Happy Halloween everyone! We hope you all survived the week before Halloween and are now enjoying some fun with your family! We love House of Cards, and knew it was the perfect parody for us this year! We are also sharing some treats along with the laughs! You can enter to win a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card on our Facebook and Instagram accounts! The giveaway ends Saturday night after our boys are in bed, so be sure to enter soon!
Greg here. I admit, I've been a bit of a recluse. Becky has taken on a lions-share of the Class Couple work, and I've been the mad scientist at work on a new creation. In collaboration with two colleagues, I started a brand new course: Apollo. The course is a customizable fusion of English, social studies, and art in a project and skill based environment.
Mass Customized Learning: Explained
Several years ago, our high school administration asked the faculty to read part of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning: Learning in the Age of Empowerment by Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey. The book, which is quite visionary, aims to
"...describe a detailed vision of how schools can change from the present outdated Industrial Age, assembly line structure to a mass customized learning structure with the capacity to meet the individual learning needs of every learner..."
I admit, I was skeptical. Who in their right mind could curb their teaching to meet the learning needs of 80 students? Inevitable, however, isn't just about reforming a single classroom structure of 80 students. It's about a institutional change that empowers students to learn how they want to learn and what they want to learn within broadened parameters/standards/themes. It addresses students on an individual level to engage their learning interests and maximize the potential. Honestly, it's radical. It's borderline overwhelming. But, after a lot of collaboration, administrative support, and pitching it to students - we're taking a crack at MCL.
To quote our Apollo website, "In ancient mythology, Apollo was the god of, well, almost everything: music, poetry, medicine, art, knowledge, sun and light, and more. In a more contemporary sense, it speaks to NASA's lunar missions. We chose the name "Apollo" to convey the multifaceted elements of this course. At its core, Apollo infuses language arts, social studies, and art. But there's also a lot more involved, including higher order thinking skills, independent learning and accountability, along with other advantages often not found in a traditional classroom."
Last school year, my colleagues, Jim (Art), Wes (English), and I tossed around the idea of a creating a conjoined course. So when the administration asked for ideas, we pitched a class that pulled our classes together in a unique way. We visited a coworking space in State College, tossed around skills-based teaching, discussed how to infuse project based learning, and focused on the elements of student choice. After explaining the idea to the student body, and working around their already developed class schedules, we ended up with a pilot group for the 2015 - 2016 school year.
With four hours every day, we have a lot of time to push students - where they want to go. Rather than tell students that they're going to learn the causes and effects of the Spanish and American War, the students wrap their interests around broad themes that engage their thinking. The themes target their thinking rather than key them in to specific pieces of content.
The individual projects - 4 in total - require students to attack their topic through three disciplines. They spend the subsequent weeks attending mini lessons, working 1 on 1, and collaborating with others to build a unique analysis of their ideas. All of these components revolve around researched thinking skills.
Below are a few examples of the first student projects. I hope that you're just as impressed with the work as I am.
Down Syndrome: What I learned in 5 Days
Veronika, an 11th grade student, analyzed Down Syndrome and the societal stigma placed on those with disabilities. She taught piano to one of our high school students, who has Trisomy-21, and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
"My first project elaborates upon the prominent issue that is religious influence on politics, specifically religious influence on LGBTQ rights. The location centers in the United States and we explore the perspectives of those affected and those in opposition of progression in the movement, and acknowledge the reality of the results. Poetry and film is utilized in this product in order to convey these messages and moral considerations." -Sage
Meanwhile, In Another Dimension
Morgan, a senior, analyzed historical quotes and placed them in another context - her own, alternate dimension - comic strip. From Trotsky to Kennedy, her play on words are crafted in to a really intricate pieces of work.
Although this is my 13 year of teaching, I've learned more about the educational process through Apollo than I have in years. I will continue to share my experiences over the coming months. If you missed it, here is the link to the Apollo site.
Over the past few years I have noticed a trend in the books parents order for my students: Character books and trinkets, character books, and more character books! What about Pete the Cat, Junie B., or the Pigeon books?! It got me thinking that maybe my parents just don't know what books to order for their kiddos.
I decided to make some recommendations for my parents! I try to pick some trade books of varying prices, as well as a book pack. I tried the recommendation list out in September, and out of the orders I received, a majority of the books selected were from my recommended list! (Success!) I was so excited to see my kiddos reading great literature with their parents at home! So, I thought I would share my October recommendation list with you incase you are noticing the same pattern in your class. All you need to do is add your due date and class code, staple the sheet to your book orders, and share with your parents! Click on the images below to download!
I hope you find these helpful for your students and parents too! What else do you do to recommend books to your parents?
Mr. & Mrs.
We are Becky and Greg from York, PA. Becky just started her 13th year of teaching first grade. Greg is a high school social studies teacher. We love teaching and this blog is a peek into our world.
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