So - I'm changing grade levels for the 2017-2018 school year. I'm going to second grade. I taught it once before but I've been in kindergarten for four years so this will be like a new experience. I'm also going to be departmentalized so I will be working with two other teachers as a team. I will teach writing, science, and social studies. One of the other teachers on my team will teach reading and the other one will teach math.
I get 80 minutes with each of the three classes and I have to devote 50 of those minutes to writing using the Lucy Calkins program. My system expects the Lucy Calkins program to be adhered to pretty strictly so that leaves me with 30 minutes to teach both science and social studies. I have a pacing guide/curriculum map for science and social studies that expects both of those subjects to be taught daily.
You do the math.
Can it be done?
I've talked to lots of teachers who have tried it and everyone says - NO. Not really. Not if you want to do all three subjects well and include hands on instruction. You have to really fudge a lot of things and wind up doing a half way job on the science since there is no time for engineering projects, experiments, etc. THAT is not going to be acceptable to me.
I'm VERY passionate about the need for science to be taught through hands on, student led, experiences so this is very challenging to me but I am DETERMINED to make it work in a WOW kind of way - not a "getting by" kind of way.
I spoke to my principal about my concerns and we have a little bit of a compromise in place. I am to be allowed to use an engineering project or experiment to kick off each new science standard. I can use a longer portion of my class time to allow for a student experience to introduce a new standard and then I return to the 50 minutes for writing plan.
Introducing each standard this way follows the activity before content method (ABC) which is what we want all science teachers to be doing.
I am also going to begin each class, every day, with the 30 minutes for science or social studies first and then have writing for the last 50 of the class. That will allow students to have fresh things to talk about/think about as they decide on their topic for writing each day. I will be facilitating the genre they must use in writing but typically will not give them a writing prompt - although on occasion I will.
I believe I will get better writing out of my students by leading into it with their science and social studies.
I know the people who have already been teaching in this type of schedule have found it necessary to teach science for 4 weeks and then social studies for four weeks, or something similar to that. That means being off the pacing guide, which is not ideal, but what else can you do? You can't teach science for 15 minutes and then social studies for 15 minutes.
Here in Georgia, we are rolling out new science and social studies standards for the 2017-2018 school year. This summer I am going through them to see when, if ever, I can possibly find a way to combine the two - blending the two subjects into one lesson. We'll see how that turns out. I'll let you know what I come up with.
So, I find I am excited but also feeling some anxiety, as I spend my summer trying to find a way to make this work so that my students will get absolutely everything they need in all three subjects. I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure they don't miss anything - including experiences they deserve to have.
I'll keep you updated as I go!
In Georgia new science standards will be introduced for the 2017-2018 school year. The new Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) are similar to the NGSS while at the same time being specific to Georgia. Both sets of standards are based on best practices from The Framework for K-12 Science Education.
The biggest change is in the way science must be taught. The pedagogy must totally change. Students should be given the chance to obtain, evaluate, and communicate the content for the standard through their own experiences while making real world connections to what they learn.
In the new GSE you will see some standards removed, some elements of standards removed, and most that remain have been restructured. The language for every standard has changed to reflect the need for a pedagogy change by beginning every standard with the exact same words, "obtain, evaluate, communicate".
To make it easier to find the places where standards or elements of standards have been removed, or new elements have been introduced, I have created a document outlining the changes as a quick reference tool. It covers both kindergarten and first grade. You can download it at the end of this post.
I hope this helps - let me know if you have questions!
Little Science Bird
M Ed. Instructional Design