Tag Archives: curriculum

Classroom Size

Classroom size is consistently a number one concern for parents and teachers. No matter how many policies are put into place to reduce class sizes teachers continue to be overwhelmed by classroom size. 36 states currently have policies in place that limits the number of students in any general education classroom. In the school year of 1999 and 2000 there was $3.5 billion spent on class size reductions. 2.3 billion of this was spent by states and the remaining 1.2 billion was federal funding. Since 1999 under the Class Size Reduction Program approximately 29,000 teachers have been hired and partly due to this classroom sizes for grades 1, 2, and 3 have decreased. The classroom sizes have gone from 23 to 18.

The National Education Association states that the optimum classroom size is 15 . Most schools struggle to keep class sizes below 25 to 30 students per one teacher. The problem with this is that teachers can’t possibly be expected to hone in on every single student’s learning style when there are 30 kids in the class. It is hard enough to do this with a handful of students.
Teachers today have more demands on their time than ever. With the onset of posting grades and progress every single week online (this is a new feature in many schools) to keep parents posted and the paper work that any district requires of teachers they have very little time left to really research learning styles and put together programs that may help students with the hurdles that they encounter in their education from time to time. More schools are getting away from text books and expecting teachers to develop their own curriculum. There just simply is not enough time!
With less students in a classroom the teacher can also better deal with behavioral problems that may arise and the overall school safety is better.

Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.

Palm Beach County Florida Curriculum Changes

Last week at a Palm Beach County Florida an astounding number of parents arrived at the longest school board meeting in history. This meeting was over six hours long due to the fact that the majority of parents are concerned about recent changes that have come about in the curriculum of their children.

One major change is to have assessments that their students will have that are worked into the curriculum every two or three weeks instead of quarterly or by the semester. Another concern is that the school board wants to “compartmentalize” the elementary schools. This would mean that the students would go from one room to another just like older students in a junior high school or high school setting. These changes have already been put into effect in every school. There was no regard given to the schools scores or any other criteria or need for change.
One parent started a Facebook page entitled “Testing is Not Teaching”. The response has been overwhelming and change in the school district has started to take place as front pages of newspapers cover the story.
This bring to mind a few questions:
  1. Do parents know what will work for the children better than school administrators?
  2. Are we helping schools evolve? And if we are evolving is it in a direction aimed for success and the needs of the future?
  3. What can we do for those students that simply don’t test well but may have all the knowledge needed for practical application?
  4. Can we really say that education is “one size fits all”?
  5. Should gifted children have to do the same assessments as all other students?
The discussion that this brings about could go on endlessly because it is a nationwide concern. We are all worried about things like the No Child Left Behind Act and what it really means for our children. Some think that the schools doing the worst need the federal funding the most so what happens when we take away federal funding? What happens to our students?
Another note is that this is a great example of the power that parents do have to stand up and be heard. Parents need to play a more active role. There needs to be mutual respect among educators and parents. It would be good if they could just agree on wanting what was best for each child and to know that somewhere in their ideas there is a middle ground where the student benefits most and without fail a place where there is a peaceful environment would be better for any child rather than arguing and bickering about exams. This is not to say that the issues do not need to be addressed but we could all take a lesson from the Palm Beach County parents. From my findings, they have acted with true concern, they have been patient and they have tried to be respectful but assertive.

Saxon Math Review

Saxon math is a much studied and critiqued math curriculum. The research that has gone into this program is astounding. Saxon is based on the “instruction, practice, assessment” approach to teaching. This company was founded in 1981 and now includes the math, phonics and spelling programs. Each subject is built on the same principles of instruction, practice and assessment.

John Saxon, the founder of Saxon math, was an Algebra teacher. Saxon noticed that his students at a junior high in Oklahoma were not retaining concepts well so he started writing math problems for them. By 1979 Saxon Algebra was published in two texts. He just kept writing and molding the math concepts to different ages and in 1981 he had 20 teachers test the curriculum. This took in about 1400 students. By the end of the term the Saxon students were solving 2.6 problems for every one of the other students doing another math curriculum.
Saxon math is a well known program and most teachers, parents and students will tell you that this program gets the results that are desired. This may be because of the structure of the curriculum and the fact that it takes a general concept and then takes it apart into smaller concepts so there is a good foundation and understanding of math.
Saxon math is available for Kindergarten through the 12th grades. There are homeschool programs as well as programs for public schools and private schools.

Classroom Management

Maintaining some sense of order in a classroom can be very difficult. It is not easy to take so many students with different personalities, behaviors, and preferences and put them into a room together and make the learning environment suitable for each. Here are just a few ideas on things you may want to consider when thinking about classroom management.

Classroom arrangement – How do you set up the desks in your classroom? Is it working for the students? Until recent years we were all used to setting up desks in rows and now we set them up in circles, squares and any other way to help cooperative learning. The key with classroom arrangement is to keep students away from each other that are just bound to have problems together or who have proven in the past that there are problems.
Organization – If a teacher can flow from one subject to another like from math to English with fluidity then there is less time for the students to become unruly or disengaged. This works great for the elementary school student but for high school students teachers really have to have their time management skills honed. They must learn how to flow from one concept to the next without skipping a beat and giving a lull for the class to get out of hand. This does not mean that being prepared will make all problems disappear but it does make it easier. Having your curriculum well prepared will make a lot of difference.
Rewards and consequences – If you set the tone early in the year that the is zero tolerance for certain things such as violence, bullying of any kind, cheating, or vulgarity (just to name a few behavioral problems) then there is less likely to be a problem. You need to set clear guidelines and let the students know what behavior is expected and if that bar is not reached, what will then happen. The key here is to follow through without fail.
Supplies – It is best at any grade level to be sure that you have the school supplies necessary and on hand for whatever you will be doing in class on that day. Being prepared ahead of time will help keep the chaos low and the learning in order.
Visiting the parents of each of your students before the around the first of the year or even throughout the year may help with discipline problems. If parents and teachers are united in the educational efforts of the student, the student tends to take their own education more seriously.

Homophones

Homophones are words that are spelled differently but pronounced exactly the same. Thus, they have different meanings as well. If a two homophones are spelled the same they are considered to be both homographs and homonyms. This can be seen in the following sentence:

The bear could not bear to be hungry any longer.

These words are phonetically the same and spelled the same but they are not anything alike in meaning. Not all homophones area spelled the same but as shown above, they can be. Many scholars of the English language will argue about whether or not to call this a homophone or a homonym. The meaning is basically there, it is really a matter of opinion on the technical aspect of things. For most educational purposes between kindergarten and high school the term homophone will suffice.
Homophones are great in word games and word play. It is great fun trying to solve different puzzles that may have a play on words or a pun. In these games you will often find multiple word homophones. These are technically considered oronyms. Some examples are:
ice cream I scream
depend deep end
stuffy nose stuff he knows
two lips tulips

These can make great exercises for students to get their brains to think in a whole new way. Word play can provide hours of entertainment and a lot of laughter. No matter what grade you are teaching you can have fun by implementing homophones into your curriculum.