We have officially been on a block schedule for a month now. It is absolutely exhausting and rewarding at the same time. This is my first year back in my own classroom after a small hiatus co-teaching social studies. Every day is an experiment where I learn new things here and there and try to keep track of them for future references. This post is just me thinking out loud, figuratively, about what my next steps should be.
First, I spent way too much time trying to decide how to grade my ELL students in the pull out class. I think I have finally figured it out. The official grade will be based on whether they met the standards I was looking for or not. For example, if the goal was to use certain vocabulary in their writing of a narrative, grade on that alone. However, when I was listening to their speaking journals that I have them record twice a week, I was stuck in that I didn’t want a student’s inability to properly pronounce a word to wreck their grades. As I have been thinking about the problem, I think I want to grade based on progress. An example being that the first recording of the week is like a pre-test and the second tracks the change. This is a massive undertaking computationally, but I think I can pull it off.
Next, there are conflicting ideas that are working in my classroom. The primary idea that seems to be working is segmenting class into sections of work. This works well for some aspects such as writing and small group readings. Yet it doesn’t leave a lot of room for other things that are important as well. This is still a struggle for me and a pendulate between two extremes trying to find homeostasis. Nevertheless, today I noticed that my student’s writing is working best in a workshop model where they write and practice several things before going back and practicing the editing phase. The problem with using that model is that it leaves little to no room for students to focus on academic tasks. On the opposite side we have a single, unified plan type that incorporates the four modalities into one seamless classroom experience. Without a great curriculum, this is a lot of work. I seem to be leaning more and more toward a hybrid of the two ideas the more we push into this year.
One of the most important things I learned, or rather relearned, is that classroom expectations are a must from day 1. Posted. Discussed. Revisited. No exceptions. I don’t care if you are teaching an AP course to 3 students; it’s a necessary component to a functioning classroom. Beyond that, it creates an atmosphere conducive to building relationships.
I have missed having my own classroom. While I still enjoy co-teaching and I have some great colleagues, it’s great to be back in the cockpit.