Saturday, April 11, 2009

Making Dust

A a kid we often went to my grandparents' farm. My brother's favorite thing to do, and later all the boys/cousins, was to put his bike up on blocks in the big shed, peddle as fast as he could and "make dust." That's how I'm feeling right now with school, like I'm just making dust but not getting anywhere.

We finished giving state assessments right before spring break. Because we use an alternate assessment system, this took up quite a lot of our time and structured our daily activities. We also implemented and completed a very involved unit on the Wizard of Oz (check the side bar under Projects). I had a plan with a goal: read the whole book and do related activities; gather all the needed evidence for state assessment portfolios. And now that we're finished with all of that, we seem to be just spinning our wheels. The day-to-day routines have become the "daily grind." Everyone, kids and adults alike, are bored with the same old same old. On top of all that we have had a constant in and out with absences from both students and staff, had one student move away resulting in a slight case of "over staffing" (I know I know, I should be happy and believe me I am NOT giving up a staff person until I have to; plus one of my paras wants to go back to college full time and will be making that move very soon) and not enough to do for everyone all the time. Add in some plans that haven't come to fruition quite as expected and some not-under-our-control interferences that have kept us completely out of routine, and well, I think we've hit the "spring doldrums." You know, that place where everyone is ready to move on but we're stuck with 5 weeks left of school before a brief break and new opportunities. We're not even all that motivated to fo out on community day, how bad is that? UGGHH!!

I need inspiration. This is one of those times that I miss NOT having a preset curriculum (creating my own curriculum is one of the things I love most about my job, but wow is it a lot of work!). How do I fill the last few weeks of school with fun, engaging, and meaningful activities? We're pretty well at a maintenance stage with most of our IEP goals. Where do we go from here? Kate posted some fun looking activities to go with The Princess Bride which look very intriguing, BUT do I really want to jump back into another extended study so soon after the Wizard of Oz extravaganza? News-2-You has an article on Native Americans and the new PBS series called We Shall Remain that I could do a lot of things with. Maybe we'll go with that, especially since the Mid America All Indian Center is reopening here in April and they have worked well with our special needs in the past. But that will take quite a bit of prep work and I have a number of time consuming commitments coming up (summer school planning, observing new-to-me students coming to summer school, grant proposals due, student recertifications due, progress reports, helping with a couple of professional development activities, grading state assessments, ......). Do I have time to do adequate justice to a Native American unit?

Any ideas out there anyone? Throw me a nice life preserver please!


  1. i don't know that i can throw you a life preserver...but i do feel what you do. you're lucky you only have 5 weeks...we have 49 days left!
    i'm done with my assessment as well and i know how that can really drive instruction....
    how did you do with the we shall remain? i'm a week behind in news-2-you and can't decide whether to do we shall remain or the citibikes. any ideas?

    good luck with your last few weeks!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I adapted We Shall Remain today since I only had two kids in class and the paras did all their routines with them. I think we'll probably finish out the year with that since it's exactly the right number of weeks. I'm splitting the paper up into 5 sections and adding info pertinent to each episode (I convert everything to Boardmaker plus as those symbols are more meaningful to my students; plus they are in between the easy and regular levels so it lets me control content better). I don't think we'll get as invovled with comprehension questions and projects, although I have lots of relevant projects floating around. We'll read the info, maybe some related books, watch the episodes and talk about them, and see what kind of time we have left. We are also doing a voting/graphing project with American Idol so between those two activities we should finish out the year OK.
    As far as what I'd recommend between We Shall Remain or CityBikes, I guess it would depend on where your and your kids' interests lie. I think my gang will get more out of a Native American study, especially since one of y paras is an "Indian" as she labels herself and we have some really good local resources. Not sure city bikes would float their boats. :-) We haven't done nearly enough social studies this year either, since it was a science emphasis for state assessments. Whatever you do have fun with it!