It’s a new semester, for all of us.
After completing my first (non-student intern) semester as a teacher, and have had a few days to decompress I have began to get geared up for the second semester.
One of the first things I have decided is that my class curriculum needs a complete redesign. I am in the initial stages of brainstorming, but as I have come to love, publishing my thoughts has allowed me to discuss, revise, alter and modify my potential solutions with colleagues from all over the world. Simply put, I love the internet.
Background on my curriculum:
I teach six periods of World History for 9th graders and a high school in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. I have so far focused my course on the events of World History through a chronological viewpoint. My only skills map is related to reading standards, so my World History content, and my pursuit of those standards is essentially up to me. I have tried to analyze the main problems I encountered this year, and my potential changes for the second semester.
Summative assessment – At the end of the semester, I my student’s completed a short five paragraph essay comparing Sparta v Athens, a small project that allowed them to further research a civilization we had studied and then finally a very short test covering the main aspects from our semester Combined, I had probably 70% completion from my student’s and roughly about 30% of these were high quality assignments. This tells me that there is a HUGE disconnect between my student’s intrinsic motivation and my class work.
Content Confusion – I knew from last year that my student’s would struggle with the chronology of assignments, but this year it became detrimental as most of my student’s began to confuse major civilization’s and cultures as occurring at the same time or same place.
Routine – I attempted early on to create a weekly assignment that would challenge my student’s to read outside of class and practice their reading skills. This was an utter disaster, as most student’s did not complete the assignment, and even those who did were not completing the assignment to the extent I was expecting.
Apathy – The final straw for me was when I began noticing student’s with very high interest levels in history had become apathetic in my class. These same student’s would ask to come have lunch with me so they could discuss history, but their work and participation were declining in my actual class.
Thematically – My first and by far largest change will be in the complete shift of my classes focus. I will focus on several large themes during the second semester, and cover those individually. Political Systems, Religion, Conflict, Imperialism and Inventions/Technologies will be my main focuses, and I will cover them chronologically, but independently.
I believe this will allow me to address student confusion, as they seem to grasp topics large than timelines. Also, this is simply a more useful method for their growth. No job interview will ever ask them to create a timeline of the Greek civilization, but they will be required to understand why political systems are unique and what causes them to create conflict. I feel that this is finally “useful” knowledge for my guys.
I believe that this will have a domino effect, and create more agency with my students as they will find it easier to connect to and also more enjoyable. Continuing with that, if they are enjoying the content and making better connections, they will also be creating higher quality assignments and their motivation in the class will shift to intrinsic.
Routine – After the debacle of out-of-class reading assignments, I have taken amazing advice from my ridiculously talented co-workers and I will be dedicating Wednesdays to exclusive reading comprehension practice. This allows my students to understand what is expected of them, and also I don’t feel as if I need to cram extra practice in where it fits.
As always, this is a project in the making. I will tweaking, tinkering and modifying this all year, but I felt a change was needed. I will try to write about my experiences soon.
Hope everyone has a happy holiday and a very GREAT New Year.