Forced Vacation Almost Done

As the school year wound down, I quickly calculated that my vacation this year amounted to about 4 weeks.  After I quickly used a Sharpie to cross out "June" and "August" from my crew neck sweatshirt that reads, "I teach for 3 reasons: June, July and August!" (note: I don't actually own that shirt), I made myself promise I would actually take a break from my job.  I need to be honest, I was quite crispy around the edges by the end of the school year.  I can say without reservation that I've never worked as hard as I did this year.  The year before was a much more emotionally taxing year.  However, a lot of that was internal static, rather than the outgoing flow of energy I had this year.  I've done lots of eating (maybe too much), some yoga, and spending time with my husband in the past 2 weeks.  Now it's time to get back into the game.

As I slowly gear back up for work, I need to make a plan.  This is where I'm hitting a roadblock.  Do I start with curriculum, revising my scope and sequence? Or do I tackle grade level chair stuff?  What about summer school and classroom room culture stuff?  Do I need to redesign my room this year?  ARGH!

Scope and sequence: I had romantically thought that this year would the year I get to just tweak lesson plans and count on being home at 5:30 with a cocktail in my hands.  I don't think this is going to happen.  Instead, I need to add and delete things from my scope and sequence.  Here's what I'm imagining:

August: How We Learn (metacognition, classroom routines, test taking skills)  This is similar to last year,  but there are a few tweaks to my class systems I've made.  I'm also going to explicitly teach how to take a test so that I can give more rigorous assessments throughout the year.

September: Geography (types of maps, maps vs. globes, important geographical terms).  I had done a project about Washington DC during this unit last year, but the reading teacher did a really great job with students at the end of the year on this.  I need to check in with her if it's worth it if I keep this.  

October:    Measurement and Scientific Inquiry (metric measurement, volume, density, setting up an experiment)  I decided to cut out my unit about matter.  Students don't have enough background knowledge yet to make this useful.  I also worry that I'm not giving student the skills they need for 7th and 8th grade science labs.  I'm thinking that a month or so spent organizing around HOW to do science is more useful in the long term than memorizing (and forgetting) facts about atoms.  I will still set inquiries into the nature of water (which most of 5th graders don't know about)

November-December: African Diaspora (West African culture pre-colonization, the West African Slave trade, early African impact upon America)  So, I'm making a tough decision not to due a unit around Native Americans and European explorers.  The kids aren't really into it, not teaching them about the Renaissance beforehand leaves them without context, and after a team discussion, we (the 5th grade team) haven't been doing a great job of giving students a sense of history.  This is a subject I know a lot about, so I'm not worried about if I'm qualified to teach it.  What I'm worried about is gathering materials for students to use.  If anyone has great kid friendly resources, I'd really appreciate it.

January-February: Colonial America and the American Revolution (differences between colonies, reasons for the war, outcomes)  This one is straightforward and I don't think I'll change much.  Kids seemed to retain a lot, which they showed when we were in DC.

March-April: Ecosystems (different types of environments, how scientists classify animals)  Again, this worked well for the past 2 years and I don't have lots of work to do here.

May: Space  Kids love this unit.  I'm especially proud of the assessments I was using.  

June: GRRR!!!  I got in trouble this year for not teaching civics before June.  I guess I can try to push the Constitution into the end of the Colonial America and American Revolution unit.  This is where I could benefit from having someone else who teaches what I do.  I'm stuck in this "zero sum game" scenario where I could take things out of my curriculum to make other things fit, but I can't say one thing is less important than another.  The PA history standards are no help because, speaking as an educational professional, they suck.  They are vague and all over the place.  The science standards are slightly better, but because assessment happens in the 8th grade only, there are no guidelines about what should be taught each year.

Previewing this post made me realize it's clear where I need to start.  Sigh.  I guess I will make assessments this week for all of the units and move backwards from there.  Is it wrong if I drink Pina Coladas while I do this?

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