Structuring Class

As adults in the workplace, we all have to manage our time.  We all have required activities, due dates, and a certain level of work time to finish our activities.  This juggling act requires skills.  Better for our kids to learn (and fail, if necessary) in middle school rather than later in life.   

Pic by: Kat Rodenas
My curriculum is organized into 4 units.  Each unit is divided into topics such as 'Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia'.  In each topic, I have created several activities.  Students work their way through the activities.  During the first semester, I let them work at their own pace.  They had to finish all activities, but they could work at their own pace.  If they didn't finish an activity they got a zero in the grade book.  I assumed grades would motivate them.  Turns out, a surprising number of kids don't care about their grade.  This semester, each activity has a prescribed number of days until it is due.  After the due date, students stay after school until the activity is completed. They value their time far more than they value their grades. 

When we start a new topic, I introduce the topic with an intriguing aspect to get the students hooked.  Most days I teach a short mini-lesson that usually matches up with the activity students should be working on.  When we finish a topic the kids take a diagnostic so I can see how effective the activities and mini-lessons were.

Students can mess around in class and work at home, work hard in class and have no homework, they can finish early and enjoy some free time, or waste time and stay after school; the choice is theirs.  They need to learn to manage their time.  Students move through the activities sequentially, where as in Joey Till's math class, the students pick the order of their projects.  This allows me the time to grade everything one-on-one and spend time with the students that need it the most.  In addition, I'm not holding back students that are motivated and learn quickly.  I spend my day walking around helping students, reteaching, checking, and grading. 

After my student-teacher leaves, I plan on building in a few days that won't count as "work days".  Friday will be "video day".  We will learn with videos, movie clips, etc. and discuss the topics.  This will break up the monotony of constantly moving from one activity to the next.  Like the blog's name suggests... its all an experiment.

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