Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Day of Observation (Day 43)

Today is the day of the Illinois State observation. Yes, the curriculum developers from England are in town today to watch us teach. By the way, the reason that they keep coming in to see us is that we are considered to be a pilot school for their program.

First of all, this is what the mixed-up Wednesday schedule looked like for me this week:

Period 1: 6th grade
Period 2: 6th grade
Period 3: 8th grade
Period 4: 7th grade (music cancelled)
Period 5: 7th grade (observation)

This means that I had extra time with both sixth and seventh grades -- and whenever I have extra time, I try to take advantage and teach science. According to our online science website, Engineering Design is a part of every middle school grade under the NGSS -- and the "Learning to Communicate" STEM project includes some questions on Engineering Design. So the science lessons fit well with today's project.

Here is an outline of what my period looks like today for the observation:

12:00 -- Warm-Up. I could give my usual problem where the answer is the date, but I know that Illinois State wants to see a warm-up question from its own website instead, so that's what I do.

12:10 -- Students complete the "Learning to Communicate" project. The last day of the project requires students to write a "journal entry" in which they answer four questions about why engineers draw sketches. (The answer, of course, is so that they can communicate their ideas with others.)

12:35 -- Exit Pass. Since there are actually five questions for the students to answer, I have the students answer the fifth question as an Exit Pass.

12:45 -- Dismissal to lunch.

During the Common Planning day meeting, the curriculum developers give all of us teachers a debriefing on the observation. They tell me that for the most part, the lesson went well. Most of the seventh graders finish the assignment -- the class was divided into seven groups, and of these, five and a half were working hard on the assignment. They praise my support staff member -- she did a great job keeping the students on task.

Throughout the lesson, I continued to correct students on the oblique and isometric drawings. I've said before that some students drew oblique cubes on the isometric paper and vice versa.

The developers tell me more about the online parts of this curriculum. I already have my students answer Warm-Up questions from the Illinois State website, but the main parts of the lesson can be taught online as well. If I were to do so, this would be third online curriculum (the one I use for Math Intervention, the one I use for science, and now Illinois State) implemented in the class.

Finally, I tell them about the previous project, the mousetrap cars, and the troubles that many of us had with them. They tell us that perhaps the wheels weren't put on tight enough -- and possibly I could have taped the wheels in place. This would have made it easier to load the string in so that the car can be launched. At any rate, Dr. Brad Christensen -- from Illinois State itself -- might be in town next week. He won't be there to observe a lesson, but just to help me with the projects. As I am reminded, the projects are the cornerstone of the curriculum, especially in middle school.

Well, I'm happy that at least the observation is over.

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