Friday, August 24, 2012

Working on the school plans

I've been spending a fair amount of time this past week on brainstorming and working out a rough math plan for my 11yo. (My 14yo is doing online learning and therefore, I don't need to do ANY planning for her academics!)

Here is what I've done:

  1. I went to and copied the contents into a document that is only about my son's math plan.
  2. I had a look at the one text approved for grade 7 math here and tried to decide if it matched up well or not with the RD sequence, but also just to get an idea of the provincial outcomes.
  3. I know what my son has and hasn't covered, so I started with the beginning stuff (numeration and addition) and worked out a rough plan by hand for Sept-Dec, following the R&D manuals with some notes on specific activities or type of work to do.
  4. I went through our provincial learning outcomes and added in things that fit with what I had already laid out. For example, there is a whole unit on statistics and probability which I've tagged onto the end of the other units as a continuation of working with fractions, decimals and percentages. Or the algebra elements, which are considered a separate unit in the text, are being incorporated with his work on the operations. Which, to be honest, I think is much better than the textbook's approach of spending a few weeks on an algebra unit and then it's not touched again until the next year. This way, he'll be working with early algebra stuff when we are working with addition, then again with subtraction, then with multiplication and then with division.
  5. I'm treating geometry as a separate subject, so on the same page (I used columns), I put in the geometry elements which match up with what's going on in math. So, for example, for the month set aside for showing multiplication work, I've got planned to work on area and volume.
  6. On the facing page (I opened up a notebook--left page was for math and geometry month-to-month planning), I wrote down elements that can just be slipped in here and there, to make sure he knows how to work with them and certain vocabulary is covered, like 2D and 3D shapes, types of triangles, mm cm m, how many weeks in a year...
  7. I turned the page and finished up with Jan-April planning, which leaves an entire month free. Hm.

Okay, how about a little visual of the draft end product (sorry, I'm not sure how to make it show up in the right direction!):

I have no real idea of how much time it will take to cover certain things. I've given a month for multiplication, including large, which he has barely touched on. One month might not be enough. I've only given December for division, but now that I think of it, with Christmas holidays and division tending to be tough, I'll probably have to extend it. In any case, I now at least have a sequence to follow in things to introduce to him. I will have to break down specific lesson possibilities as I go along, but at least there's a framework within which to work!

And I have to say that while math has been very neglected around here with him, looking at the things from K-6 that he hasn't covered or mastered, well, the things important enough to do so, and adding in the grade 7 stuff, I'm actually feeling rather good about this year for his math. I do think we can not only cover it all, but that he will have a decent mastery.  He does not have difficulty with math; he has simply been difficult to actually sit down and do enough math.Which reminds me of something I would like to do still: Create a chart with all the different outcomes and columns for Introduced, Checked, Mastered. Lots of "Checked" options where I will be able to date and indicate where he is in terms of practice and mastery.

Speaking of mastery... I read of one Montessori school where starting in grade 6, they didn't move on to the next topic until they had reached a 90% mastery. I'm not sure what I think about that. On the one hand, they are older and perhaps it's developmentally okay; on the other, what's so wrong with working on more than one topic at a time? I don't think Maria Montessori really envisioned anything like this type of bookwork for the junior high level, but alas, it's hard in our society to just go, "Meh, let's just do farm and business stuff for 3 years." Maria also never got a chance to try her idea out; she may have not found it practical nor reasonable in the end.

I have also started working out a rough plan for social studies. I will start off doing all of the Great Lessons (my son has only ever seen the first one!) and then spread off from there into the science units I have and then the grade 7 social studies topics (history of Canada). I have plans to go further back than what our provincial social studies program has in mind and I won't be as fact-oriented as the school program, but give a large overview, planting lots of seeds, and let him dip into the areas he wants to grow more. When I think about it, the social studies program is so very limiting. They want to focus on one select group of aboriginal Canadians, for some reason; they focus on the same group in high school social studies, too. And yet, there are so many that the kids are never really told about! I have an idea of finding a map with some sort of indication about where the different groups traditional lived, more or less. I know many were very nomadic, but they still didn't go from BC to Newfoundland and back! My plan is to go even further back than that, to the last Ice Age and have a look at where it is believed the aboriginals came from and their movement through North and South America. I think the big picture is so important! Yet school social studies seems to be so focused on passing on the details.

There was a video I saw of a middle school science project where they had done an enormous diagram of a cell (can't remember if it was an animal or plant cell) and had little explanations of each part. This got me thinking that for social studies, I need to think outside the box. Sure, a research report is a good idea, but it's important to get more creative, or to suggest more creative ideas: Create a model of an aboriginal settlement, for example. Make a small translation dictionary of one of the languages. I am thinking of keeping the elementary focus of the fundamental needs of humans as the overriding "theme" for the work, but I will have to check around and see if that's normal for upper elementary or not. Or to find out what upper elementary students do focus on and tie it in. (You may be asking why I'm looking at elementary if my son is grade 7. Well, he is grade 7 but he's not yet 12, and just how he is, I still think the 9-12 work is very suitable for him.)

All right, it's almost 9pm on a Friday night. I ought to pull myself away from this computer and do a bit of winding down!

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