Monday, July 29, 2013

Planning for the Implementation of an Inspiration

This Spring while teaching my fantastic first graders I was hit with an inspiration! I decided that next year ~ well now this year I would teach most of my first grade curriculum through animals and their habitats. I am doing this for 2 main reasons. First, I noticed whenever animals were mentioned all little ears in the classroom were tuned to whatever was being taught at the moment. Second, my children live in an urban environment and have very little knowledge of animals and their habitats. So I began reading, studying, dragging my ESOL teaching partner along, making phone calls..........

I found the pushes I needed to go forward in the two books above. 
From Ron Clark: think big, be persistent, and make it happen. In his book The End Of Molasses Classes, my favorite chapters are: Create Moments That Will Have A Lasting Impact On Children's Lives, Make Learning Magical, Open Your Doors To The Parents, Make the Most of Every Moment! There Should be an Urgency in Education!, and Reach Out To the Community to Build a Powerful Network.
Dave Burgess in Teach Like a Pirate gave me many things to think on. This is the quote that keeps me jumping...
"Jump on creative opportunities that come your way, and then implement them! Be proactive in your pursuit of your vision for your classroom and life."

So by now you are probably wondering, "What exactly is she up to?"
Here's the plan:
I will divide my classroom into four areas. An area for animals, one for wetlands, one for vegetation and the last for humans. The area types will remain the same all year, but what is in them will change. 
In the first quarter they will reflect the forest and then rainforest. In the second quarter the Arctic and Antarctic. The third quarter Australia and Safari. The last quarter we will learn about farms and life cycles.

A few more thoughts from Dave Burgess. 
He has a whole chapter titled, 'Find A Crew.' I am lucky to have found many great crew members. First, is my dear husband, he listens to all my ideas, helps me develop them, and scale them down so they are workable. He also goes on many missions with me to collect objects and pictures for the classroom. We have collected turtle shells, acorns, sticks chewed by beavers, and various other items. I couldn't do this project without the blessing of my Principal, Supervisor of ESOL, and Assistant Superintendent for Education. My ESOL teaching partner is fantastic at organizing and planning. She has helped to write a grant that looks promising and has made contacts and arrangements with two local environmental agencies to provide programing for our students. The crew will continue to grow.

"Determine to intentionally control your environment and all the presentational elements in play. Everything matters." That's a heavy one from Dave. I began working on this one this week. I have called many foundations and agencies that provide educational programs about animals and the response has been amazing! I will soon be receiving awesome posters and other education materials to use to turn my room into the habitats. 

The above two books have been my inspiration for math this year. Rather than use traditional math manipulatives I plan on using things like acorns, pinecones and stones for counting, sorting, etc.

Reading and writing will have a new look also thanks to the above 3 books. Reading all of your blog posts on Daily 5 and CAFE have helped me enormously in my planning. Thank you :)

Last, but not least I am planning a technology piece where my class will communicate with classes in all of the habitats we are studying this year. This is the piece I am currently working on. If you are interested in participating please let me know. As soon as I put this idea carefully together I will post more details.

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you too are inspired to step outside the box and plan an innovative program for your class!
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  1. Your idea sounds fascinating, Maria! I'm looking forward to reading about it over the year. I can't quite visualize what you have in mind, but I've no doubt it's going to be amazing.

    1. Thank you. It is a very exciting adventure.

  2. Wow! What an undertaking. We need more teachers like you!!

    Teach On.

    1. How kind of you! I am excited to get started.

  3. These ideas look fabulous. I'd love my kids to be in your class!
    Thanks for visiting. :-)
    Whimsy Workshop

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wow! I would love for my son to be in your class! That's an amazing idea. When I was doing doctoral coursework in educational psychology, we read this book called 'How People Learn' from the National Academies Press. (It's free to download, btw, here In this book they described a master teacher who did something similar. The teacher had the children brainstorm burning questions, they narrowed them to a few, and she constructed the entire curriculum into answering these questions. What you are doing is so similar! The book also pointed out that teachers needed a deep understanding of what and how they needed to teach, which illustrates what a fantastic teacher you are! I'm going to follow your blog so I can see how awesome this journey will be. I'm so very impressed! Such a wonderful idea. Good luck to you in the new school year!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry it took me so long to begin posting about my school year. This project has kept me very, very busy!