Dr. Maureen Ruby Uses Curriculum Storyboards in her Graduate Advanced Curriculum Course

Sacred Heart Graduate Students dig into storyboards

Dr. Maureen Ruby, Associate Professor at Sacred Heart University, can remember her kids coming home from school and giving the stereotypical, “nothing,” when asked what they did all day. She laughed at the memory, but also recalled the frustration of not knowing what her children were doing in their respective classrooms.

“I can remember having teachers say that they couldn’t show (curriculum),” she said, “like the curriculum was some secret thing that was kept behind a firewall that you couldn’t see.”

So when she saw Curriculum Storyboards for the first time, she immediately thought about the potential conversations a parent could have with their child over the story that is woven within each of the storyboards.

“I love the term streamlining,” she said, referring to the Streamlining the Curriculum book title. “Streamlining and sensemaking is clearly an advantage over what we were doing before, which was not streamlined, and didn’t even make sense sometimes to the people who did the work.”

Dr. Ruby was actually a fan of the book co-authored by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Allison Zmuda long before it was published in September 2023 by ASCD. Assigned a graduate advanced curriculum course that summer, she caught wind of the book and was taking in whatever she could.

“My assumption was that many of (my students) may have had the same experience that I had – which is not much experience – in writing curriculum,” she said. “I came into education taking that basic curriculum course that everybody took or is taking and I really didn’t learn anything about curriculum.

“I found myself being on curriculum writing teams for all the years that I was a classroom teacher and it was uncomfortable. We were doing the best we could with what we knew but we didn’t really know too much.”

Streamlining the Curriculum wouldn’t be published in time for Dr. Ruby to make it required reading for her class, but that didn’t stop her from leveraging the concept.

“I decided we were still going to do this,” she said. “We’re going to use the webinars.”

She put her book order in, but then attended a webinar led by Heidi and Allison and leveraged any examples that were shared as part of the book promotion.

“What was so amazing to me is that – without having the book in hand – these students were able to do preliminary storyboards with just a brief PowerPoint and exposure to this material,” she said, “and the response was positive and overwhelming. I think the sense that teachers got was this freedom from the avalanche of everything.”

Dr. Ruby shared storyboards that were created within her class.

8th Grade Science

“The connection was made multiple times between storyboarding and what is inherent in NGSS,” explained Dr. Ruby.

“There’s a storyline. At first, one of the first science teachers that I was working with (had) a little bit of pushback. In the end, in the reflection, the comment was, we can actually make the storyline that’s supposed to be there is stronger through this. And I thought that was brilliant. That was just brilliant.”

Girls Future Firefighters Camp

A storyboard that outlines a firefighter camp for girls
A storyboard that outlines a nonprofit firefighters camp for girls

8th Grade American History

“One of the things that I was so intrigued by in this one was the ability for students to actually play an active role in this sense making of history,” said Allison Zmuda. “So when we’re leaning into the idea of becoming historical detectives, learning about the town’s past and using original 1700s documents from the town hall to unearth the existence of two particular individuals.

“So the notion is that they are actually living historians as opposed to something that they’re just reading from somebody that’s in the textbook. Trying to also unearth local opportunities in the community level, to begin to see in what ways can we create more synergy between people in the classroom and people outside of the classroom that could be of great assistance or help in this project, but also starting to see that we are a part of our history, and in this moment, continuing to craft opportunities for our students to add to the historical records as well.”

What do you think of these storyboards?

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