Sunday, August 10, 2014


It is the beginning of a new school year. The school where I work is a rather unique and amazing place.  One of the things that makes it so special is that we start with the kids, their needs, and their IEPs and from those needs we develop a schedule.  Because of this, what I teach can vary greatly from year to year. Some years I teach a lot of math. Others, not so much.

In addition to the variety of what I teach changing from year to year, the student make-up of the class changes the focus. So, even a class I've taught before may be radically different from year to year.  I have remarkable freedom in my content classes to select what I cover and how I choose to cover it. While this is great, it can make classes outside my comfort zone challenging to plan for since there are no set requirements.

I'm trying to nail down my plan for the year, so I thought sharing it here might iron out some wrinkles.

So what does this year look like?

I start the day with a half hour of fluencies. Fluencies are 1-minute skill timings in reading, math, and typing.  This period also serves as a morning homeroom of sorts.  I'll have my 5 advisees for this group. I've had all these students in classes before.

First period is a metacognitive class called Instrumental Enrichment.  It is a 45 minute class. We use the FIE curriculum and I've taught this class at some level for 15 years.  This class has 10 kids and is a mix of year 2 and year 3 IE.  They are a great mix of kids and I think we'll have some great discussions.  I've got no worries about this class other than not repeating instruments that the year 3 guys have already done and going to fast for the year 2 guys.  I think I'm going to start the year with Categorization and then go to Numerical Progressions.  Then I'll think we'll swing back and finish the end of Organization of Dots. If you are interested in FIE, the folks at IRI have a nice overview document of the program.

Second period is a middle school General Science class.  This is also 45 minutes. This class has 7 kids and is a mix of grades 6 through 9, but heavy on the grade 8s.  I love science, but I don't teach it every year so this class is going to take a lot of my planning time.  To start the year we are going to attack the general branches of science as a structural guide.  I'm going to split the year in thirds, covering some earth science, some life sciences, and some physical science.  Some of these kids haven't had much science background and I'd like to provide a foundation so that whatever science they have next year won't be completely foreign to them.  I've selected 3 modules from the Jason Project to help structure our investigation. I need to become more familiar with the Next Generation Science Standards to make sure I'm not missing essentials for this class. I need to make sure that I plan regular hands-on experiments and demonstrations for this group.  I'll be working on comprehension of expository text, note taking, and study skills.  I'm nervous, but really excited about this class.  I'm thinking of doing Interactive Student Notebooks with this class, but I'm not sure if I want to go composition book size or spiral notebook size. I have A LOT of work to do.

After second period students have a 15 minute snack break. Third period is 30 minutes and it is a planning period for me.  I'll probably need to eat something this period since lunch is really late this year.

Fourth period is a remedial Decoding class. This is a 30 minute class.  We use a scripted curriculum for this class from SRA.  I've got 4 kids in this group and three of them were with me last year.  Given that this is a scripted class, planning is straight forward for this class.  I just hate correcting the workbook!

Period 5 is the class I'm most worried about. It is a 75 minute literature and writing class of 3 students.  They are 7th and 8th graders.  Optimistically, they decode at about a third grade level and their writing is equally challenged.  I'll be working on narrative structure to start the year using the Story Grammar Marker from MindWing Concepts. I'm going to use the Simon's Cat videos to introduce the components of the SGM and use the organizer to have them write retellings of the stories.  For the first quarter, we'll be reading short stories. I'll be introducing this group to Bookshare with the goal of helping them access more complex literature and novels as the year progresses.  For writing I'll  be using Co:Writer as an assistive technology application to help with their writing. I feel most out of my element in this class and still have a great deal to do to be ready.

After period 5 we have a 35 minute lunch.  (This is 12:45 and I'm going to be hungry.)


Period 6 is Algebra 1. This 60 minute class has 5 students all of whom I've taught before.  I'm definitely doing Interactive Student Notebooks with this group.  I'm looking into adopting the CME Project Algebra 1 curriculum as the existing materials I have are either too simple for this group (Pacemaker) or way too overwhelming (Prentice Hall).  I requested a sample and looking over the book, it seems to have nice visual and conceptual introduction to concepts and structurally it is organized with the topics and sequence that I end up rearranging other curricula.  I will probably supplement with material from the Transitions to Algebra curriculum.  I participated in the pilot and even was quoted in their brochure!  I think the emphasis on mathematical habits of mind in both curricula will mesh well.

Period 7 is 45 minutes and my second planning period.

I end the day with a supported/structured study hall with the same 5 advisees that start the day with me.  Here we work on organization, planning, study skills, and homework completion.

I still have a couple of weeks before school starts, but I have a lot of details to work out before then!

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