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South Valley Journal

Jordan School District prepares online version of K–8 curriculum, ready for school year

Aug 11, 2020 12:26PM ● By Julie Slama

For three weeks, a select group of Jordan School teachers spent their summer developing K–8 online curriculum that can be used during a 180-day school year. (Sandra Riesgraf/Jordan School District)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This past year, about 50 kindergartners through eighth graders were learning digitally long term as part of the home and hospital program in Jordan School District. There were others who were learning online for other various reasons—and those don’t include students who were part of the “soft closure,” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of long-term online learners may increase this fall, as families may choose to have children home with the increased risk of getting COVID-19, district officials said.

While in early July, the re-entry plans for school had not be finalized, what was determined was to provide kindergarten through eighth grade students online curriculum.

“We need to have education be flexible to meet the needs of parents without overburdening teachers,” District Superintendent Anthony Godfrey said at a recent Jordan Board of Education meeting. “The whole curriculum is being developed by selected teachers from every grade who in the past helped develop material and who now have been noticed on how well they have been teaching online. This curriculum will help every student, every teacher, with whatever the circumstances.”

Already, Jordan District has high school curriculum available online as part of the Utah Students Connect Consortium, where about 900 Jordan students are enrolled.

The K–8 curriculum development, spearheaded by Digital Teaching & Learning K-12 Administrator Ross Menlove, involves about 50 “rock star” teachers, from every grade in every feeder system, who have been spending six hours per day during three weeks in late June through July 17 to develop core curriculum lesson plans for a 180-day school year. 

The Jordan teachers are working hand-in-hand with Nebo School District educators, as the two districts use some of the same materials in addition to the state core curriculum. Jordan teachers are also using resources provided by Davis School District officials and may partner with other districts as well. Nearby Canyons School District also is developing their K–8 curriculum.

“We’re creating an online option for kids who physically cannot be at the school,” Menlove said. “We just wanted to make sure we have an option for parents. The option isn’t just ‘here, do this online.’ It’s ‘do this with a teacher.’ You still have a teacher. You still have someone who is going to create a class culture, who keeps you connected to the school and to the school community.”

While developing the curriculum, teachers were working in teams.

“They’re all doing it together,” he said. “They come in, and we provide the appropriate social distancing and have a bunch of rooms. We make sure they feel comfortable. We’re having them build it that way so it’s a consistent voice from start to finish.”

The teacher teams focus on an area—math, reading, writing and science—with social studies being included in the reading and writing portions. After a baseline is created on the Canvas platform, teachers will have a few weeks before school begins Aug. 17 to tailor it to their classes—whether they are teaching online or in-person, dual-immersion, special education, accelerated and gifted students or those who need additional learning assistance, Menlove said.

Silver Crest sixth grade teacher Dylan Funk said the teachers just “hit the ground running” as they figured out the best way to organize and develop the curriculum.

“It’s overwhelming at first, but as you wrap your hands around it and get into it, you get a rhythm, and it goes from there,” he said. “The more we get into the project, the more exciting it is to see it developing. Everyone there is passionate about it.” 

Assigned fifth grade math to develop with others, Funk said the lesson plans on Canvas will be more of an “organized scaffolding” or “a road map of tools you can use” to teach students. In addition, several creative ways and tools are being shared to engage students to enhance the core curriculum.

The curriculum is designed in modules, and students, parents and teachers will know they have certain materials and points to cover during a number of days before moving onto the next module, said Ami Anderson, who teaches fourth grade at Blackridge Elementary.

“This way, it will be consistent from subject to subject, class to class, school to school,” she said. “It puts all of us together—the student, the parents, the teacher. We’re all on the same page so we can help the student. And it’s really exciting to see what is being developed. We’re diving deeper. These kids will have more in-depth writing, enriched math, a deeper experience of learning.”

Anderson, who is helping develop fourth grade reading, said students who elect digital platform should expect four hours of online learning. 

As a result of developing the curriculum, Anderson said she is learning.

“It’s opened my eyes,” she said. “I have an endorsement in integrating technology, so I felt somewhat prepared, but I had no idea what this involves. I’m understanding a lot more of the curriculum in a deeper way and what students need. It’s making me become a better teacher.”