I chose the principle “develop students' awareness of the big picture: how various activities fit together and link to the big ideas” as the focus of this paragraph. Many students are unaware of how lessons, units, and even how courses fit into their lives and how they fit together, and are often unmotivated to learn concepts because they don’t think they will ever need the information. We all know that there are some concepts that students may not use once out of school, but it is still important to teach curriculum expectations and hope that students develop scientific literacy skills to use later on in life. Looking to the big ideas and trying to teach not only the simple expectations, but the overall expectations and goals for the course really help students understand the importance of the concepts. It also sets expectations. Students know exactly what they need to learn, which helps them set goals for the end of each unit, and provide them a framework when it comes to studying for tests and other evaluations. Knowing the “big ideas” ourselves is important so we are teaching the concepts in the hopes of fulfilling those overall expectations.
In school, our department focuses on a “top down” approach for course preparation. We look to the overall expectations for each course and decide the most important concepts that the students will need for the following year. Our exam is tailored towards these concepts, along with our tests and individual lessons. Focus on certain expectations is given where necessary, where others do not need as much time spent in class. Being able to determine what is important should be a group activity, not an individual one. We also let the students know the big ideas for each unit, and students are aware of the expectations set out for them. The challenge comes to actually implementing the curriculum and having the students relate to the lessons set before them. It is true that standing at the front and “telling” students’ information day after day will hinder the concept of the “big idea” with the overwhelming number of concepts. I find starting each lesson with prior knowledge from the last lesson is a good way to link two concepts together, as well as looking to the next day to indicate what is to come and how the lessons work hand in hand. Within every lesson, there is a “so what?” component that sometimes occurs through discussion or an activity that allows students to take the material out of the classroom context and apply it to real life situations. Discussion really does work best because often times students have a hard time getting started with ideas about the material and linking concepts together, but with some guided questioning within a group setting, many more answers to the “so what?” question arise. As with lessons, each new unit starting is related to the previous one, and when units are complete, students and teacher look back to see what could be used ahead.