One discussion that came up at our Kick-Off meeting was the degree to which a unit must cover the entire grade band that your team is working on.
For example, if you’re building a unit for Social Studies, Grades 6-8, does the unit have to be workable for all grades in the band, or could you just make a unit on Minnesota Studies, for example, just for Grade 6 students?
There isn’t a hard rule for this yet, so I thought I’d post this out there for any ideas and thoughts you might have.
My first reaction was that it would be ideal if a unit could cover all grades in a band, but I’d rather have an excellent unit focused on one grade in the band than a watered down unit that covers all three.
I’m not sure this answers your question, Mike. But here are some related thoughts:
Social Studies and Science, in particular, is where teachers with students in multiple grades really have to juggle content and decide what to teach and when. Because the MN standards for those subjects, especially social studies, are so delineated by grade level, it’s can be tough to blend them. I’ll have to check and see if this is still in place, but some years ago middle school teachers at NEC all agreed that we would do a 3 year-cycle. Year 1 MN Studies, Year 2 US Studies, Year 3 Global Studies, and then cycle back. This isn’t perfect if you have a student who just comes to NEC for 8th grade and we’re in year 1 of the cycle, but for many students who will spend the majority of their time in middle school there, it would work, in theory.
I know in some special education and alternative programs, they create more general courses like “Math Skills” or “Science Applications” and they try to find the common threads or power standards or whatever, in essence blend the grade level standards together. I’ll be listening for more discussion on this. In NECA it’s been a struggle to manage the scope and sequence of standards. Inevitably you end up with a science class where most of the kids need Biology, for example, but 3 or 4 of them need Chemistry but their schedule doesn’t allow them to be in Chemistry the hour it’s taught. So teachers are finding ways to cope with having to teach multiple sections in the same classroom.
For me, the solution to this is a more student-centered, project-based, flexible learning schedule, where students have some collective objectives but that they are doing projects around the specific content standards they need.
I think for a lot of 287 teachers, those multi-grade units are or would be most useful. In fact, do any teachers in 287 have sections where they see just one grade level of students at a time? If there are that would very much be the exception to the rule, I think.