Thursday, February 3, 2011

Would This Work?

I had a really fun conversation with my principal and a couple of fellow teachers on Twitter last week. It was about an idea that my principal (@phsprincipal for you Twitterers or for those who like his blog) and I have talked about before, but this time it felt more realistic, like we could actually give it a try. Anyway, we decided to throw the idea out to a larger audience to get more feedback and maybe even more ideas as we look further into trying to implement this on a small scale to see how effective (or ineffective) it is. Here is the basic idea:

1. Form a teacher team of four or five teachers- Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Sciences, and Special Education if we can swing it.

2. Assign that team a group of 50-75 students. Students would be enrolled onto teams based on interests or maybe desired educational outcomes.

3. The team would operate almost entirely outside of the traditional school schedule. The idea of bell schedules and set patterns for moving from one room to another would be out the window. The team would spend the majority of the day working together as a whole. There would be times when the teachers could pull smaller groups of students aside to provide specialized instruction within their content area, but for the most part, learning would be viewed as a collaborative process that does not recognize the boundaries between subjects. They would tackle projects or explore all aspects of a given topic. For example, instead of kids learning about ancient Greece from a purely historic perspective in history class, the team could spend a large unit exploring the history of the time period while also reading the literature and exploring the mathematic and scientific discoveries of the period. The whole unit would be geared towards some final project/product, maybe a student-created documentary about ancient Greece.

4. There would be time built into the schedule to allow students to leave the team and participate in courses still maintained within the traditional school structure. This would be used to allow students to take classes that wouldn't be available within the team (foreign languages, drivers ed., etc.). The team would also coordinate with vocational and fine arts teachers to incorporate those areas as much as possible.

5. With the emphasis on Common Core Standards, the team would obviously make sure that they are meeting learning standards in the core subjects over the course of the year, and on paper at least, students would be enrolled in separate classes, but in reality, they would be taking all of the classes simultaneously.

This is our basic idea right now. I hope I didn't leave out any key details. Let us know what you think.