Friday, August 7, 2009

The Plan for This Year (2009-10)

Mel commented to ask if I would post about how I plan my year and if possible include a long-range plan/curriculum overview. When you work in a specialized program like mine, long-range planning and curriculum are a huge deal. I don't have a set curriculum to follow, no teacher's guides or text books, no "curriculum map," or any of those other helpful things that tell other teachers what to teach when. My curriculum is highly differentiated based on the individual needs of the students and is focussed around their IEP goals as well as alternate assessment needs. That being said, I do have a framework for our activities. Of course, anyone who knows me at all knows I've never done anything the same way two years in a row :-) but I'll give it my best shot to try to explain my planning process.

Last year our curriculum pretty well centered around the topics in the News 2 You publications as well as holidays and special events (like the election) that came up. And every spring I plan a lengthy thematic unit that we spend several weeks on. Last year I did The Wizard of Oz. The two years prior to that we did Rainforests and Oceans. And then of course, as I posted, things went pthhhthhh and deflated after we finished with Oz and state assessments, although it perked back up when we did our We Shall Remain unit.

I used to try to be really "theme-y" and ranged from a new theme a week (what was I thinking?!!?) to a theme a month. I would research on early childhood websites for ideas, since they are all about themes, and "age up" for my students. I like themes, I mean REALLY like them. But, man, all that planning and work gets old after awhile. And I found out that we don't like to repeat the same themes/activities from year to year. I work with the same kids and (hopefully) staff for multiple years and doing the same things over and over (and over and over) just gets boring. We need more spice than that. So themes worked for me for about half the year, usually getting disrupted in the after-holiday doldrums or madness of state assessment season. Now don't get me wrong, there are some themes, like Halloween/pumpkins/fall, that we do every year (check out the Mad Science party we did last year and will probably do again this year--too fun!). And I've done enough themes that I've collected extensive materials for some of them so we try to find ways to use that too (for instance, we did the Unique summer curriculum on Oceans and used all the stuff from a previous oceans theme during ESY). And I'm one of those middle-of-the-night-brilliant-ideas people too, so sometimes "the plan" gets scrapped for one of those or for a new idea I've come across (for instance the brilliant set of activities Kate did around The Princess Bride).

This year I'm changing things up yet again (surprise! NOT!). I was able to purchase this year's Unique middle school curriculum so that will probably be the central driving force of our curriculum this year paired with the News 2 You topics. So far I like what I've seen, even though I have to do quite a bit of adapting (no news there; it's a good thing I like to do that and at least I don't have to come up with much content). Now, just a note that this is really only a small part of our daily/weekly curriculum as I also have kids going out into the community for shopping, leisure, and vocational experiences. And then there are the therapy activities, peer time, daily living skills training, and all the other things that are part of daily learning with these kids. And if by some chance Pete Wells comes up with a new literature unit like the Wizard of Oz, we'll probably add that in (are you reading Pete? I have requests if you're game!).

So my "general" daily schedule should look something like this:
7:40-8:00 Breakfast/peer time
8:00-8:30 Personal care/hygiene
8:30-9:00 Morning Meeting activities
9:00-10:30 Academic rotations (Unique/News 2 You, computer, IEP goals/state assessment)
10:30-11:00 PT activities, leisure skills
11:00-12:00 Lunch programs (cooking/prep, eating, clean up, personal care/hygiene)
12:00-12:30 Leisure skills (adult lunch breaks)
12:30-1:00 Chores (dishes, laundry, dusting, etc. around classroom)
1:00-2:00 Whole group activity (game, literature, art, cooking, science experiments, etc.)
2:00-2:45 Personal care/hygiene, home notes, leisure choices (as needed), departures

Interspersed into this schedule are community outings (job sites, shopping, swimming, etc.) and therapies. A couple kids go out to inclusion classes and we have peer buddies who come in for activities as well.

So that's it, kind of. My curriculum plan is a dynamic, constantly developing process. My advice for others trying to figure out how to plan their year is to keep it simple. Start with your state assessment requirements and add in IEP goals. Then look at what kinds of activities you can do to meet those needs. And it's often fun to develop yearly class traditions (pumpkin patch trip, Christmas shopping extravaganza, Mother's Day brunch, etc.). A unifying factor like Unique, News 2 You, Weekly Reader, etc. can also be very helpful in guiding content learning. Have fun planning your year!

1 comment:

  1. I would be interested in hearing more about what you consider "leisure skills" and "academic rotations." This is my first year teaching in middle school, and there are more choices for when my students can leave the classroom to go to a regular education class, and I'm a little overwhelmed. I know that I need to have some time for the staff to take lunch, and I'm thinking that I might have to have a "leisure skills" time. But other than listening to a story or book on tape, or possibly putting on a video, I'm not sure what else I could offer...I need a little help getting my brainstorming going.

    Thank you so much for sharing your schedule - I think my day is going to be shaping up to be very similar. It really helps me to have something similar to give me ideas.

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