying to achieve, they design lessons with intention and a clear sense of purpose. “]In 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.

8 Responses

  1. I like the “ins” and “outs” concept because this will serrated the responsibility on the teachers of different grades which will help in reinforcing student quality.

  2. Catlin,
    Teachers are now identifying their “ins and outs” during their PLCs. Question: How do you best facilitate Part 2 when they get back together and view the other grade level’s ins and outs? I thought I would post them in order in the library by subjects and grade level. They can do a gallery walk and have post it notes to stick on suggestions and questions. Are there guiding questions to help facilitate the process better?
    Thank you so very much!

    • Hi Deanna,

      I like your gallery walk idea with post-its. I would also get the different grade levels together to discuss the ins and outs to share strategies that will help develop specific skills and to clarify expectations. I’ve found those discussions are valuable in helping folks get on the same page.


  3. Hi Catlin! I need your help and expertise. I love the 5 ins and outs and will be adapting this framework (thank you!) and facilitating this with a K-6 school. I read the comment/response above from Deanna & you regarding next steps (Part 2- possible gallery walk, discussions on strategies that will help develop specific skills and clarify expectations). How do I hold the principal and teachers accountable to the 5 ins and outs throughout the year? Any great ideas that you’ve seen or done with schools on this will be greatly appreciated (data collection, PLC initiatives, etc). Thank you!

    • Hi Marcie,

      I think checking in and sharing progress in departments or PLCs is key to ensuring folks don’t lose sight of what they are working toward. Leadership can help by articulating this as an expectation for departments or PLCs. If teachers in a department or PLC commit to discussing one of their “ins and outs” each month, it creates an ongoing conversation about their work. It can be a simple “high/low” check-in about one of their ins and outs. This gives them the space to say, “Here’s what I am doing that is working,” and share best practices as well as to say “This is what I am struggling with” and brainstorm or idea share with the group. You want to avoid having them articulate their ins and outs, then put them away and forget what they have committed to working toward.

      You might even create a self-assessment template for mid-year to get teachers thinking about their own progress toward achieving their ins and outs goals. Teachers are often so swamped they do not stop to reflect on how things are going. If you can find a way to facilitate that, it might also help keep them focused on these goals.

      Good luck!

  4. I like the ins and outs concept. I am currently attempting to create template to use for articulation meetings. We have subject PLCs in place. They meet once a month not only to check on the accomplished aspects of instruction but also to touch-base so to speak and release triggers of stress.

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