As I
mentioned during last month’s post, I am dedicating my final blog submissions
as IPS Teacher of the Year to reflect on the many examples of teaching
excellence at my school (Center for Inquiry School 2).


Last month,
I talked about teaching and learning in the primary grades. This month, I’m
focusing on the range of topics and instructional techniques our teachers are
utilizing in our fourth through middle school classrooms.


Beth Hennig: Fourth Grade

In our fourth-grade
classrooms, my teaching colleague, Beth Hennig, and I are focusing on the
concept of conservation. During this unit, we are looking at how society is
using our natural resources and the impact humans are having on Earth. To get
students thinking about conservation and what it means to conserve, we
discussed our thoughts and then asked students to create a new emoji that
symbolizes their understanding of conservation. They drew their emojis and
wrote about the symbols they created. Two of the lessons during the first week
were literature-based. We chose five articles from the DOGO news website, which
dealt with food waste and food production. The students were put into five
groups to read and talk about the most important parts of the article. Each
student then met with someone from the other four groups. Students then tracked
their food waste from lunch for the week and discussed their findings. We also
read the book “One Well” and put students with partners to become experts on a
section of the book. They took the most important information from their
section of the book and created a poster with facts and illustrations. Students
participated in a “museum walk” to view and learn from the other students’
posters. A summative project for this unit will be for students to create an
iMovie about an area of conservation they are most passionate. They will
identify a problem and propose possible solutions in their movies. 


Erin Ream: Fifth Grade

Erin Ream
explained how her students are studying the concept of revolution. They watched
a documentary on the revolution in Libya to begin the unit. Next, they are
working on doing a close read document study of the Declaration of Independence
and the United States Constitution. Miss Ream read a picture book version of
the Preamble to her students. They are then going to create their own picture
book of the Preamble to help explain what it means to them.  Also, as part of this unit, they are choosing
a historic figure from the United States Revolutionary War to research. They
will create a monologue for their character as the students take part in
creating a wax museum. The book the class is reading for this unit is “Chains” by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s told from
the perspective of a 13 year-old slave named Isabel. Students are using the
book to discuss different perspectives on the American Revolutionary War.


Micah Nelson: Middle School

In our middle school social studies classes,
Micah Nelson is focusing on teaching informational writing in her content area.
She takes advantage of the fact that many adolescents like to argue and turns
the prompt into a persuasive one. She starts small and picks one area to focus
on at a time — organization, developing a thesis, using evidence from the text,
etc. — and builds from there. She has been using a mentor text and finds or
creates a sample essay to study as a whole class, referring students back to
the text when they have questions about format or organization.  Currently, her sixth-graders are writing
persuasive essays about the Mayan’s accomplishments. She asked them: “What was
the Mayan’s most remarkable achievement?” 
They are using Document-based Question (DBQ) materials. The idea with
DBQ’s is for students to analyze primary and secondary source documents to
build an understanding of an event, time period or civilization. Once students
analyze the documents, they respond to some sort of question like the one above.
Other examples of questions she has used are: 
Was China’s One-Child policy a good idea?  Who had a better system of government, the
Greeks or Romans?