Tumbling Blocks, rearranged

We’ve started our wiki (whatelse). Kids ask to add and write to add.

The problem: fifty minute periods and hunt/peck styles block success.

GNU License
GNU License

With a self-contained classroom (one teacher teachers all subjects to the same students), integrating technology was easy; while one group created on the computer, other groups participated in independent, small-group, or teaching sessions according to their needs for learning. Language Arts and technology were the tools to investigate, synthesize, and communicate learning in the content areas. Each day, students rotated through their learning stations (computers, teacher conference, teacher lessons, independent work, small-group work) within a two-hour block of time. The rest of the day incorporated content area lessons, research, projects.

If a student’s typing involved, hunt/peck, then his/her project took slightly longer, but with focused time each day, they could complete the work.

Tumbling Blocks
Tumbling Blocks

Now, with writing as the subject taught in fifty minute sessions, hunt and peck doesn’t cut it. Even students who know qwerty will need more time to complete projects because all students do not receive daily time on computers. And, students do not have daily access to the computer lab, of which the lab time involves other assignments for that class, not connected to our class work. The neat self-contained schedule has tumbled into disparate blocks of learning.

In addition, because I teach writing, our projects are unconnected to the other subject learning, creating another separate subject.

However, I still believe writing is a tool for communicating, so we work on science or social studies themes and projects as well as standardized writing prompt preparation. We’ve written about topics on issues related to elections, polar problems, and global warming. The goal is communicating clearly and concisely using the Six Traits of Writing in a process writing approach to develop one’s own powerful style to entertain, inform, or persuade.

Rearranging the Blocks:
1) Hunt/Peck Solution: Qwerty typists create first in class; it’s the real world promotion for having skills, and a carrot for learning qwerty in the lab.
2) Time:
A) Team/Collaboration/Out of Class: A wiki allows student access any time, any where; student now have “YOT” team work: Your Own Time Work. Students collaborate in teams (multi-grades allowed) to complete projects at various times of their choosing: at home, before/after school, lunch recess, study hall, library, lab time. When all teams complete the project, each class shares and celebrates in a presentation day.
I’m still working out the details, but I think collaboration is the goal and key for students teaching each other. Each team needs an eighth grade mentor, who may or may not be a team member.


B) Fifty Minute Periods:
Focus on MaxMo (Maximum Moment lessons — a twist on mini-lessons) Lessons and Writing Workshop. We already have take-home notebooks for students to fill with their own ideas. We’ll have model lessons and samples with guided practice and application time in the workshop sessions. Students use their own notebook ideas and standard prompts during workshop time. In addition, each grade level will work in their required genre based on State standards. The fifty-minute block on most days will work through CSI:
C = Capture — capture your ideas and decide your day’s focus
S = Strengthen — learn new styles and tips through MaxMo lessons
I = Interact — confer with teacher/peer; develop your own ideas; compute

These still Fire It Up:
Fun — own ideas/ peer collaboration
Instant — daily focus in three segments
Relevant — projects/notebooks contain student choice/interest
Engaging — collaboration, choice, technology

Integrated
Tasks — includes student interest/content topics as meat; the writing is the tool to communicate

Ubiquitous
Pathways — choice/interest/ tech projects offer different avenues of written expression for different genre


How do you fit projects and content into short middle school periods, separating the disciplines into tumbling blocks of unrelated learning?


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