Friday, August 30, 2013

Fourth Grade: Classroom Teaching Focus

A typical weekly schedule for the fourth grade fall semester. 
One challenge elementary school teachers face is how to structure and manage the day, week, and year for optimal learning. Teachers of all subjects like me have multiple standards to meet--more standards than time.  Hence, how we structure the week is important so that we meet as many standards as possible in ways that matter.

Therefore as I look at my planning and teaching time ahead.  I created the the schedule depicted at the top of the page for the fall semester. Now I'll focus on the main emphasis for each area listed.

Reading is a mainstay in fourth grade.  It is a curriculum area that is taught in many, many ways with multiple resources throughout all subjects.  I will focus on the following specific areas of reading at the start of the year. 
  • Close Reading: I will devote four classroom meetings a week (noted in bright blue) to close reading activities. This is an important standards-based focus, and a focus that is important to life too. If one learns to read and understand text well, he/she will gain a valuable skill that leads to success in all disciplines. I will begin this emphasis using a third grade PARCC example, then I'll stretch students using the Richard Blanco's poem, "One Nation," in a collaborative close read, and after that we'll do a number of close reads using text that relate to our upcoming Farm Days field studies. Each child will have a close reading folder and reading reflections notebook to support their close reading response work. After the Farm Days close reading work, it will be a good time for a class assessment.  The assessment analysis will inform next steps.
  • Reading Conferences: At the start of the year and throughout the year, I'll make a date to meet with each reader.  I'll listen to a child read, survey his/her reading interests, set goals with the child, and find out how I can help that child with his/her reading goals. 
  • Assessment: As a school we give every child fluency and comprehension assessments at the start of the year to help us determine instructional groups and content focus. 
  • Interactive Read Aloud: Three periods a week (in red) have been set aside for read aloud. During interactive read aloud, the class will share a series of wonderful stories throughout the year.  We'll start the year with Carol Marsden's The Gold Threaded dress with a focus on reading comprehensions strategies and story elements. 
  • Reading Workshop: Although Reading workshop has been planned for two times a week (pink), as mentioned before the effort is woven into all curriculum areas. During that time I'll work with small groups and individuals.  Multiple teachers join our class at this time to help out.  Students will access a variety of literacy tools and books during this multimedia literacy studio
  • Independent Reading: Throughout the day students will have a chance to read independently, with friends, or in small groups within each discipline.
The standards for writing grow considerably at fourth grade.  While students are expected to write coherent, pointed responses to reading, they are also expected to write lengthy text related to opinion, personal narrative, fiction narrative, informational text, and research reports. The key to a good writing program is explicit instruction, practice, discussion, sharing text, and reading. The writing program will include close reading as explained above and a focus on specific genres.
  • Writing Books: Students will create online and offline writing books at the beginning of the year. Students will write in their writing books daily both in school and at home.
  • Assessment: Students will write me a letter for an initial assessment. 
  • Genre Writing: Throughout the year we'll focus on specific genre (yellow blocks above). We'll start the year with a focus on persuasive writing. Our ELA curriculum director will lead us in focused work related to SRSD as well. 
  • Keyboarding: We'll focus on keyboarding most mornings in September and October from 8:30-8:50 or 9:00 in an attempt to build proficiency in this skill for all students. 
The green blocks are set aside for math. Math will be taught with a blended workshop model. Math will take on a parallel focus of concept/problem solving and computation/skill threads. 
  • Assessments: The math year will start with a number of formal and informal assessments so I understand my learner's needs, and so the learners have a chance to think about their own strengths and challenges related to math.  
  • Standards Based Units: The math program will take on a rhythm of one standards-based unit after another.  Each unit, similar to the place value unit outlined in this post, will lead students through a number of activities that embed the standards of mathematical practice in engaging, targeted activities. 
  • Skills: Students will practice skill with a number of skill-based online and offline games and activities in school and at home. Some of the standard online activities will include Symphony Math, Sum Dog, That Quiz, and Xtra Math.
Tech Workshop/Project Base Learning
We are fortunate to have ready tech access throughout the week, and I'll set aside one long block on Friday (blue above) to focus on interdisciplinary project base learning.  The first project, I Am Poems, will serve to introduce the multimedia composition genre as well as to build class community.  

The last block on Fridays (orange) is set aside for STEAM: Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, and Math.  We have created STEAM corners in our classroom to foster this teaching and learning. Through the use of multiple online and offline tools, we'll guide students in independent and collaborative exploration and discovery activities.  We look forward to building this approach throughout the year, and we imagine that this will be a learning block that students look forward to all week

Our students are fortunate to have multiple special classes each week including physical education, art, music, instrumental, tech, and library.  

Friday Picnic Lunch
Similar to last year, I'll offer students a picnic lunch on Fridays.  During picnic lunch students are invited to eat outside with me.  Last year this was a happy, celebratory weekly event.