Making Curriculum Pop

Did we remember 2 water the plants today? 

Eye 4got 2 look up at the moon because 

Eye was 2 busy, said Eye was 2 busy 

Eye was 2 busy
Looking at you babe

from “Reflections” by Prince

When I originally conceived the tag line “Making Curriculum Pop” for Mindblue it was - like the name Mindblue - an intentional double entendre. All this work is designed to look at ways to use pop/common cultures AND ways to use best/better/cool practices to make sure students engage with the exciting world around them.

As you have seen over the last few months I’ve been trying to share some of my best tools and tricks via this blog while collecting them in the MC Pop Playbook.*

Just like the Cartoon ‘Did You Read?’ Quiz and the Peer Feedback Fun slips today’s post is another attempt at a universal tool you can rock in any discipline.

The early evolution of this Learning Experience Organizer (LEO)© was completely developed by my superstar mom, Pam Goble. During the aughts we (my mom, Nicole and me) have been teaching graduate courses in education in the Chicago suburbs. The regional office of education in DuPage County works with local universities to offer a battery of courses that give teachers three credits for six 8AM – 4:30 PM class days. Although the hours can be grueling we enjoy the format much more than regular classes.

In order to conserve time and energy my mom developed a lunch break practice for these graduate courses called "read and feed." We extended the thirty minutes allocated for lunch into a 60-minute working session where teachers/students read and reflect on 2-3 journal articles while they grub. We always differentiate the task by offering a choice of six articles; we require them to read and respond to two.

In my opinion, one of the most common teaching mistakes is assigning reading without any guide to create a footprint for learning and interaction with a text. I have certainly been guilty of this practice in the past. These days when I do classroom observations and watch the teacher assign a reading or show a film with out any reflection tools for students my heart sinks. This is a sure fire way to make sure students won't interact with a text beyond the surface content.

As we all know, there are a million great ways to respond to reading – journals, Mind Maps, graphic organizers and drawings to name a few – but the one we’ve used most consistently in the aforementioned graduate course setting is this simple Article Reflection Guide. It creates a strong focus and deeper reading of a text without taking epic amounts of in-class instructional time.

Here’s my mother’s original PDF - used without fail for about six years:

Over the years we kept talking about how we needed to expand from the article reflections into audio, speaker, and chapter reflections. We may still create a series of more specialized guides. In the meantime, this fall, I had another one of those “duh” moments and decided we could get all post-modern, call all the different forms of media “texts” and create a universal “Text Reflection Guide.” Here’s that PDF (also attached below for your use):

Like the Peer Feedback Fun slips and the Cartoon ‘Did You Read?’ Quiz this LEO© is designed to test students not on what they don’t know but what they do know. Questions are open ended and not lower level like most chapter review questions - do any of these look familiar?

Who is Atticus Finch?

What is an atom?

Whose assassination was considered a major cause of World War I?

What is a fraction?

These type of questions have their place, but it should be a small place in relation to more open-ended. interactive questions. Students are so familiar with the lower level "chapter review" questions and generally know how to skim texts for those answers. By definition skimming will not get you below the surface of a text.

Like other tools in the MC POP Playlist this LEO©:

1. Is differentiated. Remember, differentiation can be done by offering choices around content, processes and product. Most of this LEO© allows students to choose what content they are going to respond to and how they are going to process that content. This allows each student to create slightly differentiated product (aka learning footprints).

2. Creates footprints of student learning. When my undergrads asked practicing teachers how they know students are learning at least three teachers said, “I just know from the look in their eyes.”

If we want folks - especially policy makers - to take our profession seriously we need to be able to show evidence of student learning. If you’re an administrator you might like to call these LEOs© “data.” These little learning footprints will capture feedback about students’ successes, struggles and ideas that can be used to adjust instruction.

3. Shift students from passive to active learning. Instead of passive reading students now have a focus for interacting with a text.

4. Holds students and teachers accountable for learning outcomes. Oh, snap! I used the "A" word again!

We’ve had the most success using this with short articles but I think the remixed version should work well with a myriad of texts.

The documents have been extremely useful in high school and college settings. I suspect they could be easily modified/simplified for the K-8 set.

We hope you enjoy this track and it becomes one of your greatest hits!

Good Vibes,


PS- Remember, the PDF is attached below.

* “Standing In the Shower, Thinking” I realized, for a bunch of reasons, that I don’t like the playbook metaphor. In the coming weeks I’ll be reinventing the playbook as a playlist – a more meaningful musical metaphor. Stay tuned for revisions.

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You described the approach that second graders need to do respond to reading. The Mosaic of Thought teaches teachers to consider the questions that students have at the end of each chapter, write them down, and try to answer these questions through the text or further research. This is a very successful, authentic approach to responding to text. Stephanie Harvey's toolkit teaches students how to individually connect with the text - text-text, text-to-self, text to world connections, as well as learn how to ask questions... I wonder...I thought...
FYI, I am writing a text book for teachers with this inquiry in mind:

"How does a teacher use pedagogy and experience to create “intentional lesson plans” that engage a diverse group of students to improve literacy, particularly writing, across the curriculum in the 21st century?"

I feel that teaching has become a science, rather than an art. This book should help teachers integrate, differentiate, and leave the footprints of learning in a variety of creative formative assessments rather than paper and pencil assessments. This will be my last year teaching, after 35 years, and then I want to continue my career in education.

Your site is just what teachers need today to make the curriculum pop! I hope my book will do the same! Thank you for caring so much about education, and figuring out a way to share your family's secrets!
Marcy, Thanks for all the feedback! Congrats on the book - please do keep me posted on the work, I'd love to check it out when it is done! The "family secret" thing is very funny - it might be true though, we don't have any good food recipes :) I have not looked at Stephanie Harvey's stuff - I am familiar with those protocols from their source Louise Rosenblatt's old school work in Literature as Exploration and her transactional Theory of Lit. All watered down (for better and worse) in the text to text, text to self stuff.

I dunno, I do think teaching is more art and craft than science - I think all the talk about "scientific" ed research is a turn off. That said, having coached a lot of teachers, I'm down with a dose of science in our art. It takes a lot of chemistry to mix the right paint colors :)



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