Thursday, March 21, 2019

Improving Curriculum Programs: Science and Math

As we get to the final months of the school year, there's always a sense that we can continue to improve the program. I believe that our efforts to improve the program this year resulted in a better program. Evidence of that includes the following:
  • Inclusion of a couple of project based learning units in math
  • Fidelity to schedule and a good quantity and variety of learning in every subject matter
  • Wonderful field studies, expert visitors, and special events
  • Good growth on systemwide tests and assessments
  • A happy community of learners
  • More environmental education with a focus on the timely topic of climate change via a naturalist coach supported by a SUASCO grant
  • Greater emphasis on the SEL theme of teamwork
As I think ahead to the next months and year, I am thinking of areas that we can continue to improve the teaching/learning program.

Spring 2019 STEAM Survival Science 
I'll begin to revisit our systemwide grade five STEAM projects and better incorporate the state's STE standards as well as computational thinking into these projects. I'll create a STEAM survival workbook that leads students through each STEAM exploration and creation with associated vocabulary, facts, and figures using a survival theme since all the projects relate to survival themes.  I'm looking forward to this work because I know that it will deepen students understanding of the science behind the projects as well as strengthen the STEAM design work. 

Spring 2019 Climate Change Projects
Knowing that these projects are a direct match for the state's STE standards has been helpful with regard to finding time for the projects. Having a naturalist coach and the support of a grant has helped too. The biggest obstacles have been finding the time to well coach the student teams as they work on these projects. We're dedicating a number of days to this work soon which should help a lot. Prior to doing this work, I'll focus in on summarizing all the learning that students have done so far related to this project to provide them with a good review and then use that information next year as we embed this work into our overall science program.

Spring 2019 Science Slideshows
Last year colleagues had students create slideshows as a review of all the science they learned throughout the year. Students loved the project, so we'll continue this effort this year.

2019-2020 Science Program
As a team, I believe there's still a lot that we can do to improve the science program. It's limitless what we can do as we have great resources available. The challenge is time, priorities, and background knowledge. To meet this challenge, we'll attend a workshop in June to jumpstart the 2019-202 science/math teaching year. We'll likely review all that we've done and all that we want to do during the summer and make some decisions about how to deepen, extend, and better the science teaching in the year ahead. I imagine that I'll finesse the series of physical science lessons and the STEAM survival series. As a team we'll revisit the environmental education component of our program and analyze students' acquisition of knowledge, in part, from MCAS results. 

2019-2020 Math Program
I'll spend some time this summer reviewing analyzing the math program efforts and think about the roll out of math lessons and efforts in the year ahead. I will look at the ways I teach math and embed new learning to improve or add the following efforts:
  • Using a computational thinking approach and spread sheets to review addition and multiplication facts as well as number knowledge with an engaging game at the start of the year.
  • Creating an engaging summer math practice packet that gives students a good opportunity to deepen their knowledge of math facts and number knowledge. Distributing that practice packet during the spring transition day.
  • Looking at the curriculum map for the year's math program and making some adjustments.
  • Looking for ways to blend some concepts together for richer and deeper study.
  • Looking at the areas that the students struggled with via an analysis of systemwide/statewide tests and other factors, and looking for new ways to teach those concepts. 
  • Attending to the articles/videos  I've collected on my summer reading list
2019-2020 SEL Program
I want to update the SEL website that I use to foster knowledge and skills in this area with particular attention to the area of teamwork. I also want to organize this website to coincide with the many units and focus areas we teach throughout the year. 

All Stop and Read
We'll continue to foster lots of wonderful reading throughout the year and especially at the early days of 2019-2020, we'll focus in on the schedule and make time for this worthy learning.

Classroom Setup: A Welcoming Learning Community
Taking stock of what made the learning environment this year welcoming and what didn't will help us to create a welcoming learning environment for next year. Positives this year included the great team tables, supply caddies, storage drawers, science shelves, and supply shelves. 

The goal is to continue to develop a rich curriculum program that supports student learning in meaningful, engaging, empowering ways. Building on the wonderful program we've created so far will only prove to make the teaching and learning better.