That’s right. Students should be able to tell the narrative story of Algebra 2 … and Rocks and Minerals in third grade … and Chemistry. It’s a mark of true comprehension. It is something students who have not only grasped concepts but are involved with them are able to do.
It’s also at the heart of Streamlining the Curriculum: Using the Storyboard Approach to Frame Student’s Journey by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Allison Zmuda, set to come out September 6, 2023.
“If a student at the end of the year can’t tell you the story of Algebra 2, then they really don’t have it,” said Jacobs in an interview with Cindy Blackburn of ToddleApp. “The kids who (can) do that, almost intuitively, have got some chops. But it’s even going to be stronger if we’re deliberate.”
When Jacobs and Zmuda came together with the Curriculum Storyboards concept, it was in response to a request from one school district that needed a better way to communicate curriculum to parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So many students in the United States were home, and the communication was unclear and challenging,” said Jacobs. “Teachers who were trying their best, would send home floods of lesson plans and parents and kids could not make sense of it. We started to work with some schools to address this problem and we thought ‘You know, it might be easier if we could lay it out in a storyboard.’”
Content wasn’t dumbed down at all. Instead, it was laid out visually in language that was both parent- and student-friendly. Now, after the past three years of work, Jacobs and Zmuda have integrated the use of Curriculum Storyboards when working with clients separately and together.
Jacobs, well-known for her work with curriculum mapping, is finding that curriculum storyboards are creating a more seamless process within the work she has done for decades.
“Schools now where I start with storyboarding and then we move into mapping platforms, it’s like butter,” said Jacobs. “It’s so easy, so much stronger. What we’ve shifted is the style of language we use in curriculum maps by using a storyboard.”
Zmuda has incorporated storyboards into her work as well, helping districts develop or revise their portrait of a learner before building into transfer goals and then curriculum design.
“I adore looking at the profile itself,” said Zmuda, “and ask the question, ‘is it aspirational?’ Because the language that we are starting to hold all of ourselves up to, from a curriculum design, from a school community set of expectations, it should be something that is worthy of pursuing.”
What began as a way to streamline curriculum and communication during the pandemic has become an integral tool for both Jacobs and Zmuda to leverage. In fact, Jacobs says their own storyboard template solves a problem they, themselves, were creating.
“We felt like we were part of the problem in creating templates that were far too demanding, and filling out forms that took way too much time away from actually thinking about teaching and learning and how kids are spending their time,” she said.
“We wanted to work on streamlining. How do we cut out what’s unnecessary?”
The result was storytelling.
“The seed of this was that curriculum really should be written as a narrative,” said Jacobs. “When you write a narrative, you’re thinking about the setting. You’re thinking about the story arc, you’re thinking about the characters. Should it be a memoir? Should it be a short story? It matters.”
Jacobs and Zmuda felt so strongly about the narrative that they set up their book using that format.
“We’ve actually storyboarded the book, too,” said Jacobs. “So it’s quite exciting to look at.”
Streamlining the Curriculum is available for preorder, set to release on September 6.