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!
Science Tool Kits for the Classroom
One great learning resource for the classroom is a tool kit students can use for exploring and observing the world around them. I have two in my classroom that students use everyday during centers. I started with $8 tool boxes from my local discount store—the kind with trays in the top. I put two pieces of black felt in the bottom of each one that can be used as a sort of placemat for laying out items to examine. In the bottom I put large items like pieces of coral, larger seashells and rocks, pieces of wood that have holes from insects, leaves of different shapes and colors, insect specimens in small containers or plastic bags, bags of soil samples, and anything else students bring in to share or that you find interesting.
In the tray I put at least two magnifying glasses, a pair of tweezers, two small hand mirrors, pens and pencils, and strips of paper for recording observations. I also put small, more fragile, items for observation in the tray where they are less likely to get smashed.
Students have access to these each day during centers. They get so excited about these kits I don’t have to worry about keeping new things in them—they bring things from home, find things on the playground, etc. and they bring in everything I need to keep it interesting.
M Ed. Instructional Design