Content? What content?

Content, or what to teach, is something we as teachers constantly debate.  Unfortunately, too many of us get our “content” from a text book.  This is a bad idea because the text covers way too much information.  Textbooks are a resource, not a curriculum.  Texts contain too much information so that they can be applied to multiple curriculums.  To teach the text as curriculum is to teach in vain.

Others of us get our content from a district mandated (or state mandated) list of ideas.  Unfortunately, this is not much better than using the textbook.  These lists are often worded as items to be memorized rather than understood.  Yet, we “have” to “cover” these lists.  So we need a  better way to conceptualize the tremendous amount of information we are expected to help our students learn.

Instead of individual facts, perhaps we need to identify “big picture” ideas and frameworks that are useful to understand/interpret “facts”.  For example, in science I help students develop a “particle worldview” where they come to see and explain nearly all phenomenon via particles. Then I can introduce “facts” (traditional content) and they can make more sense of it – they apply their “particle worldview” to novel situations. But I am not simply telling them everything is made of particles, I am trying to change the way they see the world.

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