Friday, December 28, 2007

Time investments that pay off

When my husband walked in from work yesterday afternoon, he said, "Are you working on your time off?" Well, yeah. I've got to. I have lesson plans due Wednesday for the rest of the week, plus I want to get the following week's plans completed and ready to turn in.

Once the lesson plans are done, then I've got to get the lessons ready. Right?

I cannot "wing" things very well. At least I don't like to wing-it. I'm not the spontaneous sort. Planning is my thing. In fact, I sometimes think I'm a better planner than implementer.

Nevertheless, yes, I am working on my time off. During the day though, I have been able to write these Seasonal Soundings' posts that have not been a priority during school time. Then I work during the day on sixth grade history, vegetate in front of an entire disc of 24, then fall into bed to read for as long as my eyes stay open. I'm getting the best of both worlds! Besides, I have a head cold (how did I stay germ-free with my sick school children and while I'm off, get sick?) and really do not feel like tackling some housekeeping that really needs to get done. Maybe tomorrow. Today, though, I'm going to have lunch with a special friend and catch up on things with her.

Now about history. That's what I wanted to think through my fingers with today. My school uses Abeka New World History and Geography for the sixth grade. They've used it for years, but I've been told I can change it for next year if I wish. I think I wish.

When I started homeschooling back in the 1980's, Abeka had impressive history textbooks. They were packed with good stuff that caused the student to stretch his mind to reach. Back then it was said that Abeka's books were at least a grade beyond what they were listed. I still have those old texts. Back then, Abeka did not republish the texts often at all. But now, it seems that every few years they do. I've got all those editions too.

When I compare specific sections, I am dismayed by Abeka's editing. In my opinion, they have dumb-downed their previously comprehensive material. They've pureed meat. They've taken a substantial meal and turned it into fast food. Even the end of section questions are minimized and simplified.

To give my students a more substantial lesson, I have been augmenting the current text with my own material. But this takes time. And I don't have lots of extra time. My time often is devoted solely to school. Even when I'm home. I don't see any other way of doing it. Unless I detach myself from the task of education. But I can. not. do. it.

So, to eek more out of the lesson, yet not spend more time and effort with additional materials, I take Abeka's material and squeeze every last bit out of it that I can. I am a believer in the merits of Bloom's taxonomy (also, see here). So, what I do is have the students read aloud the text material. I usually have them read a paragraph round-robin. This does several things: it causes them to use read-aloud skills, it allows me to ascertain what they need help with, and it allows them to develop some often much-needed confidence of speaking in front of others. Most of all, this read-aloud allows material they need to know to go in the eye-gate, the ear-gate, and out of the mouth-gate. Kinesthetic learning to a degree.

When we have finished reading the section aloud (everyone does not have a chance to read everyday, so the next day I start with the students who did not read the day before), I pass out what I've termed "Reading Guides." These are typed material directly out of the book with key material left out. Simply, a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. I believe this taps into Bloom's basic cognitive level of knowledge. It allows the students to recall, duplicate, and arrange facts, basic knowledge. Reading is not enough. They need to add the kinesthetic process of writing, but writing in bits. After we finish a major section, I compose a crossword puzzle based on those Reading Guides. I think this steps up the cognitive process to understanding a bit.

Because I choose to use this method of teaching at times, it requires a LOT of time and effort to prepare. Having used this method and comparing it to simply assigning a section of reading and answering the few questions in the book, I know that the kids learn a lot more when I do this. And any way that I find to increase their knowledge and understanding, I will try.

So, on to typing those Reading Guides.


LaurieLH said...

Good for you -- teaching takes so much of our time, our selves, and your students are certainly rewarded by your willingness to give!

Queen Bee said...

What site do you use to compose your crossword puzzles?