Guest Author

Each All Things PLC blog post author has been personally invited to contribute by the All Things PLC committee. All contributing experts have firsthand experience successfully implementing the PLC at Work™ process.

Joshua Curnett, English teacher, Singapore American School, Singapore

Channels and Eddies: Getting Students Downstream

We can consider the way our students have learned over the first half of the school year as sort of river: a river’s water moves in a powerful way in its deepest parts, but at the river’s edges, the water recirculates and even moves backward until it joins the faster current once more. Similarly, most of our students are in the main channel of the curriculum, ready to move forward after having demonstrated they meet or exceed the standards we have set for them. Some of our students, however, need more time at the curriculum’s edge—recirculating and even moving backward to learn what was missed—before they can join the stronger current of our curriculum and move downstream toward new standards with purpose.

So, as we begin semester two, we can use real data from the semester one exams to inform our planning for all of the kids in our classrooms, not just the ones who “got it” in semester one. The exam data can direct us with great clarity if our PLC has been working with a shared curriculum and toward common goals. Here are the answers that data can reveal:

  • Question 1: What do we want our students to know? This is what our S1 curriculum described.
  • Question 2: How do we know when they know it? This is what our S1 exams or other summative assessments revealed.
  • Question 3: What do we do if they do not know it? This is what we decide now for the students who demonstrated that they do not understand what we tried to help them learn.
  • Question 4: What do we do when they already know what we want them to learn? This is also what we decide now while we differentiate for the kids who have not yet learned.

For example, because of our common exam for English 9, I know the names of the students who have not met the standard for demonstrating an understanding of syntactic patterns, a curricular goal for our PLC. My teammate also knows which students in her classes have not yet demonstrated learning this standard. We have decided to differentiate for these students this week and help them try to learn the concepts once more rather than pushing them completely into our semester two curriculum (and possibly drowning them, to continue the above metaphor).

So, in our PLC meetings this Wednesday, let’s see if we can discuss the channels and the eddies of our curriculum. Which kids are moving confidently downstream? Which are at the edges? Putting channels and eddies on the agenda is a great way to make it happen.


Hope Pramuk

Thank you for the four questions. This is the focus and guide my PLC needs to make use of our data. Question four is especially interesting, I hadn't considered it before. Thank you for the inspiration.

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Carol Preston

As a teacher in a school that is working to ensure the common assessments are being developed and then used, this post is very helpful to me. I appreciate the metaphor as it really resonated for me in terms of where students are in the "flow" of skills and standards in my class. - Your 4 questions are brilliant and I am excited to bring them back to my PLC so that we can use them not only next year after first semester common assessments, but also in our summer planning and goal setting. Thank you for your insight and inspiration.

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