As mentioned in my last post on setting up the pilot project for my Hazirlik, I found the first year extremely demanding, yet fabulously rewarding in both personal growth and as a teacher of technology in an English classroom. This post is aimed at focusing on how the syllabus has been transformed from a typical Hazirlik ELT learning platform with some ICT included, and into a full-on ICT-ELT focused curriculum that is current, progressive and demanding across several levels of English and ICT learning outcomes for the students. I believe a good starting point for this is to share with you my feelings on UbD. The pictures of ubD in a nutshell from its author Grant Wiggins is the best way to look at what it aims to do with a curriculum. I can then express how we approached it and give an example of one of our templates in response to Wiggin's awesome curriculum template model.
In this first image you can see how Wiggins stresses that the main aim is for students to understand from quality transference of knowledge and information through a clear, precise and well-thought out objectives, outcomes and enduring understandings. This was something that I had seen in my years of curriculum design, however the simplicity of the template and clarity of the message therein made everything so clear for us in Hazirlik.
In this section of the template the focus is on the Big Picture of the unit. In order for us to develop quality understandings for the students we had to prepare Essential Questions which basically are the springboard to success of every unit taught. We believed that by conjuring up and preparing these classroom questions, which we had posted on the wall every Monday for the week, meant students had a focus on what they would be taught and what they needed to be able to answer come Friday. This is one area where were able to include ICT in the facilitation of the EQs (Essential Questions). We put the EQs into our flash card application and the students have to choose one EQ that they will answer over the weekend by posting their response to that EQ on . This is the first proper culmination and joint ICT-ELT collaboration.
This section deals with assessment of the content therein the unit. This was where we realised that not only could we use normal summative assessments from completed units, but that since the depth of content we prepared for each unit was substantial, and the time we spend with the students extensive, the opportunity for formatively assessed activities, assignments and day-to-day progress could be observed. This further strengthened the need for teachers to adopt the formative model of assessment as it gives a better and more balanced outcome for all students. Nobody, is literally ever left behind. There is no chance for escape or to slip through the net with a false-ceiling ability often seen in summative test results
This final part of the UbD template series highlights very cleverly the W.H.E.R.E.T.O. acronym. By teachers thinking about the direction where and how their unit is going, by which activities they can include so that their students benefit from means each unit goes full circle in the critical thought processes. Not only does UbD encourage students to think outside the proverbial box, but also it expects teachers to know their syllabuses inside out. one marvellous quote I heard while taking training in UbD was this: "UbD is not about covering the syllabus, it is about UNCOVERING the syllabus." I thought that was awesome and it sticks with me always when I prepare a unit. We knew after year one tha the Haırlık program had to be improved so that we could incorporate language, literature and ICT with a strong focus on skills that would take students to a level that would allow them some comfort in understanding and using English in grade 9. Below you can see an example of the language UbD template that we complete prior to our 2011-2012 start. Remember we had no idea of how or whether this would work.
These three images of our unit one on language in use is clearly focused strongly on ELT in traditional terms. We do believe in the use and identification of the meta terms in ELT. If students are able to decide when to use simple tenses over continuous tenses this is a big step in making English work for them. It is not part pf the acquisition model we know, and that is why we believe in it. Turkish students who are faced with intense L2 and need to get through it successfully and quickly, need to have ways available to them, so they can believe in their own learning and take responsibility for it. Not all students welcome the meta-terms, but have them there in case they should need them. Examples of those students are the ones who already grasp the grammar time-frame. They genuinely find it difficult to grasp meta-language, like most native speakers, and that is okay also. In those cases we make sure those students are not at a disadvantage. They are expected to grasp the sections of language with numerous examples of contextualized sentence and paragraph building. In section three you can see the inclusion of ICT elements that help to engage and interest students more. This is where we started to move away from traditional methods and activities. The internet became a very large part of our syllabus. To sum up about UbD, we embrace the whole concept. I have yet to see anything that matches in terms of its simplicity, expectations for depth of content and overall expectations for students and learning outcomes. The uncovering of the syllabus as opposed to simply covering it really makes teachers critically think of their aims for content and objectives in a unit. For us, if we can teachers to think more about what they are doing and seeing the point of view from a student's perspective has to be an improvement for huge number of teachers. We hope that this blog post can inspire more teachers to look at UbD and how it could work for you.
Try to remember that you will provide a better service by never being satisfied with only covering the syllabus; go one step further to Uncover it and find the best ways to engage, transfer the knowledge and instruct quality pedagogical models.