This week our first task for Special Methods in Language Arts was refining a vision and values statement to reflect what we want for our future classrooms. That sounds difficult but we brainstormed a substantial list of great ideas the first night of class and it wasn’t too hard to meld that list into my own. I finished that statement right after class last week. It is the second part to our homework that is giving me fits and I don’t think I am the only one. We need to create 6-12 units to teach that reflect our vision. I’ve been thinking about this for six days now. I drove one hundred miles on Sunday night, again on Monday afternoon and once more this morning thinking about these damn units. I decided this is why teachers follow the textbook cover-to-cover and handout the worksheet packets that are provided with it. This is hard stuff.
I honestly didn’t think it would be. We get to plan the classroom of our dreams! I thought if I eliminated worksheets, moved grammar rules to mini-lessons, got rid of the whole class novel and intensive standardized test prep all I would be left with is good stuff. I know what is important to me. I know what I want my students to learn. I know what I want to happen in my classroom every day. I know that all the plans will likely change when I meet my students and get to know them.
Finally I decided on seven units. I moved two of them down to the list of themes that can be woven throughout all the units, over the entire year. I added two more ideas onto one of the remaining five units. I wondered if those three things should be three separate units. Can I stretch those ideas enough to stand on their own? Do I even know what those three things actually are? I combined autobiography and personal narrative into the beginning unit and then wondered if those should be separate things. I want my students to know that their voice matters and to believe that they can change the world.
I thought about where Beowulf fit, if I wanted to use it. Poetry, or the graphic novels section of the fiction unit if I use the Gareth Hinds version? I definitely don’t want to spend enough time to read the entire translated poem, probably. Can I even have sections of a fiction unit? Does Goblin Market fit into the fantasy section of the fiction unit or poetry? If I read a poem aloud each day do I need a dedicated poetry unit? I thought about making a section for British Literature or dividing the units into time periods, but decided early in the process that I would work those things into the units throughout the year, along with diversity, social justice and literary appreciation. I want my students to know they can tackle texts written hundreds of years ago that appear indecipherable at first, as well as know it is perfectly okay to read The Hunger Games and enjoy it. Last year I came across the idea of teaching an expanding circle of geography and was intrigued by the idea. You begin by reading stories written about the immediate area and slowly broaden the location to include the state, nation and entire world. I wondered if I could work my curriculum around that concept and what those units would be. I revisited my original units and tried to decide if I needed fiction and nonfiction units if I was requiring students to read books they chose all year long. I worried about what a disservice it would be to my students if my choices are wrong.
I gave up and read my history assignment, hoping someone else would have the answers in class tomorrow.