Monday, July 9, 2012

Repeat anew (redoing the Bee Unit)

It's been a whole week that I've been on vacation, but the musings will continue to come. I've been trying to take it a bit easy this week and the three main things I've been up to have been sleeping, eating out (a particular vice of mine), and reading (the Patricia Briggs "Mercy Thompson" series). I did go in to school to clean up a bit before the caretaking staff come to do their big scrub and I found some drawings from a recent unit that I co-taught with a very talented kindergarten teacher who has transfered schools to be closer to home. I'll be sad not to partner with her, especially because this teacher and I worked so well together.

Open flexible partner time gets booked up pretty quickly and we were only able to slot some time to work together this year in June - yes, June, the hectic winding-down but still going full-throttle month filled with graduation rehearsals and more. We decided in our all-too-brief planning sessions that we'd re-do our collaborative Bee Unit. We co-planned and co-taught this set of four-plus lessons before with a great deal of success. It was an integrated unit encompassing Language, Science, and Media Literacy. (I promise you that it wasn't a "garbage-in/garbage-out" set of teacher-focused tasks that pretends to be "research".) The end-product was a movie the kindergarten students had created using Pivot Stick Animation - each group shared a fact on either a section of the bee's life cycle or an interesting fact about bees that they deemed important and each subgroup made a cartoon that was strung together to make a psedo-documentary. The movies were burned to DVD and are some of my most treasured examples of student work.

Mrs. K and I realized pretty early on that what had worked for the students in her class a couple of years ago was not going to fly with this current particular group of kids. There was no chance at all that we'd get to the stage where we were making movies. Even though we were supposedly "repeating" a unit we had both already taught, it was a brand new experience, shaped by the kids. In fact, it was one of the junior kindergarten students that formulated our new final task. Old resources were traded for new resources and a particular book caught this one boy's fancy enough that during free time, he chose to draw it. When HK told me about her observations, it clicked for both of us that we should change gears and incorporate it into the other lessons. In the end, children drew three bee pictures: a non-fiction representation, a fictional version that promoted a "good bee" message, and/or a fictional version that promoted a "bad bee" message. This altered task garnered more success than the original end project for this class of kids.

I guess this is why I'm not morally opposed to reteaching a lesson or unit - with the caveat that something change from the last time, be it an improved marking scheme, an added lesson to improve comprehension, a new strategy incorporated into the tried and true flow. I probably won't get to teach this version of the Bee Unit again (I'll make it available on if it's not there already) but I wanted to say thanks to Mrs. K - an amazing teacher, flexible, and kind. We'll miss you, but enjoy the shortened travel time!

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