Some kind of strange time warp is happening to me…the longer I teach, the faster the school year seems to go! I’m now a week into the fourth and final quarter of my 18th year of teaching. Wow. I’m glad the third quarter is quickly becoming a distant memory. In my experience, it’s the hardest one to get through for so many reasons. The lack of sunlight doesn’t help – it’s dark when I go to work and dark almost as soon as I get home. Boo. The kids have worked hard for two quarters, but summer break is still a long way off and too far in the future to give hope. Where I live, we also have to endure a lot of inside recess. More than a few days of that will cause the development of the school version of cabin fever. It ain’t pretty, folks. So, while having really outstanding lessons is always a top priority for teachers, it kinda becomes a matter of life-or-death during the third quarter. Can anyone relate?
From Notes to Draft
The online research project I developed about famous inventors was just what my students needed and just when they needed it. As we wrapped up our interminably long third quarter, the kids were focused on completing their Internet Investigations. Day #3 of our project was about taking our research and transforming it from paraphrased notes into a graphic organizer. Eventually, we used that to write our rough drafts.
Reflecting on Our Research
If I had to teach this lesson over, one thing I would change is a quick mini-lesson on just how much information do you put on a graphic organizer. Several students ended up unintentionally writing two drafts – one on their organizer and one in their notebooks. That gobbled up limited class time that could have been better used on revising and editing. I’m sure it didn’t help, either, that my graphic organizer was a little vague. It needed more structure and preferably one that was more aligned with our research questions. Oh, and another area of improvement would be those research questions themselves. Perhaps one question per pocket would have been sufficient for someone teaching 2nd or 3rd graders, but my 4th graders needed more content. Many of them went back to the Internet to get more information so their drafts would be complete.
The Rewards of Reflecting
Well, now you know why I call my blog The Reflective Educator – I’m much better after “field testing” a lesson than I am at planning the elusive perfect lesson. Actually, it’s very rewarding to me personally to try an idea out in my classroom and then reflect on how to make it better for next year’s students. Each successive year benefits from my previous educational experiments. After all, I’m not trying to be perfect, just get better. A much more realistic expectation.