Marcus Watson admits that he gets bored easily, which explains why his 21 years of teaching cover a range of assignments—from special education to administration, to an alternative school and now as a middle school science teacher. Last year, however, he found a genuine challenge in LDC and plans to stay put, perfecting his instruction and helping his fellow teachers at Ware County Middle School and throughout southeast Georgia adapt to LDC.
Describing himself as an “in-the-box” teacher, Watson has used reading and writing extensively, no matter what he was teaching. “If students can read, they can teach themselves anything,” he says, “although often they need to slow down and see the big ideas.” Similarly, he requires writing in his science classes because “I need proof that the students are getting what I have taught, and by seeing their thoughts in writing, they develop a deeper understanding.” He believes that if he can persuade students to write about what they are learning, “I get buy-in from them.”
The LDC templates have helped Watson frame his previous assignments to explain, contrast, and perform other skills under the Common Core State Standards. Even if the first module he tries with students spirals down to guided writing for students who need some hand-holding, the module provides a platform for them to get involved, he explains, and they are able to see their understanding develop.
Similarly, Watson advises his fellow teachers to use LDC modules in their units with the most difficult concepts or in those in which students have the most difficult time. Using the mini-tasks, they can master the content one piece at a time “and eventually get the whole thing.” His team, or “crew,” at the middle school last year developed a cross-disciplinary module on photosynthesis as an illustration of conservation of mass and of energy. The rubric called for focus, controlling idea, reading/research, development, organization, conventions, and content understanding, almost all of which underscored the content he intended to teach. It fit with, not distracted from, his science content, he says.
Watson tends to be traditionally text-dependent in his instruction, but he found “tons of information online” that linked to what students already were reading in their text. He is able to match reading resources to students’ reading levels for the modules and predicts that within a year or two he could have a module for each element of science content that he is teaching: “It’s like chopping down a big tree, one chip at a time.”
With a Grades 7-8 loop arrangement, Watson’s incoming eighth-grade students will have a head start on using modules next year. His school administration provides him with time to help other teachers, so Watson expects to be an in-school backup for LDC coaches as well as a trainer at the regional service agency, which covers eight counties. Watson will be available in person and online to help teachers create their modules, noting that the Module Creator makes the process much easier. He will be assuring people “that this is doable. This thing has gotten really big for me. I have met some awesome people, and many opportunities have become available that I otherwise would have missed. I’m all in with this.”