I spent the day today in a project based learning workshop offered by the Buck Institute for Education. Being home for a few days, there are so many things I want to accomplish. I thought I'd have a hard time focusing. Surprisingly, but not without great effort, I was able to stay present. I was almost always focused on the conversation in the room.
The presenter did a very good job of leading us through the process of designing a project that will enable students to gain mastery of content and skills in a way that will make learning meaningful and long lasting.
There were a few teachers present from the fourth grade as well as a special educator. We decided to focus on our Social Studies standards as they are brand new. Our initial thought was to design a project that would enable our students to meet the standards connected to the study of the United States regions. There are 39 comprehensive standards included in the Social Studies curriculum framework. Standards 16 through 39 focus on the five regions of the U.S. We became quickly overwhelmed with designing a project that would effectively address so many standards. Instead, we focused in on the standards having to do with natural disasters in the U.S. regions. There are fourth-grade science standard that are also focused on natural disasters including standards that address weathering and erosion. While our project will be rich in the standards, will engage our fourth-graders, and will provide for some DEEP learning I am concerned because I don't see how we can "cover" the rest of the regions standards given the time we have to teach.
Actually, meeting the standards in any of our disciplines seems like a very daunting task. We have all heard that the Common Core state standards call us to go deeper with our students, focusing on fewer standards, I seriously doubt any of the authors have spent serious amounts of time as a fourth-grade general education teacher responsible for meeting ALL these standards in 180 days.
I'm going to go ahead and attach the fourth-grade social studies standards here. Check them out. What are your thoughts on the matter? Is it doable? Keep in mind, our students are nine and ten years old! Then, if you're still feeling brave, click to open the science, mathematics, and English Language Arts standards too. I am trying not to become too overwhelmed. Really. I am.
MA History and Social Studies Curriculum Framework - fourth-grade only
MA Science/Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework - fourth-grade only
MA English Language Arts Curriculum Framework - fourth-grade only
MA Mathematics Curriculum Framework - fourth-grade only
Given the mere number of standards and the depth of each standard, how is it possible to go deep with our students? Even a traditional teacher, who delivers instruction using whole-class methods,, committed to "covering" the standards, would be hard pressed to get the job done.
Project based learning, where interdisciplinary projects can address multiple content areas and standards at once, is our best bet in going deep and addressing many standards. I do not see how all standards can be met. I can't help but wonder if there are authors of these standards or teachers out there who think it is possible. If so, please challenge my thinking. I want to believe it is possible too! (But only if it means powerful, memorable, deep learning for my students.)