Principle O

O – Offer an organized and challenging curriculum.

To demonstrate a positive impact on student learning, teacher-candidates…

O1. – Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes.   Teacher-candidate aligns instruction to the learning standards and outcomes so all students know the learning targets and their progress toward meeting them.

O2. – Offer appropriate challenge in the content area.  Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt curricula that are standards driven so students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.


My Understanding of Principle O

I think that principles O and P work in tandem to make sure that a teacher’s craft, their main task in the classroom is high quality.  If Principle O describes the inert list of facts that have to be covered, as prescribed by state, district and school guidelines, then Principle P describes how that content is brought to life.  If Principle O describes how the curriculum will push boundaries of challenge in scope or depth, then Principle P describes how technology or inquiry will motivate those excursions.  Principle O is about the raw stuff which we hope that our students, as our future citizens and colleagues, will master and love, and Principle P is about how that love affair will take place.  Principle O is about a completeness of curriculum touching all the EALRs and the GLEs, and even going beyond in some cases.

Meta-Reflection on Principle O

I have sought to offer an organized curriculum to students both in individual interactions (most common) and classroom interactions (less common).  Below I would like to show some evidence of Principle O broken down by evidences provided showing impact on the student, and then by evidences showing my own engagement with this principle.

Note that Big Picture doesn’t measure its effectiveness by adhering to national standards in math or science.  it would be more accurate to say that our goal as STEM specialists at the school is to see students achieve measurable learning outcomes as documented in the individualized quarterly learning plans and especially for the learning goals related to math and science, i.e. Quantitative Reasoning and Empirical Reasoning.

Since the school is not organized around classrooms, and since my position is not one of advisor (i.e. *not* the primary homeroom teacher for a group of students), my opportunities for offering organized and challenging curriculum were limited to the following contexts.

  • “The Science Behind CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)” Elective
    • 3 Series of 8 Sessions, meeting twice per week.
    • Class was for 7th Graders and had anywhere from 4-8 students at a time.
    • I learned the joy of creating a curriculum that has a cultural and STEM connection.  The interest in forensics spun off into field trips with the high school and I made many new industry contacts.
  • Math Review Sessions for 7th Grade
    • 6 Sessions of Math Review based on 3 POGIL-style Lessons
    • I learned from this exercise the real art form it is to do coherent group-based, and inquiry-based lessons.  I also learned the pitfalls of not scaffolding a lesson appropriately or
  • SAT Prep Course for High School Juniors
    • Class Web Site helped keep students informed.
    • 11 Sessions covering Math portion of SAT, out of a total of 17 Sessions, culminating in June 2 SAT.
    • I learned the value of a well-planned curriculum, and the danger of not enforcing / emphasizing homework more.  Most students made gains in the SAT post-test we gave over their pre-test numbers.
  • Computer Gaming Elective for High School
    • Preparing for this course prompted me to do some reading on the use of games in the curriculum.
    • Executing this course taught me how little students today really know about computers even though they use them all the time.  It also brought home the power of recreation as a motivating tool.

Artifacts of Student Impact

After completion of the learning segment on geometry with students in my SAT Prep class, one section of a Math SAT section was given to all students.  Upon analyzing the results considerable improvement was noticed across all test-takers image
The chart above shows a short-term gain in some pretty specific knowledge (i.e. the class session on Geometry that I used for my TPA).  The graphs at right show math subscores (algebra, arithmetic, geometry, data-related) for the same group of 11 students from pre-test to post-test.

It was gratifying to know that I have had measurable impact on student learning.

However, not all students improved in the post-test, which is a good lesson for me and them.  For me I could have predicted that one or two of them would be in that place based on their dedication/commitment to the course.  For them I imagine that part of their score is due to their motivation, and part is due to their own estimation of their ability.




During the Fingerprint session of the CSI Elective, I was able to use freely-downloadable software to show how fingerprints are matched in practice.

At right I am showing how a previously scanned fingerprint can be compared to a “crime scene fingerprint”.  Students greatly enjoyed donating their thumbprints (we limited to just right thumbprint) to be the perpetrator and then having their classmates dust, lift, scan fingerprints to “find the match”.

It was incredible covering the basic types of fingerprints and seeing students “discover” their fingerprints perhaps not for the first time, but definitely for the first time in a new way.  At right are a couple of arches we found, significant since arches are only 5% of all fingerprints.



During the paper chromatography session of the CSI Elective (see below), students were asked to test pre-prepared strips that had two marks with the same pen.  Students were asked to identify which two pens were most probably the same.

One group of students did water, another group did alcohol for their paper chromatography experiments.  The paper used in all experiments had an unknown “UNK” ink sample and 3 known sample (“suspects”).  Students were quickly able to ascertain that UNK and Sample A were most probably the same pen.

We did a graph/chart reading session in the CSI Elective.  Students were asked to interpret viewership data from CSI seasons.

[insert link here to YouTube video of this activity]

This demonstrates O1, in that interpreting data from graphs and tables is a part of Math EALRS.

During the Blood Spatter class in the CSI Elective, students were asked to verify the relationship between angle of incidence and ratio of length and width of the drop.

Above is the student’s data and below is my demo.  In this case we had to settle for a more qualitative relationship versus a quantitative relationship.



Artifacts of Teacher Behavior

This year’s graduates of the School of Education at Seattle Pacific University were taking part in a field test of the Teacher Performance Assessment through Pearson and Stanford University.

The instruction context that I used for my TPA was the Math SAT Prep, in particular the Geometry Review section.

In order to cover significant amounts of geometry in limited time during the SAT Prep class, I had to create concise presentations of information, that were also connected to student’s prior learning experiences and interests.  My instruction was meant to bolster student understanding of relevant geometry standards so that the outcome of doing better on the SAT could be achieved.

In Lessons 1-3 (see links at right) I had planned to cover quickly some general topics in geometry, consistent with EALRs in Geometry.


This was a document written to describe the nature of the course that I was teaching, and set the context for this learning segment, all against the backdrop of the school

MTH Lesson 1 Plan

MTH Lesson 2 Plan

MTH Lesson 3 Plan

The SAT prep class had its own web page which gave students a sense of our collective progress towards the goal of taking the SAT on June 2nd.

Overall the SAT Math prep aligned to various standards in math (see example lesson plans above) and assessments were formative via discussions and quizzes (sample test sections) in class.

Students generally understood that if they couldn’t get answers to authentic quizzes (based on SAT test sections), that they needed to take steps to improve their understanding.

Those opportunities to improve were homework assignments taken directly from the text.  However, upon reflection, there was very little student engagement on homework.  Either because the class wasn’t graded or because I didn’t push homework completion more seriously, students did not turn in homework.

Big Picture SAT Prep Course web site
Each link below has a PowerPoint, Homework/Quiz papers, and a link to a video of the session. 

Session 01 Geometry 1 of 2
Session 02 Geometry 2 of 2
Session 03 Math Fundamentals 1 of 2
Session 04 Math Fundamentals 2 of 2
Session 05 Algebra 1 of 2
Session 06 Algebra 2 of 2
[Session 07 was for reading/writing]
Session 08 Advanced Arithmetic
[Session 09-11 was for reading/writing]
Session 12 SAT Strategy:  Grid In Questions
[Session 13 was for reading/writing]
Session 14 SAT Strategy:  Math Summary
[Session 15 was for reading/writing]
Session 16 SAT Strategy:  Math Questions
Session 17 SAT Strategy:  Using Calculators

The “Science Behind CSI” elective ran for 3 cycles of 8 sessions.

The curriculum of this elective was organized around popular themes of criminal forensics, namely fingerprinting, DNA analysis, ballistics, blood spatter, forgery and crime scene analysis.

Session 01 Lecture
Introduction to Forensics

Session 02 Lecture
Fingerprinting 1 of 2

Session 03 Lecture 
Fingerprinting 2 of 2

Session 04 PowerPoint
[uses Mouse Mischief]
Session 04 PowerPoint Video Clips 

Session 05 PowerPoint 

Session 06 PowerPoint 
Survey of Forensic Careers

Session 07 Lecture
Blood Spatter

Session 08
Simulated Crime Scene
We only did this once, it was pretty time/labor intensive!”

Session 06-Alternate
Chromatography:  Who wrote the note? 
I did this lesson twice, i.e. in 2 of 3 sessions of the elective.

Session 08-Alternate
I did this lesson once, i.e. in the 3rd of 3 sessions of the elective.

I enjoyed the freedom and energy of these classes.  The students were always eager to participate, had their own thoughts to contribute, and enjoyed the occasional homage we paid to the CSI family of shows.

I learned that when lessons aren’t working you should be encouraged to change them up and try some new topics or approaches.

The following was a major source for the later labs.
Saferstein, R. (2007).  Basic Laboratory Exercises for Forensic Science.  Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson / Prentice Hall. 


Need YouTube Playlist of classes from Session 2.  Session 1 is on Vimeo (under a password).  Session 3 was not filmed.

I had an opportunity to teach some 7th Grade Math sessions (3 sessions in total) to two groups of twenty 7th graders.  The format of the class was POGIL, or Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning.  Students were divided into groups with defined roles and given POGIL-inspired worksheets for completion.

This was my first encounter with POGIL, and students were initially receptive.  However, some students were not motivated to participate in their groups and some were held back by the rigid script of the handouts. 
I believe the lesson handouts (linked at right) are definitely representative of an organized curriculum, and are aligned with 7th Grade Math Standards.  (These weren’t formal lesson plans, however, and as such were not subjected to rigor of academic language considerations and accommodations for exceptional students.)  

I also believe the handouts were challenging, in fact the third handout on Area was too challenging and could have benefited from some more intensive scaffolding and consideration of the abilities of the students which were not sufficient to understand the diagrams in the handout.

I learned from this exercise the difficulty in building a curriculum from scratch.  One difficulty is building a curriculum that will be read the same by a diverse set of learners (i.e. academic language challenges, literacy demands).  Another difficulty is building a curriculum that accounts for different levels of prior learning.  I could edit these lessons considerably but they would still need a teacher in the room to help adapt the curriculum to a given student. 

Percents Review

Graphs Review

Area Review

[Need YouTube Playlist link for the video taken during two of these 5-6 sessions.]

In the spring I volunteered for a high school elective around Video Games.  My goal was to bring a level of academic discourse to this behavior which, frankly, many educators and parents are scared of.

I published a syllabus for the class to justify it to my administration.  It is evidence of O1, an organized curriculum.  In addition to hands on experience with game development tools, I planned to discuss (a la socratic seminar) some game careers using the book:

Hodgson, D.S.J., Stratton, B. & Rush, A. (2006).  Paid to Play:  An Insider’s Guide to Video Game Careers.  Prima Games:  Random House.

In order to scaffold instruction appropriately, I gave handouts to students that would walk them through some appropriate challenge in technology around computers or computer gaming.  At left are 3 handouts which I submit as evidence of O2, appropriate challenges.  The patterns of the handouts are to illustrate the basic steps in a task and then ask students to extend that to customize their own game, or apply a tool in their own gaming.

Computer Gaming Elective Syllabus

Computer Gaming Elective Handout 2012-03-16, 2D Platformer Game Modification, Adding non-moving platforms.

Computer Gaming Elective Handout 2012-03-23, 2D Platformer Game Modification, Adding moving platforms.

Computer Gaming Elective Handout 2012-05-04, Using A Memory Modification Tool to Change Game State during Gameplay


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