Wednesday, January 26, 2011


So I had this idea that since we had to do Science for our observation this year, that we should show the principal a complete 5-e cycle. Okay, so it wasn't my original idea! A group of teachers in another grade level did it last year, but I thought it was such an interesting idea that I really wanted to find a way to get involved in something that comprehensive. So, we put an e-mail out and asked if anyone wanted to join us in this venture. Luckily three other classrooms did! So, beginning in December, the seven teachers involved starting meeting to discuss what we wanted to show, who would do what, who would write what up, etc. - no simple task with so many teachers involved. Surprisingly, things have been very collaborative!

This week the lessons were finally taught and observed. I don't think principals REALLY understand how much planning teachers put into their observations. When teachers only have one 45 minute period to showcase a year's worth of work, they can get pretty stressed out in wanting to provide a really reflective lesson that shows what they do every day but also the best of what they do. In a school like ours, where so many teachers are so exemplary, it's easy for teachers to find the entire process daunting and discouraging. However, our group really rose to the challenge and really helped each other think through the lessons and how they would flow. Doing things this way meant that we would really have to teach each other's lessons. When we found glitches along the way, we were able to discuss how to improve the lesson before the next person taught it - almost like a lesson study but in the pressure cooker!

Investigating a live lobster
Investigating a live hermit crab
Our group is working on the essential question, What do animals need to survive? The first teacher did an engage and explore with pets - the animals children are the most familiar, to help the children figure out that pets need water, air, shelter, food and space to survive. The second teacher adapted a game as an explore and explain that was actually designed for older children about deer and their resources, to show that if deer didn't have what they needed they wouldn't survive. Today we (the three of us that teach together) finished a two-day explore-explain on what ocean animals need to survive. Because 75% of the Earth is covered in water and because our children live on the shoreline we wanted them to explore the survival needs of sea life. While we could have only used videos to demonstrate the lesson, we decided to bring in live animals. So, the children were totally engaged with a live lobster, a sea star and hermit crab! Besides the live specimens we also used video and books and had the children synthesize what each sea creature needed by making posters. The final explain came as the children added the new animals to a sort on the SmartBoard. The final lesson in this series will be an extend as children take what they have learned about pets, wild animal and sea creature needs and apply it to birds. The final class will be building bird houses using the information that they know about what animals need to survive. This tinkering project (a principal challenge) will wrap up our four classroom observations. The evaluation will follow as the final set in the 5-e process.
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I have to say it might have been easier to do our observations alone, just worrying about what was happening in our single classroom (after all, there are three teachers in our classroom, all teaching at the same time!) but working with a larger group helped us clarify the lesson and goals. The discussion brought up things that we might not have considered on our own. It takes longer to meet with a group of people and hash things out, but the results are almost always better. In this case, I am very proud of the lessons that we have created and the learning that took place. The fact that it was also our observation was just icing on the cake!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I find it interesting that you compared it to a lesson study. It would be interesting for you all to get together one last time to reflect and revise the overall plan. Just think, if a group did this every year and went through this process, how strong the science units of study would be to pass along to the next group.