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Archive for the ‘co-teaching’ Category

        So there’s this other crazy teacher (MA) at my school and together we took a leap into the unknown this week.  With little planning time, uncertain supplies, and a crazy schedule we did something unthinkable.  We offered 25 students the chance to free up their Fall second period by taking a week long, intensive version of the class.  We were surprised by the overwhelming response: 18 students showed up Monday morning, two weeks before regular school starts.  I’ll say it again: 18 students were willing to give up a week of the last part of their summer. Whew! We were amazed.

       What is this class they were so willing to jump into? We called it Summer Pathways 101 to distinguish it from regular school year Pathways 101.  The content of the course is all about process. We have two standards: Students will be collaborative and quality workers and Students will be self-directed and life-long learners.  How hard could that be to teach, right?  No math standards, no writing standards; seems like that should be a breeze! 

     Um, no.  

     Think about a conference you may have attended that lasted three or four days all day long. Think about how intense that was and how you were both wiped out and energized at the end (if it was a good conference).  Now multiply that by 17 students who are also both energized and wiped out.  By the third day of five. 

     We started the first day by jumping right into a group challenge.  We split them into four groups, gave them each 2 sheets of 4×8 cardboard, 50 yards of colored duct tape, a utility knife, a meter stick, and markers.  With these materials they had to build an object that would float long enough for one team member to navigate a straight course.  We loaded kids and materials into a bus and traveled to a local beach where they designed and built cardboard boats.

     Did I mention that about half of the kids were interested in the Arts Pathway and about half of them were interested in the Marine Studies Pathway?  And that these two groups were pretty distinct within our school?  And that about half were freshman?  The real challenge for them was how to work with people they would not normally be grouped with.  It was great fun to see them get frustrated and then work through it.

masked pic 0270    masked 0283 copy

 

 

     We only had three goals and it was so hard to achieve them.  We wanted students to complete a group project, an individual project, and a draft personalized learning plan.  We were asking them to learn how to work in groups to solve problems, to work individually to plan and execute a project with limited resources and time constraints, and to understand this new-fangled personalized learning plan.

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Our school has a modified block schedule, with four 70 minutes classes per day. Most classes meet every day, although there are a few that meet every other day. We run for two quarters (about 18 weeks), then all classes change and we go another two quarters. This means that summer planning tends to focus on first semester classes and second semester classes get short shrift (is that really a word?).

This coming week, I will be joining a bunch of people to plan our Pathways classes.  What’s that?  Well, we are starting these focused course options in the hopes that we will better engage our students and our community.  The classes are project based, bring in community partners, are standards based and proficiency graded.  Classes are cross curricular, so that students can get two credits in core academic areas.  And students are not locked in; they will have the flexibility to move into or out of a pathway.  We started last year with Marine Studies Pathway to meet the needs of a community that is surrounded by ocean (yes, I live on island, but there is a bridge).  Kids in Marine Studies can elect to take the Skipper’s Program and earn industry certifications.  To introduce kids to the idea of a pathway, we also offered an Intro to Pathways.  Now we are adding an Arts Pathway, and we hope to offer a Healthcare Pathway in 2015-16.

Last year’s pilot was a little rough around the edges, since neither students nor teachers really knew how to do education this way.  So this year, we are requiring all students to take Pathways 101 before they can enroll in a pathways class.  Pathways 101 doesn’t have any required academic content, but it is designed to teach students how to learn in a project based class, how to collaborate, set goals, work with community members, and generally take responsibility for their own learning.  This will be a fall semester course.  We are also offering Marine Studies in the fall that offers language arts and biology credit and in the spring that offers physical science and math credit.  The Arts Pathway will be offering History through the Arts in the Spring.

Tomorrow, we start planning all the classes, including those that don’t start until the end of January.  It should be an interesting week.

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Tomorrow is the second Monday for this semester.  That means I made it through the first week.

Good stuff that happened…

Kick off was mostly successful in spite of the weather.  We took the kids to the Town Dock and split them in two groups.  One group went on a local fisherman’s boat and surveyed it for safety hazards (pre-test for marine studies) and the other group stuck one hand in 33 degree F water for a minute (if they could stand it) for the science teacher, then we used an infrared surface temp reader to compare wet hands and dry hands at regular intervals (for the science teacher).  DATA!  Then the groups switched places. The kids were miserable in the wet, but at least it wasn’t actively raining. And they weren’t in the classroom, hooray!

We used their data to work on graphing and analysis skills in the following days.  We also used the data sheet from the marine trades instruction about the rate of water flow when a boat has a hole below the waterline.  More data and more graphing. In the end, we had the chance to discuss units, scales, variability, quadrants in the coordinate plane, axis labels, domain, and range.

Tonight I read Gregory Taylor’s post on SBG, http://mathiex.blogspot.com/2014/02/my-grading-iep.html?spref=tw which  led me to Michael Pershan’s post on other things, http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.com/2012/06/4-things-more-important-than-sbg.html, which led me to believe I need to have an assessment. Soon. So I’m think I will give them a data set and a graph and ask them what’s wrong with the graph (formative).  Then I will just give them some data and ask them to graph it (summative).  When I have the assessments built, I will post them here.

For now, I need to take the time to sketch the upcoming week.  I use a simple table, write in just a word or two, and keep it on a clipboard (with bell schedule and school calendar, so I always have them even if the ‘net is down).  WeeklyPlan-12

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Friday was closing day for progress report grades and I should be working on my gradebook.  And I have a thousand other things to do. Well, maybe not a thousand, but that is how it feels.  That is how this year has felt every day so far.  With a new problem based course co-taught with a teacher new to the school and the area, my learning curve is pretty high this year.   But I love this class.  Even though we both feel like we are only one step ahead of the kids, it is still fun.

For our opening unit/project, we had students build a cardboard boat.  The boat had to carry one member of a two member team and be strong enough to paddle out to a buoy about 10 feet from shore and then back again.  We asked the students to predict their waterline, but didn’t give them any instruction before the first build.  They were restricted to 3 sheets of 4×8 cardboard and one roll of duct tape. Launch day was awesome.

IMG_0422            IMG_0302           IMG_0262           IMG_0268         IMG_0432           We used two pickups to get the boats to the shore and one of them was damaged pretty badly in transport.  That team pulled it together, borrowed some extra tape and regrouped with what they had.  Even though the resulting boat wasn’t that successful; we feel that the students were successful.  They had a challenge and didn’t let it stop them from moving forward.  There was some great problem solving going on.

The next few days were spent on the science and math behind predicting waterlines.  We looked at net forces and did a lab on buoyancy using coke and diet coke.  And we worked through the calculations for their waterline.  Most of them had a hard time visualizing one cubic foot spread out over the bottom of the boat  Even though the calculations weren’t that complicated, changing from cubic feet to depth in their boat was a huge leap.  But they all kept at it, because the relevance was clear to them.

After the direct instruction, we had them build again to see if they could better predict their waterlines the second time through.  This time, they only got two sheets of cardboard and they had to use all of it, even the little scraps.  Oddly enough, most of them used the same boat design as their first run.  They just built a little more carefully. Again, launch day was great fun.

Next week they will be writing about their successes and failures; I can’t wait to see what they say.  But first, we start the week with a field day to collect data on invasive green crabs, followed by a day of testing (NWEA’s).  Coming soon, we will dig up seed clams that were planted last spring and analyze the survivors.  There’s no time to catch my breath; before we finish one project we’re on to the next, and planning the one after that.

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imageOn day 1, we had freshmen only.  I only have one class with freshman, Marine Studies 101.  It’s the introductory class to our new Marine Studies Pathway and will be primarily a science class with heightened focus on math.  The freshmen account for six of the twenty students.

I am co-teaching this class with Jessica.  She’s new to the area and we haven’t had a lot of time to work out all the details. And neither one of us has experience with co–teaching.   We did spend a week in early August planning the big picture, but we never had time to talk about the nitty gritty that makes a class work.

I’m talking about class routines and expectations, assessment structure, and daily lesson planning.   All we knew was that we both wanted to include foldables.  Thank goodness we had common prep 1st period!

Jessica pulled an activity out of her archives that we could do with just part of our class.  The activity had to do with optical illusions, but our focus was on the importance of measurement.  I didn’t think to ask if I could share, so I only offer a picture here of one of the spinning wheels.  I never knew that you could see colors on a spinning black and white disk!

We winged it, with an ed tech watching the show, then we debriefed afterwards.  It was patently obvious to both of us that we needed to work out those nitty gritty details, preferably before we met with the rest of the class tomorrow.  We agreed that an exit routine that required students to summarize the day/project/whatever was important.   For now, we won’t have a regular entry routine, since we will have a project based learning structure.  We agreed on group size for our first project and decided to use a random group generator that she has in her files.  We also decided on record keeping – binders + comp books for students, spreadsheet for us.

imageBut I just realized we didn’t firm up location!  Ha, ha.  The kids won’t know if they are coming or going.

We also decided to heavily weight the “academic integrity” category (25%) since a large part of what we want students to learn is how to work effectively in a project based learning environment.   Most of these kids have not had any project based learning for academics, only for shop or art.  Also, it is mixed grade levels (9-12), so they need to learn some group skills together.

Most of them are enrolled in the second semester Marine Studies course.  That one counts for a science credit, a math credit, and half an english credit, so they need to have the PBL stuff down pat by next semester.

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