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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Big CHANGE and Workshop Wednesday!!

I am linking up with my friend, the fabulous Jivey, for her Workshop Wednesday linky.  The topic for August and September is getting workshop started in the classroom.  There are link ups for reading, writing, and math workshop ideas open for both months!
So, before I start my post about getting workshops started in the classroom, I have to share my big change since that affects the workshops happening in my room this year!  
My team met with our administration recently and...
We are taking the leap and implementing the big "D" word!!  (departmentalization)  

The summer training for the Common Core and NYS modules have gotten the best of us and my 4th grade team (three of us) realized we are not superheroes (sadly!).  
I know there are many positives and negatives to departmentalization, but we decided that the positives outweighed the negatives at this point considering the changes in education and our own district.  I'm not saying that departmentalization is for everyone and is the best way to go.  It is just the best for us at this time with my team, the state we teach in, and our district.  The idea isn't so scary to me since I taught 6th grade for eight years on a departmentalized team, but I can see how it freaks teachers out that have always had their same students all day and may have been doing this for many years!  This applies to my two other team members who have always been self contained and have a combined 50+ teaching years between them!  Change is hard!  I shared this post by Christina Bainbridge (3rd Grade ELA) with my team and it really had all of us thinking.  You should check it out if you are considering departmentalizing in the future.

Seriously, if you teach in NY (one of only two states that had tests aligned with the Common Core last school year), you know what I am talking about with the modules.  The demands being placed on teachers nationwide are overwhelming.  In our district especially, it is going to be so tough next year with no math text or other materials than the module (unless you were to branch out on your own and we have been "encouraged" to use only the module).  Module one for math is the first 25 days of school and has 256 pages which includes each lesson, guided practice, exit slips, and homework. Did I mention that there are no answer keys for the homework in the module?  Teachers make their own.   

I really do see the value in many of the ways the module presents the material but it is going to be so difficult the first year since the students don't have the background knowledge of using the module in previous years.  Only Module 1 and module 2 have been released (this covers 32 days of school and we are still waiting for the others to be released).  
 Take a look at Lesson 2 (the second day of school) for 4th grade.  

Here is a practice page where students are learning how to multiply and divide by powers of ten.  This is completed in class and the homework mirrors it but has no answer key.  
I find this confusing because it is so different than what I am used to.  The idea is to teach everything so that students understand its "meaning" which I am all for.  No, I didn't tell students in the past when we were learning to multiply by 10's to just "add zeroes".  We investigated multiplying using the algorithm and then looked for the "short cut" and when learning the algorithm for multiplying we used the distributive property to investigate why we add the rows together before reaching the product.  Sometimes  I wonder how much "meaning" a 9-10 year old can really understand with the difficult concepts they are required to learn.  I read somewhere once that their brain is not developed enough to understand fractions at this age.  I don't know if that is true, but I do know that most adults even have a difficult time explaining a fraction concept.

Each lesson in the module is scripted and presented in a way that the teacher MUST read through all pages to get it straight.  There are about 10 pages in each lesson alone.  Here is an example of a scripted dialogue with the class for part of Lesson 2:

I know teachers can stray from the script because we used Saxon for years and I never used the script.  I hate to read from anything when I teach math because I think it takes away from the lesson and my enthusiasm.  Did I mention I LOVE math? (I took Calculus in HS by choice!).  Anyway, even though I consider myself a lover of math, this material is presented so differently that I feel like I would be so unprepared each day having to prepare this in addition to all the other subjects!  

So, am I teaching math you might be wondering?  Nope!  The other two teachers on my team didn't want to tackle ELA alone, so I volunteered to teach the ELA.   One teacher is teaching math and the other is teaching SS/Science.  We will have three 80 minute blocks a day.  Since ELA will only have 80 minutes (with no separate reading time or writer's workshop like some schools have), the SS/Science teacher is going to tackle the ELA modules during SS/Science time!  That way I can focus on writer's workshop, mentor texts (using Jivey's Mentor Sentences), and Daily 5 work.  

The topics for the NYS ELA modules are:
Module 1: Native Americans in NY
Module 2A:  Interdependent Roles in Colonial Times
Module 2B:  The Hardship of Colonial Times and How Electricity Changed Lives
Module 3A:  Simple Machines
Module 3B:  Roles During the Revolutionary War
Module 4:  The Leadership of Frederick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, and DeWitt Clinton
*in modules 2 and 3, teachers choose either A or B

Whew!  Now, I can move on to a little bit about how I have been organizing materials for teaching ELA next year.  I am going to focus on mostly reading supplies and save specific writer's workshop set up for another time.
I had 25 book boxes last year (see picture from last year below) and this year I will be making room for about 50 boxes on this bookcase.  I bought these sturdy cardboard boxes to save money last year ($19 for six of them now but they were slightly less last year) and they will hold up for one more year at least!  My teammate said she has extra of these boxes but they are like a brown office supply color.  I need to figure out someway to brighten them up.  Maybe I will just add a fun label on the front and secure it with heave duty shipping tape.  
School doesn't begin until after Labor Day for me, but I have been busy reorganizing my classroom library.  I had books organized like this last year:
This year, I am taking the plunge to bins this year!  
My library is not finished yet but I am super excited for this change.  
I bought a couple more "book nooks" this past weekend that I just know students will love!  
I am planning to create a chart similar to the one Jivey made this year for rotating the book nooks.

I will be sharing more as I start setting up my classroom but I think this post is so long already! Lol.
I am also pleased that I can still use my math center materials (many of which I laminated last year) because for two 40 minute blocks a week I will be working with small groups of students from my homeroom on AIS (academic intervention services) for math and ELA.  I will post our schedule for departmentalizing sometime in case you are curious how we are fitting everything in. 

Check back tomorrow afternoon for a post about a "special event" coming soon!! :)


  1. Whew!! Girl! Your post wore me out! :-P Good luck this year- I know y'all will rock it, but I also know how scary the idea is...... thanks for linking up such great reading workshop ideas, and thanks for the jivey-filled post, too! hee hee! :)
    ideas by jivey
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  2. Wow! Lots of changes going on for you! I look forward to reading about your adventures this year. I would have volunteered for ELA too. I love teaching math, but I love teaching reading/writing more.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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  3. That is a big change, but an exciting one too! I am definitely going to check out the math modules you talked about...I need as much help with Common Core as possible!

  4. You will love fourth grade ELA. Our school switched to departmentalization last year for grades 3-6. Some loved it, some hated it. Mostly everyone was thankful to teach less. I too had 80 minutes only to teach. It was tight but you should do great, especially if the other is teaching the modules! I am happy to not worry about that this year, since I'm teaching 2nd! Good luck, and if you have any questions, feel free to let me know!! :)
    ~Jessica, your WNY blogger :)
    Fabulous and Fun 4th Graders

  5. WOW! I am exhausted just reading your post. So many big changes in store for you. It sounds like you are taking a positive attitude though and they will be good changes! I am so happy you will get to focus on just ELA :) Sad you are losing math, though! I teach ELA and SS to 2 different classes. It is SO tough squeezing in SS with all their is to cover in ELA. I do A LOT of integration with lessons. Good luck this year, I know you will do great with this change :)


  6. Wow! I can't imagine departmentalizing in 4th - sure you will do great! I did it in 6th - I was the science girl, but even then we did our own ELA. We just switched for math, science, and social studies.

  7. We are trying something similar out this year, except being in dual language means two literacy blocks. Our 80 minute "blocks" are: Spanish Literacy English literacy, science integrated with ELA (aka CCSS writing and language), and I'm guessing since our district requirement for math is only 60 min that is what we would have if there were more than two us. So, I guess in our specific situation we will be trying to get in four 80 min block. I will (co)plan math and English literacy and she will (co)plan Spanish literacy and science ELA. We will try to implement SS into our literacy blocks.


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  9. Wow! Such a big switch! I am departmentalized (I teach math/science and my team teacher teaches language arts/social studies), and I love it! Being self contained and teaching four subjects seems overwhelming to me - but I have never done it, either! I'll be checking in to see how it's going. Good luck!

    For the Love of Fourth Grade

  10. Your post got me thinking about which subject I would volunteer for if we went this route...and I had the hardest time picking...but in the end I think I would have gone with ELA like you! 80 minutes to squeeze in everything is a bit tricky, and I would worry that I'd burn out on reading conferences though!

    Best of luck this year with your change! With my change to a 3rd/4th multi-age AND tackling the common core for both grade levels in all subjects I think I'm going to be jealous of you pretty soon!

    Sweet Rhyme – Pure Reason
    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

  11. Wow!!! That is a a lot! I can't believe you have to change so close to school starting! I am also jealous that your test is aligned to CCSS, our is supposed to be next year. And we are still accountable for their scores on the current UNALIGNED test. Scary!! And they way you described your day, sounds confusing. Good Luck! You can do it.

    Ms. Chae Charges In

  12. Holly,
    It is definitely going to be new and different for you this year. I hate the modules that got put out for our state. First of all, we only have module 1. In math, they want us to jump immediately into ratios and proportions with no work on decimals or fractions first. We were only given module 1 for ELA. 8 weeks of reading THe Lightning Theif... umm no. That module would maybe be great later in the year, when we have to study Ancient Greece and not for 8 weeks.
    I'll be thinking of you!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  13. Wow, what a change. I think there are a lot of positives in going to a departmentalized system. There does seem to be a lot of changes in your curriculum/testing and it will be great to be able to focus on one area. I do not understand the module system. The math seems very similar to the Jump Math program I went to a workshop for. I am not sure I would like teaching from a script either. I guess it is great that you spent some of your summer painting bookshelves and making book bin labels :) I look forward to hearing more about how your year as you work through this change.

  14. WOW! What a post....those are some big changes!

    We (I teach in Wisconsin) have been trying to implement Common Core for the past three years. Last year was our first year all gung ho with math. When we taught division, we were not allowed to teach the algorithm. We had to use place value models. My students were so confused and the parents thought we were all wacko. (One even told me this!) I agree with you that 9 & 10 year old brains may not be ready for all of this. Hmmm....

    I'm excited to hear that you will be teaching ELA! My team is talking about deparmentalizing so I'm definitely going to check out that post you recommended.

    Have a great night!

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings