GLEAM: Grade-level, Engaging, Affirming and Meaningful

Recently I have been learning about GLEAM™ and the GLEAM™ Hypothesis, developed by the experts at UnboundEd. In this post, I will summarize my understanding of what GLEAM™ means and share the hypothesis. My hope is that we can use GLEAM™ as we intentionally plan for rigorous learning, in the fall and in years to come… as a way to provide culturally relevant teaching, as a way to provide the best instruction for our historically marginalized students.

GLEAM™ instruction is instruction that encompasses the following qualities:

  • Grade-level
  • Engaging
  • Affirming
  • Meaningful

Grade-level instruction is rigorous and based on grade-level standards, where text and materials are grade-level aligned and high-order thinking is emphasized. Teachers scaffold up learning experiences so that all students can engage in the content; supports are in-time not based on teachers’ assumptions. In order to provide such instruction, teachers need to truly believe that all the students in front of us can and must engage in grade-level instruction. Teachers understand the importance of productive struggle. Teachers need to interrogate their beliefs and biases while striving to dismantle the educational system which was designed to marginalize black and brown students.

Engaging learning experiences build on students’ academic, social, and linguistic strengths. In order to provide engaging experiences, teachers need to know who students are, their interests, and what they bring to the classroom. We need to understand their humanity, their identities as people and as learners. We also honor their beliefs about who they are.

Affirming instruction honors students’ identities and considers what students bring to the work. Teachers ask: “How can I create a space for students to bring their life experiences, identities, and cultures, funds of knowledge, and prior learning to the lesson? What are the explicit or implicit messages about my students within this lesson?” (UnboundEd). Affirming instruction ensures that students understand why the learning is important to their lives and the world.

Meaningful experiences are ones where students gain and act on knowledge, for advocacy and change. Students are empowered to make choices based on the purpose and audience. Students talk and collaborate, ask rich questions, use evidence to debate and critique, write or create, and reflect.

The GLEAM™ Hypothesis focuses on teachers’s mindsets and planning. When we believe that all students can access rigorous grade-level instruction and we plan intentionally using GLEAM™, we teach in ways that demonstrate our beliefs and lead to deep learning. Instruction has a greater impact. Note that this intentional planning ideally occurs in a collaborative professional learning community where teachers can build off each other’s expertise, examine lessons and materials critically, interrogate each other’s beliefs when deficit language or ideas surface, and reflect on their own identities and impact. Teachers also recognize the importance of developing strong partnerships with students to infuse student voice and feedback.

To learn more, I highly recommend the resources linked below, especially GLEAM™ in the Classroom.

“GLEAM has the power to disrupt long-standing inequities in our schools, including inequitable access to grade-level learning,
and unfair distribution of opportunities
for students to be seen, heard, and valued.”
– UnboundEd


What is GLEAM™?, UnboundEd
GLEAM™ Mindsets and Planning, UnboundEd
GLEAM™ in the Classroom, UnboundEd