Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer Study - A Short List

As an elementary school teacher who teaches many subjects, I'm struck by the fact that there are mountains of information available to me at every moment.  That leaves me with the important task of prioritizing what information I choose to share and how I share it in order to teach the many standards and processes outlined in local, state and national standards.

I recently reflected back on this year.  I thought about our teaching methods, content and events that worked best, and those that we might think about revising or refining.  I analyzed the technological tools and other resources we use to make school an engaging, positive and productive experience for our students.  Now, I'm getting ready for summer study.  What will be the focus of my reading and work over the summer to implement the best possible program for my students?

1.  I will revisit Ruth Charney's Teaching Children to Care.  That book is an essential element for elementary school classrooms.  It's imperative that we spend the first six weeks of every school year creating community and establishing positive classroom routines.  I really enjoy the curriculum, learning, and knowledge, but if I jump ahead too fast, I won't establish an optimal classroom climate for learning.

2.  I'll take a close look at our grade-level curriculum outline. I'll see where I can integrate skills into project/content blocks more effectively to make learning meaningful, relevant and differentiated as well as to provide the necessary practice.

3.  I will continue to focus on reading. It's essential that fourth graders have the one-hour reading block five days a week.  It's difficult to sustain that on top of all the other curriculum mandates at fourth grade including the ambitious narrative writing, reading response writing, and math standards.  I would like to make independent reading a large part of homework next year, and a large part of our social network "conversation."  I plan to try this out over the summer months using our NING network.  Then in the fall, it will take time to foster positive routines both in school and at home with respect to reading.

4. Finally, I will read over and organize all the tweets I favored this year.  I'll organize my professional research questions and related content.  Currently, my questions include:
  1. What are the best developmentally-appropriate learning strategies and tools for fourth graders?
  2. What tech tools should every fourth grader use and understand?
  3. What are the best questions to motivate student engagement, discussion and learning?
  4. What are the best field study experiences for fourth graders?
  5. How can I facilitate a vigorous, positive, supportive learning community including parents, colleagues, community members, and students?
  6. What are the best relevant and meaningful projects for fourth graders related to content standards and expectations?
  7. What is the optimal literature for teaching and practicing reading comprehension strategies?
  8. What media best supports the educational goals for fourth grade?
I'm sure that I'll refine the objectives on this blog as summer draws near.  I am even more certain that I'll refine and revise all the work I do this summer when I meet next year's class.  Every class brings a unique set of interests, learning styles and challenges, and I will personalize the year's projects and learning to meet next year's students' profile.

Do you have a process for establishing summer study objectives and activities?  What questions are you most interested in at this time? And yes, I will add time for fun as it's important to step back, relax and enjoy the summer break so you're ready for the challenges the year ahead poses.