Planning with the 4T's

Excerpt from Transformational Literacy

The 4 T's: Topic, Task, Targets, and Text, provide a strong and approachable framework for planning ELA instruction. This excerpt from Transformational Literacy describes each T in more detail.

Planning for teaching grounded in evidence begins by understanding the standards. But it doesn’t stop there. Similar to Jenna Gampel designing her snakes study, teachers planning for student engagement and student achievement will carefully package, or bundle, the standards into a single box that delivers a compelling topic through rich evidence‐based texts and ask students to unpack the box through an engaging task.

Our approach to curriculum design is based on the Four T’s—topic, task, targets, text—the load‐bearing walls of Common Core–aligned teaching that compel students to work with evidence. Regardless of the scope—from a week of lessons to semester‐long unit plan—all evidence‐based curriculum rests on the dynamic interplay among topic, task, targets, and text. A compelling and relevant topic (e.g., live snakes!) will help students tune in and stay engaged. A clear, standards‐based learning target (e.g., I can use nonfiction text features to locate information in a nonfiction book) enables the teacher and her students to navigate their learning with purpose and direction. A text that provides evidence for learning about the topic (e.g., Snakes by Sally Morgan) hinges students’ understanding to what the world knows about the topic rather than limiting it their own experiences or ideas. And a rigorous task (e.g., writing and illustrating a narrative nonfiction e‐book) invites students to transfer and apply their understanding. 

Curricular Structures That Motivate Students to Read and Write with Evidence 

  • Topics that address content standards and rely on real‐world informational texts (e.g., newspapers, articles, blogs, graphs, historical documents, position papers) that are relevant to students 
  • Original research with primary source documents and data 
  • Problem‐ or project‐based units that incorporate fieldwork, gathering evidence or analyzing evidence, and a written or oral presentation of solutions 
  • Curriculum that builds background knowledge through whole‐group close reading of shared texts or independent reading of additional texts that represent diverse perspectives 
  • Assignments and assessments that require students to support their thinking with evidence 

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