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!
The first dimension in 3D teaching is that of Science and Engineering Practices - also knows as SEPs. So what are those practices and how can I use them in planning lessons?
•Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
•Developing and using models (a model does not have to be something like a diorama - a drawing, a video, graphic organizer, writing piece, etc. etc. counts as a model
•Planning and carrying out investigations
•Analyzing and interpreting data
•Using mathematics and computational thinking
•Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
•Engaging in argument from evidence
•Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
(A Framework for K-12 Science Education, pg. 3)
If you haven't read A Framework for K-12 Science Education yet you definitely need to either purchase a copy or download the free PDF. See my post on 3D teaching for details on that. You are probably already using SEPs in your science lessons but if you read up on them a little and begin to purposefully choose at least one to list in each lesson plan you will find your lessons begin to come together in a way that will make you and your students happier. It all starts to make sense if you just take a deep breath and get started. Choose a phenomenon to be the jumping off point for your lesson (see my post on that if you are freaked out by phenomenon), then choose at least one element from each of the dimensions of 3D teaching to tag onto your lesson. If you aren't sure which ones to choose - just pick one. Get started. You will get better at it and more comfortable with it as you go forward. If you are planning an experience for your students you are on the right track. They need to do something that will allow them to discover the standard content. Don't feed it to them. Let them make mistakes. Let them figure out how to deal with their mistakes. Encourage them to ask questions and then find the answers to their own questions. We have to teach them how to think and reason. It is not our job to teach them what to think. It is our responsibility to teach them how to think critically. This is possibly the greatest gift we can give our students. Teaching them to think and reason. How many things in their life will go better for them if they know how to approach a problem logically and figure out how to deal with it on their own? Planning projects for my students based on phenomenon that they love to investigate has made teaching so much more enjoyable for me. And - my students are reaching way beyond the basic standard content and making real life connections that are making my heart so happy!
I know when they discover it they will remember it. They will retain the standard content because they have connected it to an experience they won't forget. So be brave - get started providing experiences for your students so that learning will last a lifetime.
Little Science Bird
M Ed. Instructional Design