Traverse City: Teaching a teacher how to teach outside the box

Tom Rye teaching us the basics of Understanding by Design on day 1

I traveled to the beautiful Traverse City and surrounding area to attend MDE’s Instructional Unit Design Institute. It is an intensive two-week project to develop model instructional units for the state. We are using the MI curriculum frameworks, the recently adopted Common Core Standards and the Understanding by Design process, led by classroom teachers Erik Powell and Tom Rye of Spokane, WA. So far this has been the most legitimate PD I have ever had. The teachers involved are thirsty to improve their craft and the process we are learning is sound. I have never been to a PD where there are no complaints and gripes about the validity of the material. Especially because the instructors are practitioners and they use the methods the are teaching, in their practice.

The most salient concept that I have learned in this workshop is the 40-40-40 rule. This is a theory that helps teachers categorize the content of their lessons. It forces one to truly analyze what material students are exposed to in class and how. Students learn and retain some content for only for 40 days, then there is content that they will return for 40 months but the goal is to strive to offer content and teach it in a way that students will retain it for 40 years.

I have been working with Nancy Flanagan, Michigan Teacher of the Year 1993 on a unit about Change through Revolution. She has agreed to coteach the unit with me in my classroom and I am just honored to have a teacher of her stature teach in my humble classroom. Nancy blogs for Education Week Magazine and has a stellar career. See for yourself


Getting to know each other and preparing for an intense 2 weeks of work

another name tag

Writing our Essential Questions and Goals on posters

Collaborating in creating the beginning of our lessons


Leave A Comment