Planning for Next Year

 

As the school year is coming to an end I use this time to reflect upon my lessons and look forward to next year’s planning. What will I keep, what didn’t work, what needs to be tweaked for next year’s students? Some of this planning will be based on my next year’s students needs and learning styles. Where do I go for new ideas, support for planning and resources?

 

1)       I sit down with the previous teacher.

Most schools will have sheets or some sort of meeting to share information and build the new classes. Looking to evenly distribute the boys and girls, ESL, Special Education, HSP and which kids should be or not be placed together. The sheets are usually given to next year’s teacher to help understand the student. I find the information on the sheets give limited information and don’t always share who the student is as a learner. I listen to the information being given, take notes on every student and review all this information later. At some point, I go back to the previous teacher and ask for further information.  If the previous teacher is an LTO, I need to connect with the teacher before s/he leaves for a new school. If you are a new teacher to the school in the Fall, ask for the sheets and try to connect with previous teachers as soon as possible.

 

2)      If you are lucky to get the same grade, I look at my previous year’s planning.

Now I know a little more about my new students. What are they going to be interested in? What do I need to change? Everything should be tweaked for my new class.

If I am teaching a new grade, I still look at my previous year’s planning and build the new year from that starting point. I have learned more about my personal teaching strengths and areas of professional development which I will look into.

 

3)       Where do I get new ideas?

  • Most boards have teachers who specialize in curriculum areas and provide that support with ideas and resources. Some can even give field trip ideas, support with combined grade planning, will come to your class and teach a model lesson. If you are finding it difficult to locate a name, ask your librarian or administration.
  • Your board website should have some resources available to the teachers. Many board website resources are open to the public and are available for all to find information. There are Science and Social Studies units available for combined grades. I usually don’t use all the information available on the websites but it helps me gather ideas and lessons for my unit.
  • Sitting down with my colleagues to team plan. New people have new ideas. This year, I was the only grade 6 English teacher and my Extended French colleague had already developed his program and found it difficult to devote the time needed to team plan. But we still found smaller opportunities to team plan. I also found support on line, a volunteer who went to different classes throughout the board, student teacher and colleagues who were in the same board but in different areas of the board. Many people have ideas, I find ideas help get me thinking. Whether I take the idea as is or tweak it to suit my student needs, I find all ideas are helpful.

 

4)       Next year’s class – the students.

As we all know, students achieve more when their interest is in the lesson. At the beginning of the school year, I ask my students what you would like to do, what would you like me to teach you in language. This year, my students wanted to write a graphic novel using bit strips. I took their lead and used graphic novels to teach them about narrative writing and to help develop their plans for writing. I also share the Science and Social Studies units and give them an idea of when we are covering certain units.

 

At this point of the year, you are looking at finishing things off and planning for your next year. I personally prefer to reflect and think about my next year’s planning now. For some people, they need that down time before they reflect and plan for the following year. It is up to you and what suits your lifestyle best.

Say, Show, and Do

In my Grade 1 and 2 classroom, it feels like we have been focused on writing for many months. Writing narratives and reports, using graphic organizers, and editing drafts into published pieces. The children have been “saying” and “showing” a lot, and as their energy is rising with the warmer weather, I think it is a good time for some “doing.”

A couple of weeks ago, our class was invited to watch a Grade 3 class present The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest. It just happened that we were enthralled with reading a book about saving trees too, Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. When we returned to our class to discuss the play we had watched, the children were inspired to create their own based on the book about Wangari. I realized that taking the opportunity to watch the Grade 3s perform was beneficial as they modelled for the Grade 1 and 2 class how a non-professional play looks.

 

Our current big idea is “How has the world changed?” with a focus on structures and movement (Science curriculum for Grade 1 and 2). The book, Wangari’s Trees of Peace is a text that lends itself to many other big ideas such as environmentalism, women’s rights, education, and world peace. When we read the book together for the first time, the students also saw its connection with the idea of hope, which was the inquiry question we started with back in September.

 

 

 

This project has revitalized our classroom. We wrote the story into a script format, dividing most of the story into parts that will be read by four narrators. Then we added a few lines for the characters. We discussed the scenes in the story and decided on three scenes. Children readily volunteered for parts in the play, to paint the background images, to create costumes, and to change the sets between acts. During our inquiry periods, I look around the classroom and see some of the children working on draft versions of the background settings, while others sit in pairs or groups practicing their lines and discussing the various roles.

Today, the narrators and actors read their parts in front of the class for the first time. I couldn’t help but notice how attentive the rest of the class was, as I thought their attention at the carpet was previously waning. They offered suggestions to the readers or actors and represented themselves as a community of learners. This play project emerged at just the right time in the year, when the children are comfortable enough with each other to take risks with acting and ready for a new challenge.

I am not sure how long it will take us to prepare for a presentation of the play, as I am learning along with the children. We plan to invite their parents and definitely the Grade 3 class that inspired us!

 

 

 

Engaging students in Visual Arts

Over the last 2 weeks, my class have been working on this wonderful visual art activity which is also connected to grade 6 aboriginal studies. We began by studying the art work of Norval Morrisseau, an Aboriginal Canadian artist (books are available at the public library). Morrisseau’s style is characterized by thick black outlines and bright colors. I shared with the boys the plan for this project was for everyone to complete their own version, then we would do body images of 1/3 of the class which will end up being painted on the Junior Stairway walls.

The boys were very excited about this project and I really tried to encourage their interest and ownership of the art work. As a class, we moved along for the boys to use an overhead and trace their head, hands, or feet to complete their own versions of Morrisseau themed pictures. The boys then had a lesson on drawing the shapes inside their images (guiding them to leave enough room for their black line). Primary colours were used to colour the inside of the shapes and the background was in secondary colours. Using only 2 overheads for the whole class, this stage of project took a little longer than a whole afternoon.

At the end of the first day, we had a discussion as to what the images of the boys would portray. The next day, the boys were asked to bring in items which reflect them in a sport type of way; for example, scooters, hockey equipment, soccer balls, swimming goggles. The boys selected the images to represent themselves as a class. They selected swimming, cart wheel, hockey, soccer, mountain climbing, and baseball. We were planning on adding someone reading and a second image but time was an issue which didn’t allow our plan to fully work out. Using the overhead, in groups of three, the boys then traced their image on life size paper. As others were tracing, the first group would then cut out their image. After lunch, we were able to finish off full body tracing for the rest of the groups and began (the groups completed the cutting)  adding the shapes within their image. This aspect of the project needed to be reviewed with the class a few times. The first lesson was on the personal image, the second mini lesson was to remind them of what to do to begin on the larger image, the third mini lesson was to go through their larger image and fine tune their shapes. This took us a full day.

The next day, we taped up all body images on the stairwell walls. Looking to see which image should go where. This was an adult only decision. Once image placement was decided, the boys then traced their image on the wall. After every image was traced on the wall, some boys began painting the background colours while on the opposite side of the wall other boys were tracing their shapes in their image. This process took another full day. Each wall needed two coats and a day to dry between coats.

The fourth and fifth day, the boys were painting the shapes in each image (in groups of three) and then the black line last. We also needed time for touch ups. At the end of it, the boys were able to add their own signature to a wall which will be there for years to come. We are also painting some thank yous on a wall as all the paint used was donated by a local paint store.

The project took a total of five days and I really would recommend to get it completed in a chunk of time. The interest was there and interruption to your regular programming is not much. It was a week of limited program which was a great time to get to know and have some fun with your students. Remember, this is a visual arts project and it is connected to aboriginal studies. I have assessments for both curriculum areas. To adjust it for any grade, if your school walls are already colourful, you can do something very similiar and use the life size paper to paint and hang on the hallway walls. Also, use visual art as your first curriculum area and find a second curriculum area to connect it to, whether it is social studies or math.

Included are some pictures to help you visualize the project. It was a project completed with a parent (who is also an artist). While she was working in the stairway with the boys, I was in class keeping them on track. The first few days, there was plenty of work to keep the boys busy but by mid day on the fourth day on, the boys had less to do on the art project. That being said, behaviour was amazing!!!! I guess the boys thought if they didn’t manage in class, I couldn’t send them in the hall. Which is a pattern in our class. I definitely had support for this project (administration, artist, and Educational Assistant in the afternoon). I also sent out a letter to the parents informing them of the pending project, the boys working with Latex paint, and dirty clothes coming home (with a tear off signature return). I also asked for volunteers to come in a week later to help paint the final protective coating. I have many teacher and parent volunteers. The boys feel a sense of pride, ownership, and community to their school!

Coming Together With Our Class Motto

Cooperatively working together to create a set of beliefs and promises shared by a class using a class motto is a powerful experience that serves as a foundation for a positive and meaningful learning environment. Creating a class motto is one of my favourite moments as I look back at my teaching career. Every year, it proves to be a very meaningful activity that always brings the students together and creates a sense of pride from the moment the motto is said as a class.

During our first week, I had the students work in groups and use graffiti as a strategy to write their ideas about what they believe our classroom should look, feel, and sound like. This is an activity from the “Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning” which I have successfully used with my classes every year. Groups then discuss the ideas they brainstormed about their ideal classroom and begin sharing and deciding on the ones they believe are most important.  As a class, we create a list using a graphic organizer and then regroup once more to come up with principles that will bring about the feelings, sounds, and “look” of our dream classroom.  This is how our A-Team Classroom Code of Conduct (the class voted on the title) is created.  As part of their daily reflection question in their journal, students choose which principle is most important to them.  This year the overwhelming choice was “We have a ton of fun exploring and learning.”

Our class motto then comes together using the three or four most important principles from our Class Code of Conduct.   These are voted on by the students.  When it is all said and done, we sit back and proudly read it aloud together.  It is one of those moments in the school year that I most treasure.  Each day, after morning announcements and the national anthem, we repeat our A-Team Class Motto and then dive into having a ton of fun exploring and learning!

The A Team Code of Conduct

A Team Class Motto