Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prioritizing in The Tech-Ed Age

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to the technology available for learning today.  There are so many wonderful venues at my fingertips--awe-inspiring paths to knowledge acquisition, skill development and concept attainment.  But, I can't do it all and furthermore my students would be utterly confused if I tried to bring them down all those paths.  Hence, prioritizing is essential.

I have many guides available to help me prioritize including grade-level texts, workbooks, system curriculum guides, State guides and the Common Core.  I can also pull from my experiences and education as a teacher of 26 years, a parent for 20 years and a family member and sibling in a very large family all my life.  I remember veteran colleagues telling me that the job gets harder simply because you know more and there's more to choose from.  Now I understand what they were saying.

Nevertheless, I will prioritize to meet the essential needs of my fourth grade students.  I'll prioritize with their future learning and success in mind.  Here's my short list.

Systems for Independent Learning and Growth
I began the year with a heavy emphasis on introducing systems that will foster students' independence with regard to essential skills.  Those systems included the following:
  • ePortfolios: A venue for student writing across many genres.
  • Computation Ladders: A system to grow and develop essential math knowledge and computation skill.
  • NING: A closed classroom social network to develop community, writing skill and classroom sharing.
  • Team 15 Website: The classroom information center: a resource website for classroom links and information related to all learning units and activities.  
  • Content Blogs: The use of blogs to share and practice writing related to specific content areas.
  • The Learning Action Table: A chart that organizes and communicates our essential learning goals and processes to guide student learning in class and at home.
Intellectual Habits and Attitudes
In class we have spent a lot of time talking about how we learn.  We've shared strategies for optimal learning and goals for success.  These conversations will continue throughout the year.

Essential Knowledge, Skills and Content
Now, as we move from routine building to greater content knowledge and development, I find myself prioritizing our classroom efforts with the following emphasis.
  • Reading: It's essential that fourth graders develop optimal reading fluency, stamina and comprehension.  Hence a significant amount of time will be devoted to independent reading, interactive read aloud and guided reading.  Students are also expected to read each night at home.
  • Writing:  Students will write daily in class and at home.  Like reading, we will focus on writing stamina, skill and fluency.  We'll also focus on genre and craft.  
  • Math: The math focus will include computation, vocabulary, problem solving and knowledge/concept units.  All three areas will overlap as students develop math knowledge, concept and skill in a multitude of learning venues including project based learning, online practice, web models, games, Math Talk and more.
  • Social Studies and Science:  Our grade-level employs rotations for social studies and science concepts.  Each teacher specializes in one aspect of the overall curriculum topic.  We teach the knowledge and concepts in cooperative, creative ways including video, crafts, and problem solving. Classroom centered teaching in this area is integrated with reading, writing and math skills.
Essentially fourth grade is a foundation year solidifying the learning from the grades before and preparing students for the independence, positive attitude and foundation they will need in the grades ahead.

Are these priorities similar to yours?  If you teach a level before fourth grade, what would you add?  If you teach a level after fourth grade, what do you wish for?  Thanks for your feedback, and thanks for listening to me as I try to prioritize my efforts in this exciting tech age of education.

6/12 Note:  The one missing piece to this list is project/problem base learning.