Dear BCS teacher,

Welcome to the 2007 academic summer!

The rich experiences and sheer ingenuity for which we selected you ensure that your interactions with students will be effective. However, there are certain strategies that our teachers have found useful for preparing for a smoother summer. Once the sessions start, you will adapt your curriculum to the needs of your students. Nonetheless, it will help to have a thoughtfully produced set of ideas and resources from which you could draw during that process.

What distinguishes BCS classes is intensive focus (several hours a day) on a single subject and a final project that students present at the end of each session. Many teachers find it useful to apply the strategy of “planning backwards”. Planning a variety of activities with the final goal in mind can help keep students busy and focused and avoid the risk of boredom given the large amount of time students spend in class.

Remember that it is summer and students come to us to find a learning experience that overcomes the restrictions of the academic year. If students leave with a positive feeling towards the subject, we have succeeded. Even better if they leave with new skills and knowledge and a product to show for it. Just remember, the question is not ´what facts are the students learning?’, but ´what are the students doing?’.

Creating Curriculum Resources

Teachers are not expected to create a play-by-play teacher-proof script that describes exactly what will happen every moment and in what order. Instead, teachers create resources that they or other teachers can use in the future. Sometimes I think of teaching as DJing a party. If the order of songs was predetermined, the DJ could just send a mix tape and call it a night. However, the strength of a good DJ lies in the ability to bring an appropriate, well-prepared set of options to the table and select an order based on the mood and reactions of the audience, all with a specific goal in mind - the engagement and harmonious interaction of all participants.

Course Overview

Essential Questions

Content (books, websites, videos etc.)






The format for the course overview is the curriculum map developed by Heide Hayes-Jacobs. It is often used to plan curriculum on a monthly basis, but because of the short duration of our program, it will serve to plan the whole course. The curriculum map should include the final project as well as other activities. For guidelines for each element, click here.

Daily Lesson Plan

While you do not need to have every period for every day of the course planned out before camp starts, you do need to plan several periods and you should not walk into class on any given day without a firm idea of what students may do that day. You will often alter this plan during the course of the day, but at the very least, you need something to fall back on.

Let's start with some background theory. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences is incredibly useful for writing daily lesson plans because it guides educators in thinking about ways to keep activities varied and to keep students engaged. The act of going down the list of intelligences and imagining how to approach a given topic from each intelligence can reap great rewards. Click here for Gardner's FAQ on the topic.

Another useful theory is Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives because it guides teachers in tiering lessons on top of each other in order to work from more basic to more complex forms of understanding.

There are various formats that teachers find useful for developing daily lesson plans. Here is one template in which you could plug in your input (ignore the part about standards). This is a 7-step lesson plan format and another simplified lesson plan format. Finally, this site describes six common mistakes teachers make while lesson planning and what you can do about them.

Final Project

Culminating your class in a final project is a great way to provide the entire course with focus and ensure that students leave with a sense of accomplishment. Good final projects answer the following questions:

  1. Options: How will you create multiple entry points that invite students to engage through a variety of intelligences?
  2. Requirements: How will you express specific, detailed, expectations about what the project will look like and how students will receive feedback? What will the expectations be? What will be optional and what will be required? This Online Rubric Creator can help you set expectations.
  3. Deadlines and feedback: When will the intermediate deadlines be? What will be required at each stage? How will intermediate deadlines structure opportunities for personal reflection and feedback from other students and the teacher?
  4. Course Integration: How will students pull from materials explored earlier in the course and from their own previous work as well as utilize new materials?
  5. Individual work time: When will students have the opportunity to explore, experiment, play with ideas and practice trial and error?
  6. Product: What will students have to show when they are done? How can they share their learning with the rest of the community?

Putting it into Context: The Standards Debate

One of the most important questions every teacher answers is: How do we define and measure standards? It will help you to consider your options to this question in the context of national discussions on the topic. Click on the links associated with various terms to learn more. (Note: Writing a personal statement on this topic can be an important part of a teacher portfolio.)

Dating back to publications like A Nation at Risk (1983), and even before, the national discussion on education reform has been framed in terms of standards and accountability. As one of his first acts in office, President George W. Bush, with both houses of Congress, passed the No Child Left Behind Act. As a result, all students are required to take standardized tests developed by the state. Poor performance on such tests could mean that students do not graduate or that administrators lose power.

While types of test questions vary, many educators complain that standardized tests take away the teacher’s ability to determine the focus of study and force teachers to sacrifice depth of inquiry in order to cover all of the required material. One intellectual underpinning for an approach to accountability based on memorization of specific facts can be found in E.D. Hirsch, Jr. and his Core Knowledge Foundation. Hirsch has published books such as Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. More in line with the "progressive education" tradition of John Dewey, The Coalition of Essential Schools expresses an alternative conception of accountability.

A lot of BCS program literature attracts students by offering an alternative to the overly standardized school system. Nonetheless, choosing exactly where you stand philosophically is a decision that you will make and remake every time you plan for or step into the classroom. As Colombia professor Stephen J. Thornton says, after all decisions are mandated from above, you, the teacher, are the curriculum-instructional gatekeeper.

We need to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. If you have low expectations, you're going to get lousy results.
-President George W. Bush addressing the NAACP regarding No Child Left Behind

Cafeteria-style education, combined with the unwillingness of our schools to place demands on students, has resulted in a steady diminishment of commonly shared information between generations and between young people themselves.
-E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

A possibility of continuing progress is opened up by the fact that in learning one act, methods are developed good for use in other situations. Still more important is the fact that the human being acquires a habit of learning. He learns to learn.
-John Dewey

Freddy: Um, are we going to be goofing off like this every day?
Dewey: Uh, we're not goofing off, we're creating musical fusion.
Freddy: Well, are we going to be creating musical fusion every day?
Dewey: Yeah, get used to

-School of Rock

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