Looking forward

I’ve been meaning to blog about my return to the classroom for quite a while, but just haven’t found the time. As it is I’m sitting in the dark listening to the little man not sleep (read: cry). People keep asking me if I’m ready to go back, and now that my schedule is confirmed I am.

You see, in the fall I’m part of a really exciting grade 9 program that we will be piloting at my school. Those of you who work in middle schools, or school with a middle school philosophy for your grade 9s will find this as old hat as imaginable, but trust me that’s for my school this is HUGE progress. We will be moving to an integrated morning for our grade 9s with their electives & Phys Ed in the afternoon. I’m so excited!

There are a few different logistical nightmares in my building, so there are a few variations of the plan. For me this means that myself and my co-teacher will be responsible for a 2 hour block with 52 students every morning that needs to meet the objectives for ELA, Social Studies, Math and PAA. Obviously I’m officially in charge of the Math & PAA.  However, the division of the minutes doesn’t work out quite as nicely as “you teach half the kids ELA for an hour while I teach Math and then we’ll switch.”  Officially, our subjects should be split a whole lot closer to 2/3 for ELA & Soc and 1/3 for Math & PAA.  Which, is fabulous.  It’s going to force me to learn all sorts of cool things, like how to edit. Something, that if you read this blog, you know I desperately need to learn.

I’m extra excited about the pilot because my co-teacher is just so fabulous.  We agree on assessment and evaluation (no marks, lots of feedback, co-constructed criteria when it makes sense), on how we treat students, and that being accountable to another teacher will be a huge plus for both of us.  We’ve had a couple days to plan together and our vision for how our classrooms will work is slowly coming into focus.  Part of this is how exactly we’re going to integrate all our subjects.  Not wanting to kill ourselves in our first year, we’re going to try the following:

  1. A large integrated project to be the final project for each semester.  These projects are community based, require knowledge from all subjects, and will reinforce skills learned through the semesters.  I’ll talk more about them when they’re a bit more finalized, but what we’ve got so far is pretty great (at least I think it is anyway).
  2. Integrated themes.  While integrating math with ELA and Social is sometimes challenging, there are instances where the themes are similar even if the content isn’t.  For example, circles are used all throughout First Nations culture.  Circle geometry is a large piece of the grade 9 math curriculum.  While the content isn’t similar, we will try to coordinate our teaching of the circle theme so we can look at different perspectives simultaneously.
  3. All students will keep a portfolio of their work for all four subjects that focuses on them skills that are important for all learning.  More on this later also.
On top of this I plan to make the math portion as problem based as possible.  We’re going to work really hard in September to build a community of problem solvers in our rooms and my hope is by Christmas time we’ll have beat the majority of the learned helplessness out of them.  Can’t wait!

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