Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teacher Summer To Do List

Many people assume the best parts of being a teacher are June, July, and August. I will admit a sense of euphoria when school lets out, a release of tension, a settling in of a relaxed feeling. Then the reality of being a teacher sets in with summer projects, classes, and other professional development endeavors.

Spread across my dining room table, gracing a spot it will stay most of the summer, sits my mountain of school work. One pile is Algebra 1 books, CD’s and other support materials. These all beckon to me, reminding me I am teaching this class for the first time, and should probably hone up on my own skills. Another pile is for my 7th grade social studies class, the class that always seems to get pushed to the back burner, and I end up resorting to reading the chapters in the textbook and copying worksheets, because time is too short to plan another project, write another rubric, research another current events issue. Summer gives me a chance to delve into the curriculum and plan another unit to supplant or better yet, replace, the book work.

The last pile is for professional reading, books I want to read this summer to broaden my own teaching horizon. Six books are sitting there, waiting for me to read or reread them. Building Literacy in Social Studies is on top of the stack. I’ve read and actually reviewed this book before, in 2007, but I want to look a bit closer at how to use some of the ideas given to improve how I teach social studies. The chapter on textbook literacy in particular interests me. Our students, as often is the case, struggle with informational text so I am hoping to get some ideas about helping them become more effective at looking for key concepts in what they are reading.

Alongside that, Ignite Student Intellect and Imagination in Social Studies sits. This book is filled with cookie cutter project ideas, some of which I hope to mine for ideas for my class. I like the idea of developing activities with choices for students, but often struggle coming up with equitable choices. I once had a pyramid model, and would like to use this book and its ideas to revisit that activity.

The Forest and the Trees will also be a book for my social studies class, as I try to find ideas for looking teaching the skills of finding important ideas in text. I am especially interested in the part of this book that addresses the skills students need for taking multiple choice tests. In today’s educational arena where so much rides on those high stakes test scores, teachers have a responsibility, unfortunately, to not only teach content and offer opportunities to develop high order thinking skills, but we must prepare students to think like test takers.

The last two books address teaching writing and reading in content areas: Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science and Math and Content-Area Writing . I am a firm believer in the power of having students write for learning. I want to explore ways to use more writing in math class to have students understand and discover their own misconceptions.

Beyond the reading, and the lesson planning, there are the special projects. While I said no to many things I normally do in the summer, I did get suckered into two so far. This week I will be attending a workshop called MORE Alignment Workshop. The idea seems to be getting a sprinkling of various discipline teachers to look at online resources and align them to the state standards. The idea intrigues me because anytime we can use technology, students are immediately more interested in what we are doing. I am hoping by working to create alignment links for others, I discover many online resources I can myself use.

The last thing I have agreed to is a simple 2 day workshop in August that is part of a grant I wrote for a team of 3 teachers last year. We received a MACUL MI-Champions grant to attend last year’s conference, next year’s conference, and this 2 day summer workshop, all dedicated to technology integration. The agenda has up looking at wikis, blogs, and other simple ideas to more effectively integrate technology into our curriculum. It sounds pretty straightforward and uninspired but who knows? Maybe I will come away with some cool ideas. At the very least, I will have written a unit plan to use in my classes! A win-win scenario no doubt!

And before you know it, it will be time to be back in school, rearranging furniture and plugging in power strips, making copies, hanging posters, writing parent letters, and setting up my gradebook for fall. The halls will be empty, the floors shiny, all waiting the arrival of the KIDS!!!

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