Let’s talk about three changes I made to my mindset about teaching Benchmark Advance in my classroom that made a huge difference to how my students and I felt about the program.
Figuring Out How to "Manage" Benchmark
First, when I was getting started with Benchmark I was VERY overwhelmed with all the information you could find in the TRS. While having more than enough information is great, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to utilize it all. This is where my first mindset shift started. I began by analyzing the TRS for patterns and repetition to plan out my lessons a week at a time. I wanted to create almost a “plug and play” method that could be repeated for each of the following units. This allowed me to streamline my planning and help to make the units more of my own and less restricted within the Benchmark suggestions. This process is how my planning templates came to life.
Learning to Pre-Teach "Efficiently"
The second mindset shift I made was around pre-teaching. Now this one took me a little more time to figure out. When I think back to when I first received my Benchmark materials, it was TWO days before school started. I was so confused and trying to digest all this information for the first time. This is exactly how your kids can feel when starting a new unit.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “When the heck am I going to have time to pre-teach; I don’t even have time to teach-teach!” And I hear you. For me, I would use one day on the front side of introducing a new unit. I use this time to scaffold vocabulary I thought would be challenging or to introduce concepts that I thought would be unfamiliar to the class. In hindsight, this one day saved me so much class time that could have been lost in repeated questions or having to get the whole class’ attention to work through those roadblocks.
Making Benchmark "Your Own"
The third mindset shift is probably one that had the most significant impact on me and my class. When I was originally getting caught up in the TRS, I found my units to be very dry for both me and my students. I started to mitigate this by incorporating projects. Now if you have been around for a little while, you know I love a good project! I know the idea of a project can feel overwhelming, but it can be whatever fits you. If it’s a big messy art project or a small interactive role-play opportunity for the kids; anything you can do to help keep them engaged and also fight off the burnout!
Flexible Teaching for the WIN!
As you navigate through the various aspects of Benchmark, it is important to note that there is some room for creativity and flexibility. You may not include ALL of the aspects in the TE. This is ok! If you are making modifications with the intention of increasing student engagement or connecting to student interest, you are implementing “best teaching” strategies. You know your kids, you know yourself. Teach with flexibility knowing that things are never really one size fits all!
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