The March to April leg of the school year is a long teaching/learning period with no holidays or vacations. It's a good month to dig in and achieve a lot. After coming into the February vacation truly tired, I want to use my time well during this busy stretch so that I have the best possible energy throughout that period.
The tension that portfolios create is because there is no official time in the curriculum program for portfolios, yet our research and experience demonstrates the strength of creating these reflection books--books that help children know themselves as learners and books that help students set goals. These portfolios serve as a vital ingredient for student-led parent conferences too and meet the latest research related to what it means to be a successful, confident, and directed learner. Portfolios are a keeper, and we simply have to push other learning aside to make room or this valuable part of the teaching/learning program.
Like portfolios, there is little support for these rich, deep, research-supported learning events in the curriculum, yet we know how learning like this develops solid, positive learning. So like portfolios, we have to make time to include projects like these and respond to those projects accordingly via teacher review and student reflection and share.
Student-Led Family Conferences
We've dedicated a week to these conferences which amounts to about eleven extra hours of intense listening and sharing for each educator as family members and teachers meet to listen to children lead a conference about their learning progress, interest, reflections, and goals. These are valuable meetings, but a considerable add-on to the schedule which continues to include full days of teaching prep and experiences.
Student-Friendly Teaching/Learning Environment
A place for everything and everything in its place continues to be a goal for the classroom so that students may use the classroom environment as a rich source of ideas, tools, materials, and resources for individual and collaborative learning.
Time to Read
Our grade level efforts to increase the time for deep reading and reading enjoyment has translated to greater reading success. Of course we want to continue to forward this effort.
There's lots of science learning going on for our grade-level, and we have to stay committed to the time and effort this learning takes. The greatest challenge with the science teaching is the time it takes to prepare each lesson since the lessons are material intensive.
There's lots to achieve in math as well and staying the learning course here will help us to achieve those goals.
This is a busy focus for fifth grade with seven MCAS tests in ELA, math, and science.
Once MCAS tests are past we move into a project-based learning end of the year including finalizing our climate change service learning projects, the fifth grade play, biography project, and global cardboard challenge.
As I consider what's to come, I realize that I have to stick to the priorities and not spend lots of time trying to fit too much into the schedule, more than is doable. Each element listed above is integral to students' academic success and happiness. These elements have been well chosen and add to the strength of the fifth grade team approach.