Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Planning

       August will bring my second year in teaching in my fifth grade STEM classroom. Even as a 20+ year veteran I feel the need to create new things every year, but this year it is a MUST.  I'll be teaching in a self-contained setting (instead of math/science), my teaching partner is new to me, and new to STEM (but also quite the veteran) and we'll be integrating Common Core along with the rest of the school, as well as my personal goal of increasing the strength of my Project Based Learning (PBL) and integration of work. Add to this new colleagues in my fifth grade team, and continuing on as team leader, and I'm feeling the pull of school quite strongly.

     We actually began this summer with a 2-day meeting for just our STEM teachers  - we have 2 per grade level. It was wonderful to a week or so off, but also have time to meet with the new folks and begin planning.  My partner and I are still tentatively working on our year long plan, which sounded good in June, but then we both started planning and of course I've found things that could really derail myself - sort of. We've laid out our required Science and Social Studies topics, and added in the engineering projects I felt were successful. We've also gone through our past novel studies and identified where we need some more titles (we are VERY historical fiction heavy).  We've agreed on using a couple of new titles, and really I should be working up common core friendly units..... BUT I accidently found Expeditionary Learning.

   

      Last summer our Principal had us read a book by Ron Berger and I recently found that he is also affiliated with EL schools. I was excited to find this because it really sort of embodies how I learned to teach 20 years ago in Washington State, and really matches my philosophy of teaching as well. I think it fits well with my STEM focus, so now I'm thinking of the "real world" learning, which can be the hard part.  I sometimes wonder if my problems and application is "real" enough. So I kept looking through the EL site and found this page of student work http://elschools.org/student-work and realized I wasn't too far off in my expectations so I googled the heck out of EL.  I found this site http://www.engageny.org and clicked on the modules for ELA in the bottom left box, and found modules written for each grade level.  Fifth grade had 4 of them, and AMAZINGLY enough had 2 that I could really adapt to my classroom.  Module 4 fit with my science curriculum as well as modern history requirements.  I had already been fiddling with this unit to include novels and reading selections that I could integrate as well.  They have written some modules for math as well, but I have not focused on those so heavily.

     Thankfully next week I will meet up with my partner, Kathy, at a PBL class hosted by our district.  In reading the description of the class I saw that teachers from High Tech High will be there (an EL school) so I am super pumped about the possibilities. Heads up if you look through the sites linked up above - I spent about 6 hours just reading and clicking and thinking, thinking, thinking about the curriculum map I had spent awhile on with my partner, and how I wanted to change it.