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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Planning the Fourth Quarter

When I don't plan ahead, things just don't go right.

With the fourth quarter upon us, it's time to do some long-range planning. First, I need to take stock of where I am and what I have:
  1. Concepts - What concepts have been taught and reinforced but not mastered? Are there any concepts that still need to be addressed? I need to look at the standards, compare student data, and make a list of what still needs to be accomplished.
  2. Materials - Even though I started the year with a plan, I have pulled some materials as needed and now see that some of my fourth quarter materials have already been used. It's time to look through textbooks, scan classroom shelves, and skim the computer hard drive to see what's still available.
  3. Weekly Grid - I can't function without this, especially at the end of the year. 
I start with a blank grid and fill in from the top and bottom. At the top are concepts and topics I am currently wrapping up or know I need to cover next. At the bottom are activities and subjects I want to do at the end of the year. Although humorous fiction and international studies are an unlikely pair, I want to do a big research project with international studies, which requires me to soften up reading and English. One thing I learned early: never plan two big projects at the same time!

Then I start to fill it in. Since I want the students to grow the biggest bean plants possible, I need to start my bean unit ASAP. That will go in science next, which means that the bean-related reading and English will be dropped into Weeks 2 & 3 as well. Working with beans is also a perfect match for the customary measurement unit I'll be doing at that time. Great! Connecting material and concepts across subject areas is one reason I create these grids.

I also plug in the economics unit I still need to do. Social studies - done! And I add remaining vocabulary units (which I also use to get my core spelling words). Check!

What's left? I'd like to tie the study of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories to my animals unit in science. Although I have several other pieces of literature to choose from, The Cat Who Went to Heaven offers the most ties to concepts my students need to grasp (particularly figurative language, poetry, and making inferences). I'm anxious to teach Kipling for the first time, but it would be better to review figurative language before our standardized test. Oh, all right. Kipling and animals will be taught later, and cats will be taught earlier. By default, a health unit on disease also moves up into Weeks 5 & 6. That way I can link animals to the Just So Stories.

For math, I can just fill in the units that come next. There aren't any specific ties to other subjects, but that's okay. And that rounds out the year. Yay!

Now you know what Ben Franklin said: "The best made plans of mice and men oft go awry." It's true. This plan will likely change as unexpected activities and student needs pop up. But I have a plan! And that makes me feel really good about this grading period.

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