Monday, March 15, 2010

Year 9 Thinking and Reading

I always seem to plan for the next school year in March, but I am doing something different this year. I am trying to preread Kieron's course books for next year. So instead of making pretty charts of page numbers that I end up not really using, I'm going to try to actually write notes on the material.... lesson plans... it is something I've never really done before. The page numbers went on the charts and the lesson plans stayed in my head or rather got made up on the wing during the school year.

One of the things I really liked about K12 were the lesson plans. Interestingly enough, they made Ignatian education feel a little more real to me. Every lesson had a "prelection" -- OK, some of them were contrived, possibly a bit twaddly. Kieron would sometimes roll his eyes and groan, like when the Algebra course introduced a character called "Gali" who was something like Harold Jacob's Obtuse Ollie but not quite so obtuse. "Gali" would demonstrate common thinking errors of middle school algebra students. Whatever. We actually got to sort of enjoy the more nerdy parts of the lessons. I guess it makes you feel like a true middle schooler.

Yet, still -- eye-rolling aside -- this was the very first time we'd ever followed actual lesson plans. Most of the syllabi we've ever used have been the kind that said, "turn to page 23 and read chapter 3; draw a map; discuss questions 1-5 with your teacher." K12 has this kind of assignment too, but AFTER some sort of introduction. For literary analysis, the introduction is often a short bio of a literary figure before reading his or her work. For science or history, the introduction might present a question or a contextual scene-setting. I liked that.

Another feature which is similar to Ignatian education is that there is conscious teaching of method. When asked to do a new type of writing, the student is led through a sort of mini-course on that kind of writing and how it differs from other kinds. It's like a practicum or coaching session. Similarly, there is a study skills course at tshe beginning of the year and several study-skills helps during the process of the courses. And there is review and reinforcement of past lessons during the present one, and an assesment after each lesson -- using a variety of formats, sometimes games, sometimes writing, sometimes multiple choices quizzes.

Now that I have to do this on my own again, I am going to try hard to do some of this kind of steering. One thing that's going to be important is that I respect the books he is using enough so I don't mind studying them myself ahead of time and in relative depth. That is another thing I like about K12 -- the course books were generally respectable ones. I'll have to know the books we work with well enough to be able to introduce chapters and also figure out ways to work with the material and assess learning. SO they'll have to be books that won't bore me half to death. That's one advantage of working with a high schooler -- they can actually read books that are thought-provoking. I have been immersed in Our Goal and Our Guide and Founding of Christendom.

I'll also have to grow up enough so that if he rolls his eyes at one of My Lesson Plans I won't cringe and feel hurt inside and second-guess. That's where this year may have been helpful because I've become sort of iron-skinned. I don't really care if they don't always love what they have to do, and it's sort of a relief. I think I must be getting old.

A final thing I like about K12 that I want to try to approximate is the online dashboard. I don't have the technology to do it the way they do, with graphics and videos and nice screens. But I'm thinking of setting up a group of blogs. I'll have a main blog that will be his "dashboard", with daily assignments linked, and then other blogs for different subjects.... that will be the plans that are linked to. It's sort of taking shape in my mind but I'm not sure yet if I'll actually be able to DO it. I hope so, because it would take some of the scrambling out of it. We both work better when the materials are right at our fingertips like that.