Applying The 40/40/40 Rule In Your Classroom

There’s likely not one single ‘right way’ to do this, but here are a few tips:

1. Start Out Alone

While you’ll need to socialize these with team or department members soon, it is helpful to clarify what you think about the curriculum before the world joins you. Plus, this approach forces you to analyze the standards closely, rather than simply being polite and nodding your head a lot.

2. Then Socialize

After you’ve sketched out your thinking about the content standards you teach, share it–online, in a data team or PLC meeting, or with colleagues one afternoon after school.

3. Keep It Simple

Use a simple 3-column chart or concentric circles as shown above, and start separating the wheat from the chaff. No need to get complex with your graphic organizer.

4. Be Flexible

You’re going to have a different sense of priority about the standards than your colleagues. These are different personal philosophies about life, teaching, your content area, etc. As long as these differences aren’t drastic, this is normal.

5. Realize Children Aren’t Little Adults

Of course, everyone needs to spell correctly, but weighing spelling versus extracting implicit undertones or themes (typical English-Language Arts content) is also a matter of realizing that children and adults are fundamentally different. Rarely is a child going to be able to survey an array of media, synthesize themes, and create new experiences for readers without being able to use a verb correctly. It can happen, but therein lies the idea of power standards, big ideas, and most immediately the 40/40/40 rule: One day–40 days. 40 months, or even 10 years from now–the students in front of you will be gone–adults in the ‘real world.’

Not everything they can do–or can’t do–at that time will be because of you no matter how great the lesson, assessment design, use of data, pacing guide, or curriculum map. But if you can accept that–and start backward from worst-case “if they learn nothing else this year, they’re going to know this and that–then you can work backward from those priorities.

Those content bits that will last for 40 years–or longer.

In your content area, on your curriculum map, pacing guide, or whatever guiding documents you use, start filling up that little orange circle first and work backward from there.

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