I teach 6th and 8th grade Science. I have all three of our school’s 6th grade Science classes and two of the three 8th grade Science classes. I’ve been teaching 6th and 8th grade Science for a few years now and I really enjoy getting kids as they enter the middle school and getting many of them back as they leave the middle school.
So far this year is off to a great start. I vary the way I start each school year. Some years I’ve started with team building activities. Some years I start by having kids jump in to their first project. Some years I’ve started with smaller learning activities instead of a project. Some years I’ve started with a fun Science activity like having kids experiment with oobleck! This year I made plans to gamify my classes so I started the year with a bit of prep for that. Blogging is a big part of my gamification plan because kids are going to put achievement badges on their blogs every time they show me they’ve mastered a Science standard. So I set up their blog accounts and started them blogging right away. All the prep has taken about eight class periods so it wasn’t until the end of the second week of school that my 6th and 8th graders started learning some Science. It felt weird, waiting so long to start learning Science, but it happened so naturally that it just worked. What I mean by it happened naturally is that the kids took as long as they needed to complete the activities so I went with their flow. Besides achievement badges for standards I am completely gradeless as I have been for the last few years so all is going according to plan.
Every September we take all 6th graders to Camp Cispus. It’s a four hour drive to get toÂ Camp Cispus in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Randle, WA. Some of beginning of the year activities include preparing 6th graders for the trip. We typically leave on Tuesday and return on Friday. For a while there we had been taking 6th graders to Camp Cispus on the second week of school so we had to spend the first week of school preparing, which was not really enough time to even get to know our kids. Camp Cispus has an incredible low ropes challenge course in the woods with almost 40 elements so we do all sorts of lawn activity games to prepare kids to enter the woods at school before we get to camp. This year we were fortunate enough to get a later week so we are not leaving for Camp Cispus until Tuesday, the 25th! That gives us three weeks before we have to leave and more time to get to know our kids.
Being a trained Cispus challenge course facilitator I am taking one class, in three groups of about 10 kids, into the challenge course one group at a time. So I get to lead some fun lawn activities here at school before next week. Being the Science teacher I also get to help kids learn about volcanoes and Mt Saint Helens since we get to visit the mountain while at camp! It’s awesome. Pretty great way to start their year with my 6th graders.
So I have my 6th graders and 8th graders blogging on our class blog site and we are participating in a Student Blogging Challenge as well. We have been using gaming language so assignments are quests and teams are guilds, for example. We set up our tech use norms early on so that I could have kids use the iMacs, Netbooks and iPads. I’ve worked on enforcing those norms in the hopes that it won’t be a year-long battle. Well, I can hope can’t I? And on top of all that I get to work with a student teacher all year! Emily, the student teacher, is working with both of us Science teachers at my school so she gets to experience our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Science programs. Her student teaching model is a co-teaching model and I am working with her in two of my five classes. Co-teaching is pretty cool and a model that I think should be common practice. There really should be two teachers in every classroom. Here’s a glimpse into what we’re doing.
I have a project that my 8th graders can work on while I’m away with my 6th graders. Not ideal leaving my 8th grade classes for five days (the Monday before we leave we are doing Cispus activities at school all day so I will still need a sub that day too) but at least it’s not the second week of school. It always works out so I’m not worried. Besides, I know most of my 8th graders because I had them in 6th grade when I took them to Cispus. And we’ll be going on their camping experience later in May anyway. So not only is this year off to a great start, I’m excited about all that is going on and all the great learning we are going to do together. Yay! 🙂