The Freshman Transition Network

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Go Beyond the Content: Creating a Curriculum to Alter Students' Beliefs About Life

Our students need us to go beyond the content with them.  (Read "The Case for Going Beyond the Content".)  That doesn't mean the content is not important or that we don't do an amazing job teaching it.  But what it does mean is that there is more to teaching a young person than just making sure they can pass a test or demonstrate a skill.

When our students our unsuccessful, it is almost always a result of a "believing problem."  It's not that they're not smart enough.  It's that they don't believe they can be successful; they don't believe you're on their side; they don't believe they have the power to live a fulfilling and good life.  

Therefore, we can't help our students by simply adding more content to their lives.  We MUST intentionally and purposefully take time to GO BEYOND THE CONTENT.

As schools seek to transition their freshmen into high school or reach other traditionally difficult population groups, it is natural for schools to look for a transition or "success" curriculum.  In other words, many schools look for a Go Beyond the Content curriculum.  While there are many different curriculum offerings to choose from, we at The Freshman Transition Network would advise schools to consider the following:

  1. Whatever curriculum you choose - DON'T TEACH IT IN AN ISOLATED CLASS.  The idea of a success seminar or a class on life/study/school skills is not a bad idea; however, the impact of the skills taught in such a course are magnified exponentially when they are taught in context within ALL the student's classes.  When it comes to Freshman Transition, this is part of the Power of Four that comes from teaming.
  2. CREATE YOUR OWN CURRICULUM - You know your school's and students' needs better than anyone else.  You also know your greatest resource - your teachers - better than any author or publisher.  So take the time required to create your own resources.  Find books, videos, lessons, etc and put them together to create your own Beyond the Content Curriculum.  


Creating your own Beyond the Content Curriculum may sound like a daunting task for a teacher, but if you have read much on the Freshman Transition Network, you will know and understand that this is not intended to be a task for A teacher.  Rather, this is a task for a TEAM of teachers - or in another setting it might be a task for a grade level, department, or core group of teachers working together.

A team of teachers working together during a common team planning/work time and sharing the load will not only do a better job of creating curriculum, but it will also have a much greater impact on their students as they collectively implement the curriculum than even the greatest individual teacher could have.


(Need a refresher on teaming?  Check out the book The Ninth Grade Opportunity and/or one of the following blog posts: Don't Forget to TeamWhich Teachers?A Team of TeachersTeam Planning)


So if you're going to create your own Going Beyond the Content curriculum, where should you start looking for resources?  How about right here?  Below, you'll find a wealth of resources that you can use to teach your students the skills and thinking patterns they'll need to be successful in school and in life.  If you have ideas for resources that should be added to this page, please feel free to leave a comment on this page and provide links to the information.


The resources below have been organized into 3 categories:

  1. Books with Lessons/Ideas/Content to Share with Students
  2. The Inspirational Corner: Inspirational and Motivational Resources
  3. John Wooden's Corner


Try creating your own curriculum with your favorite elements from all 3 categories.  If each teacher the student encounters took 10-15 minutes of class time per week to share this content with students, then over the course of a school year a team could have a tremendous impact on how students think about life.  Even if a teacher wasn't part of a team, intentionally sharing ideas like this once a week with students could serious alter a student's set of core beliefs.

1. Books with Lessons/Ideas/Content to Share with Students:

  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years - Donald Miller
    What kind of story are you living?  Challenge your students to view their lives as a story and share with them examples from this book of people who have decided to turn their lives into a story worth watching.  This is our number 1 recommendation.
  • The John Wooden Pyramid of Success - Neville Johnson
    There is no better expert on what it takes to be successful than John Wooden.  Use his book to help you teach your students about the Pyramid of Success and how it can apply to their lives.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens - Sean Covey
    This provides students with lessons and stories about success.  Premier Agendas offers workshops/training on using this book with your students.  FTN member, Chris Blackburn, can give you more details.
  • You Can Be President (or anything else) - Bob Moore
    Teach your students that failure is ok - as long as it's a result of trying to succeed.  This book is filled with stories of famous people who have failed repeatedly along the way to success. 
  • Seven Habits of How to Study: Mapping Your Strategy for Better Grades- Dr. Stephen Jones (FTN Member)
    Dr. Jones is a member of The Freshman Transition Network.  He has put together an easy-to-use resource for helping students with study tips/habits.
  • Financial Literacy for Teens - Chad Foster
    Chad Foster's book on financial literacy reads like a book on life.  Easy-to-read and interesting anecdotes will help your students learn about making good decisions.   
  • Teenagers Preparing for the Real World - Chad Foster
    Much like Financial Literacy for Teens, this book is fun to read.  Chad Foster does an excellent job of using anecdotes that young people will appreciate to help them make better decisions on the path to success. 

2. The Inspirational Corner: Inspirational and Motivational Resources:


An exemplary Beyond the Content curriculum should be about more than just teaching students how to be successful.  It should be about inspiring and motivating them to live full lives and seek their life's purpose.  


Let's face it, a student's ability level has far less to do with a student's success than do the things that a student believes.  Students who believe the right things - about life, about their futures, about the benefits of hard work, about their ability to succeed, about the intentions of the school, etc. - are easy to teach.  It's the students who spend their time fighting a system that they believe is against them, the students who don't think they're capable of success, and the students who don't have a purpose for their lives that are difficult to reach in the classroom.


If this is true, then we are making a big mistake if we don't spend time in class addressing our students' belief systems.  The following link will take you to the Inspirational Corner blog post that is filled with strategies, ideas, and resources for inspiring and motivating students to alter their beliefs.  Take a look at it - see what you feel comfortable using in your classroom and then go for it!


Inspirational Corner: Inspiring and Motivating Students Blog


Once you look at these resources you might wonder how you could fit these ideas into your classroom without taking away from time needed to address content.  Try this: Start each class period with a Do Now/Bell Ringer/Anticipatory Set.  At least once a week let that activity be one of those on the blog.  Play a song; tell a story; share a quote; show a video clip.  Give students a moment to reflect on it and then share their thoughts.  Take a minute or two to let them know what important life lesson you are presenting - then move on with regular content.  Over the course of a school year you can have an amazing impact on their outlook.

3. John Wooden:


Our students need heroes to look up to and to emulate.  Many of them have never seen adults who make good decisions and who succeed for all the right reasons.  Few people have lived as full or as successful a life as John Wooden, the Wizard of Westood and ESPN's Coach of the Century.  Not only did he live an amazing life, but he very intentionally set about sharing his wisdom and experiences with others - especially young people. 


John Wooden can be a curriculum unto himself.  From video clips to DVDs and from books to websites, there is an almost endless supply of John Wooden resources to share with students.  The Freshman Transition Network has put together the following blog post with links to everything Wooden.


John Wooden's Corner


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