If the world were really going to end this year, you'd never know it by the work ethic around here. We're off to a great start, having made some procedural changes to enhance what we do. And next month kids sign up for classes for next year, already!
During the break, the CDAT teachers got together and discussed what was working, what wasn't. One major point was that our 9th graders needed a bit more structure, and everyone (kids and teachers) would benefit from a schedule that would assist the core subjects as well as the projects. A schedule too loose creates situations where students might be spontaneously pulled into a lesson when they were planning on project work. Or one teacher might need the students at the same time as another. But the core principles of student efficiency were good: prioritize the core subjects, use pre-assessment to gauge what students really needed, and offer additional remediation for the kids in place of some elective or project time.
So, we took a look at what SLA is doing, and made our own version: a 5-week block, where we will have somewhat traditional instruction for 3 weeks, then 2 weeks of dedicated project work. Students are encouraged to brainstorm, even required to write summaries of projects in the first 3 weeks, but the focus is on the core academics. So far it's worked in many ways: kids and teachers like the known schedule, and there seems to be a positive excitement/anticipation in waiting for the project time. The wait is also a motivator for those who need remediation, they don't want to miss out!
We're also trying to do a few other things: line up a meaningful field trip (or two), invite guests to see what the students are doing, and who knows what else. The main goal: dominate the Final Exams, show folks that if kids can be creative in their learning, they can exceed expectations.
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