The Threads That Run Through: Overview


Two summers ago I attended Project Zero Classroom (PZC) at Harvard Graduate School of Education through my school. At PZC, I learned more about the Teaching for Understanding framework and experienced visible thinking for the first time. One goal for that week was to develop a set of throughlines for my 6th-grade reading class. Throughlines are overarching learning goals that describe the most important understandings a student should gain in a class. These aren’t just standards. Instead, throughlines go deeper into one’s beliefs and values about both the subject and the learning process. They should represent the crux of the learning in the class. Throughlines are best when worded as questions and not statements so that the student can take away his own understandings.

While at Harvard, I had the great fortune of being in a study group led by Diane Tabor (PDF), Susan Barahal, and Krista Pearson. Through conversations with them and other members of my study group, I was able to formulate the following four throughlines for my course:

  • How can we become more thoughtful readers and writers?
  • How do reading and writing help us connect with others and better understand the human experience?
  • How can reading and writing give a thoughtful, social voice?
  • How do reading and writing help us better understand and engage in our grade-level theme of conflict?

In all honesty, these throughlines are really BIG ideas, and I confess I didn’t do a great job of designing with all of them in mind last year. I have great excuses for this. After all, I was working at a new school, teaching a new age level, and tackling the subject for the first time. Nevertheless, my focus on the throughlines was minimal and hit-or-miss. This year I am attempting to be more intentional in my (backward) instructional design.

Over my next few posts, I plan to reflect on these throughlines and how they connect with what we are doing in class. This is a work in progress and I would appreciate any questions, comments, or suggestions you have as I go. I want to refine and further develop these ideas, and I’d love to engage in conversation and inquiry about them. Thank you for reading. Please consider leaving a comment below.

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