I ended my last science unit today and will end my poetry unit on Tuesday. For some reason I thought about the school year ending more this week than I have ever thought about it before in my teaching career. It feels significant. This year has been one of the most challenging in my career so far for many reasons. It is safe to say that I travelled all the way out of my comfort zone this year, moving from Texas to China and from teaching business to college students to teaching Intensive English, Science and Cultural Studies to 2nd graders. I took a serious leap of faith and it has paid off in spades.
I am most accustomed to teaching high school special education and older people in general so the thought of teaching little kids terrified me early in the year. I tend to begin each year with an idea of the kind of growth I’d like to see in my students and then throughout the year I adjust my approach for each student or group of students to best fit their learning style and strengths. This year I went in completely uninformed about the background and ability of the students I would teach and unware of how the cultural differences and language limitations would color their perception of me and my approach to teaching.
The Pictures that inspired my Landforms Project.
The first science unit of the year was landforms. I saw a picture of students making 3D models of countries on http://kidworldcitizen.org/. They looked so cool, we just had to do that. We started the unit by discussing and discovering “What is a landform?” I introduced a couple of different landforms each day using pictures and video. After students became familiar with each of the landforms they did a landform flip book were they drew each landform and wrote its definition. Once they were comfortable with the information I introduced the Landform Project. The project required students to work in groups were each group of students would plan and create their own country that fit specified criteria. The criteria included a minimum of three landforms, map key, country name, climate and location in the world.
We started by making the dough. Of course I hadn’t made playdoh since I was in elementary school myself so I looked up a recipe for salt dough and we made it happen.
After the dough firmed up the students went about using their planning sheet to draw and mold their fictional country. It was such a joy to watch them. I was amazed by their creativity and their excitement to learn. I would see them in the hall and they would tell me they were so excited for cultural studies. This made me feel really good. I was having fun and so were they, and the best part is, they were learning at the same time.
Students mold the dough into the outline of their country.
Time to paint!
The landform unit and project took about five weeks to complete. When the groups finished their country they presented it to their classmates and answered questions to demonstrate mastery of the information. At this point in the year, their presentations were a little awkward. They were not used to speaking in front of the class. I am happy to say they got better at it as the year progressed.
Students put the finishing touches on their countries.
I hope you will come back and see how some of my other units were delivered and received this school year. Please like, share, comment and follow me at International Super Teacher.