Posts Tagged "instructional materials"

Are You In a New Role This Year?

Are you teaching a new grade level or subject this year? If so, have you had time to investigate the instructional materials provided by the district for the grade or course you are teaching? Sometimes when we have short notice of a change of assignment there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to plan. Elementary Classroom
Three years into my teaching career I moved between campuses and inherited a book cart full of materials for my new assignment. I had no idea which materials were current or most aligned to the standards for the course I would be teaching!  To make things more difficult, I was a singleton teacher and had no one to ask.  It took me a long time to wade through what I had and I am quite sure that I was missing components of the material that came with the original purchase.
If you are in a similar position consider the following as you navigate your new role and review the materials you have.

  1. What types of materials do you have?

Are your materials comprehensive or supplemental?

A comprehensive material is one that supports instruction for a course’s full curriculum and is provided for all students. Such materials would include broad, deep discussions of content; remediation and enrichment activities; formative and summative assessments; as well as teacher resources.

 Supplemental resources are not designed to be the sole instructional resource for a course. Instead, supplementary materials complement, enrich, or extend the content of comprehensive resources. It seems reasonable that supplemental products will vary in terms of their alignment to standards. Some products may focus on a narrow set of standards, while others, such as test preparation resources, may provide a brief review of all standards.

  1. What other instructional resources are included with those materials? For example, do you and/or your students have access to additional web resources, or consumables that may engage them or help extend their learning? Hopefully you were left a list, or someone else on your team can provide this information to you. If not, it may be worth your time to research the material on the publisher’s website in order to understand all of the components you have at your fingertips.
  1. Is the material aligned to the standards you are teaching? Sometimes we have older materials that were purchased prior to a standards revision cycle. Those may not address all the current standards students are responsible for learning. How would you know?
  • Compare the material’s publication date to the date the new standards were implemented.
  • If provided, use the publisher’s correlation to identify which standards are addressed in the instructional material.
  • When planning your instruction check that the citation(s) (page, lesson, video, etc.) you plan on using  is aligned to the content, context, and cognitive demand of the standards you are teaching. Students won’t learn what they are not taught.  So make sure the materials you are using address the entire standards you are teaching.

Thinking back to my third year teaching I would have been a far more effective teacher if I had known to check my materials.  I didn’t.  I hope this helps you avoid the same mistake so that your students have the best opportunity for success.


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New Review: CPM Educational Program’s Core Connections


[Source: CPM Educational Program]

Learning List recently reviewed the CPM Educational Program’s Core Connections comprehensive courses for Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2.
Resources are available in print and eBook formats and address the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Instruction is problem based; students work in “Study Teams” to deepen their understanding of problem-solving strategies and solutions.

Study Teams develop students’ responsibility for their own learning. Teams work together to answer questions, justify their reasoning, and identify multiple solution strategies. Through ongoing discussion, teams support one another and ensure all members understand problems and solutions. Teachers encourage students’ teamwork, facilitate discussions, and provide support when teams encounter questions they are unable to answer. Teacher resources include background and strategies to support the implementation of Study Teams.

The “Teacher” tab in course eBooks provides pacing information and suggested lesson, closure, and homework activities. Lessons include “Mathcasts”—recorded podcasts in which an expert teacher walks users through the lesson providing background information and suggesting teaching strategies. Students have access to interactive math tools, including algebra tiles and Desmos graphing calculators, and course resources are available in Spanish.

About CPM Educational Program*

CPM Educational Program is a California nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to improving grades 6-12 mathematics instruction. CPM’s mission is to empower mathematics students and teachers through exemplary curriculum, professional development, and leadership. We recognize and foster teacher expertise and leadership in mathematics education. We engage all students in learning mathematics through problem solving, reasoning, and communication.

* The content in this section is provided by or adapted from CPM Educational Program.

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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New Review: Flocabulary

[Source: Flocabulary]

[Source: Flocabulary]

Flocabulary is a supplemental K-12 product that provides video-based learning activities to support academic vocabulary development in the content areas of Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math, Current Events, Vocabulary, and Life Skills. Content is available online and includes printable resources. Learning List recently reviewed resources for Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Math.

Across subject areas, Flocabulary provides video-based learning activities to support students’ understanding and retention of academic vocabulary in a content area. Videos present vocabulary and information using a memorable hip-hop song followed by activities designed to reinforce and extend students’ understanding of terms. Videos contain links to the relevant Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and state standards, including the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Each video is accompanied by a set of instructional resources that include a “Quick Review” check for understanding, fill-in-the-blank copies of lyrics, printable worksheets, graphic organizers, and a quiz. Quizzes may be taken online or printed for paper and pencil administration. Online quizzes are graded automatically. Videos also have a set of “lyric notes” that include hyperlinks to textboxes that provide definitions and more information about the topic (e.g., “Sub-Saharan Africa is a region of Africa located south of the Saharan Desert.”).

About Flocabulary*

Flocabulary is a web-based learning program for all grades and subjects that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement. Teachers in more than 50,000 schools have used Flocabulary’s standards-based videos, instructional activities and formative assessments to develop core literacy skills and supplement instruction across the curriculum.

* The content in this section is provided by or adapted from Flocabulary.

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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New Review: Illustrative Mathematics

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

[Source: Illustrative Mathematics]

Illustrative Mathematics (IM) is a supplemental, open educational resource (OER) that supports the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM) in grades K-12. The program is available online and includes sample problems, curriculum modules, and professional development resources. Materials are available at no cost at Learning List recently reviewed IM content for middle school (i.e., grades 6-8).

IM content is organized by CCSSM domain (e.g., Geometry), cluster (e.g., “Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area, and volume.”), and standard (e.g., “Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, special quadrilaterals, and polygons by…”). For each standard, the program provides a set of printable “learning tasks,” or multi-step problems. Each learning task is accompanied by a “Commentary,” a detailed narrative description of the solution, and a comments section. The Commentary explains the problem, its purpose, and different strategies students may use to solve it.  The solutions narrative provides step-by-step guidance in reaching the problem’s solution. The comments section allows users to add their feedback and suggestions.

“Course Blueprints” for grades 6-8 were “Under construction!” at the time of our review (July 2016); Course Blueprints available at the high school level are curriculum modules organized in units with diagnostic pre-tests and summative assessments. Additional instructional materials and professional development modules are available for purchase on the IM website.

About Illustrative Mathematics*

IM is a discerning community of educators dedicated to the coherent learning of mathematics. Founded in 2011 at the University of Arizona, IM has operated since 2013 as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. IM shares carefully vetted resources for teachers and teacher leaders to give our children an understanding of mathematics and skill in using it. IM provides expert guidance to states, districts, curriculum writers, and assessment writers working to improve mathematics education.

* The content in this section is provided by or adapted from Illustrative Mathematics

Subscribe to Learning List for access to the spec sheet, full editorial review and detailed alignment report for this material.

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Cost vs. Effectiveness

A recent article in U.S. News and World Report discusses a report from the Center for American Progress. Analyzing state-adopted materials from 19 states, the authors found little relationship between the cost and quality of curriculum materials.

Though the study looked only at print materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards, Learning List data for print and online products reveal the same about Texas materials.  The table below shows the price of three state-adopted, 100% aligned Economics materials that vary in price by up to $81/student over an 8 year subscription:

This table of 100% aligned, state-adopted and non-state-adopted Algebra I products also shows significant price variance:

The article further states, “schools often used misaligned textbooks, and studies have shown that there is a clear gap between what publishers say is aligned to state standards or effective and what truly fits those criteria.”

This begs the question: how does one judge the “effectiveness” of a material prospectively? With so many intervening variables (e.g., the teacher’s skill, the teacher’s use of the material, the students’ abilities and learning styles, and, for online materials, the district’s infrastructure), it is difficult to predict with certainty whether a material is/will be effective.

Alignment to state standards is one predictive measure of a product’s effectiveness. Another is other educators’ experiences with the product. For that reason, Learning List’s editorial reviews incorporate feedback from multiple educators who personally have used the products with students. The reviews also include a list of reference districts for subscribers to contact before purchasing a product. Finally, educators can share their experience by rating and reviewing the products featured on

Learning List’s alignment reports, editorial reviews and new spec sheets provide multi-faceted feedback to inform educators’ selection of products and help them use their products most effectively.

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