Oh my goodness, it’s been way too long! Somehow, life got in the way of my blogging. First, my in-laws were struggling and we had to take over the finances and medical stuff (read lots and lots of doctors appointments!). Then, my father-in-law passed away and we had to deal with that, selling two houses (both filled to the rafters with stuff – major hoarders here!). Then, I switched grades and subjects, so last year, while lots of fun, required huge amounts of time to be prepared to teach 5th graders math, science and social studies. However, all of that is behind me now, and it’s summer vacation. Yay!
My blog will be taking a bit of a turn this year, because my principal and I have started a grand experiment. I will be teaching 20 at-risk sixth graders in a self-contained class. My job is to help them achieve a year and a half growth in math and reading in a year. Bit of a challenge, eh? I’m pretty excited, though, since I have been doing a lot of research getting ready for this. I think it’s going to be my best year ever!
We’re calling our class Team Endeavor, because to endeavor means to try hard. That seemed to fit us to a T.
How did we select these students? I’m glad you asked! We used teacher recommendations, as well as test scores and grades. Each of these students scored well below average on a universal screener for math and reading. In addition, they tend to have failing report card grades and low motivation. Their work ethic varies, as does their behavior. Some work very hard, some not at all. Some have a few behavior issues, while others are model students in the classroom. All are at-risk of not graduating high school (or passing 6th grade, for that matter).
To start the year off right, I began in June. I held a class meeting with them and mailed a letter to their parents. In the class meeting, I told them: You were all specially selected for this class. We’re going to reinvent 6th grade. We felt that you would be the best students for this experiment because of who you are, your strengths.
Then, I hit them where it counts. I told them we are going to reinvent sixth grade. For instance, there won’t be assigned homework. That got their attention! I also told them no seating charts. The excitement on their faces let me know I’m on the right track.
Why no homework? Because several of these students faithfully do the homework, incorrectly, night after night. Is it helping them to practice incorrectly? Several more don’t do the homework at all. Is it helping them to assign work they won’t even start? Several more get overwhelmed when dealing with homework. Again, it’s not helping them.
Why no seating chart? First, because we usually use a seating chart to separate the problem students and put bright students with struggling ones. Since I will have all problem and struggling students, a seating chart won’t help. Second, because research is finding that giving students choice in where they work is beneficial.
Stay tuned – I’ll be updating regularly with my plans and, once school starts, with how things are going.