Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Changing Grades: Summer Study

Changing grades demands summer study in order to do a good job.  There simply isn't the time during a typical school week to research, prepare for, and organize for new units of study.  The school week's prep and planning time is just enough to prune the learning path and respond to student efforts, but not enough time for deep unit preparation and plans.  Hence, as I look forward to a new grade, I'm cognizant of the need to plan ahead and prepare.

The first area of need is ordering.  Typically school materials are ordered in June for the following year.  Hence to be prepared for next year's young scientists and mathematicians, I have to make sure that I have the necessary materials to do the job well.  Hence, the first step is to contact last year's teachers and the curriculum leadership to know what tools and materials exist and what tools and materials need to be ordered.

As I think of ordering, I also need to think about the room set-up.  What do I need to foster thoughtful scientific exploration and learning.  At present I am imagining a lot of plastic caddies with drawers for storage of supplies and wheels for easy movement.

I will need to read up on all the topics since it's been a while since I've taught those units, and research related to science is in constant flux.  While reading, I'll identify a good collection of books and videos that support the study, and perhaps use PTO money to order some of those books.

I've created math and science websites to host the information related to each unit of study and will make those websites available to the learning community for learning at anytime, anyplace.  I also need to immerse myself in the current technology available to see how that works and what standards it responds to.  I'll probably explore more technology beginning with Concord Consortium's virtual platforms related to standards-base science study.  I heard the leaders of that company speak at a teach conference a few years ago, and I was impressed with their research and creation process and impact.

Scheduling and Planning
Once I have a good feel for the units and goals to come, I'll be better equipped to create a schedule that supports that learning.

Standards and Standardized Tests
There are new standards and research related to science. Massachusetts has chosen to reflect the standards in student work and learning, but not adopt the standards word-for-word.  I need to read more about that to understand that well.  Also I need to read about, and be familiar with, Massachusetts' State tests related to science and weave both the standards and test question types and focus into each unit to prepare students well.

Good work takes time, and changing grades requires that teachers set aside time during the summer months to prep for the upcoming change.