What is meant when we label teaching to the standard?

We hear this so often, especially in curriculum design, but what does that really look like in practice?  Teaching to the standard is an essential component to a well-planned and executed lesson that truly teaches students what they need to know.  I have seen too many lessons where students have fun and the teacher facilitates well, but when you ask the students what they needed to leave knowing that day, they can’t tell you.  It doesn’t matter how engaged a student is or how much fun they are having, if they didn’t learn the standard that was set at the top of that lesson, then your job was not accomplished.

Teaching to the standard means everything you do in the classroom that day stems from the standards which you identified at the top of your lesson plan.  Think about it: if you went to all of that trouble to find naturally aligned objectives to create a powerful learning experience in the classroom, what sense does it make to ignore teaching TO those standards?  And while we’re here, let’s pause for a moment to remind ourselves that teaching to the standard also means teaching to all of the standards that we have set.  So, if you have aligned a math and a music standard, you are teaching to both of those standards.  By the end of the class, students will be able to know and DO something with both of the concepts you are trying to teach.

Teaching to the Standard is more difficult than you may realize.

We often get caught up in creating elaborate lessons or lessons that include a lot of technology that we forget what our students need to be able to demonstrate to show not only knowledge of the standard, but an application of that knowledge.  We must ensure that we are aligning our instruction so that what and how we are teaching is meeting the standards by which we have framed our lessons themselves.  How can we do this?

By taking the time to truly map out our lesson and reflecting as we write these plans about how this helps to teach the standards.  I often find it helpful to provide myself with a note about how this piece of the lesson is meeting that objective.  Or, I do a quick student-check when I get to certain points in the lesson and ask them what we are currently doing has to do with the objective that’s up on the board.

By being accountable to ourselves and our students, we are ensuring the highest quality of lesson design and implementation across content areas.  And that serves our students by providing them with direct and purposeful connections to the skills and processes they need to learn to succeed in and out of school.  Now and Tomorrow.