Phew! It’s been a while since my last post, I know. The end of the school year seems to hit like a ton of bricks every year. Recitals, concerts, final exams, and the end of… things. It consumes me and exhausts me. I’m on track again, though, having attended a wonderfully restorative retreat with my fellow Brave Writer staffers, and I am now in possession of that elusive free time that comes with the end of schooly things.
For me, free time is planning time. I love to plan. I’ve shared some of my initial thoughts about my two big planning projects, a Shakespeare and U.S. history class for next year. I imagined a free form movement through the year, hitting upon a topic and exploring it in the way that felt best at that moment. My lovely student has informed me, however, that she really prefers having a plan to follow. Ah, she is my daughter in that way. I struggle to be unschoolish in my approach, but I do like having the route established ahead of time. So, it seems, does Olivia. Okay, time to plan!
I have finished working though my ideas for the first quarter of Shakespeare and the entire school year for U.S. History. I would like to say I created the timeline for our studies on my own, but in fact, I borrowed a ton from resources that exist. I not only don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, I also can’t reinvent the wheel. My inner inventor has gone quiet. Ha.
So, what’s happening?
I. Shakespeare. Twelfth Night. We’re going to start with this comedy because Olivia and I both like it, and there is a wonderful group of lessons created by the Folger Shakespeare people around it.
Yes, I’m speaking once again of the Shakespeare Set Free series. I so wish I had a group of Shakespeare nuts to do this book properly, but Olivia and I are going to give it a go on our own. The series helps teachers guide students into Shakespeare primarily through performance rather than text-based study. We look closely at text, of course, but the main idea is that Shakespeare is best done aloud. There are lessons on movement, blocking, role playing, sword fighting, and sight gags. There are also lessons on character analysis, close reading, and explicating a scene.
There is a log to be kept with reflections on the play. I love the prompts because they help the reader connect with the play. One example: Find and comment on four lines from the scenes you’ve read so far: a line that has beauty in it, a line with a good joke, a line that sounds modern, a line that appeals to you for any reason. We’ll work on Shakespeare three times a week, finishing the play in nine weeks, then we’ll evaluate how it went.
II. U.S. History. I struggled a bit here at first, since I have a lot of websites, videos, and books, but no clear idea how to pull them into a plan. Then I happened upon Karen’s blog post of an American History plan (find it here). She did the thing I was loathe to do, which was to create a plan with textbook readings, supplementary book readings, videos, and examination of primary source documents. While the textbook is a hefty beast (something I was trying to avoid), I decided to go with it anyway. We’ll see if Olivia balks. If so, we can always ditch the textbook and pursue other sources for reading.
I added five things into Karen’s plan:
- Crash Course Videos. This was easy to do, since the videos follow a distinct timeline. Olivia finds them funny, and I know she’ll enjoy watching and perhaps making some of her own.
- Field Trips. Once I saw when we would hit Jamestown, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, I went ahead and put a few trips on the calendar. I’ll aim for Williamsburg in October, Boston over Thanksgiving, Ft. McHenry in January and Gettysburg in March.
- Help for High School. I’ve talked about this one before, but we’re going to give it another go this year, trying to put a bit of a historical twist on the writing prompts. This Brave Writer product helps kids get in touch with their inner thought process, discovering what they think about controversial topics and formulating their ideas in the traditional essay format. For example, while kids are asked to choose a controversial topic such as gun rights, abortion, body piercing, etc., I have substituted in history topics that Olivia will be able to pick a side on after some study, such as war, Columbus, immigration, and colonization.
- Alternative Assessments. One thing I find really kills history and science study is an over-reliance on answering comprehension questions as a way to demonstrate understanding. I wanted Olivia to have some options here. She already has a blog idea in mind that she will use to recount some of the information she’s learning. I borrowed these two ideas (1 & 2) for a supplemental list of ways to demonstrate learning. I’ll leave it up to her to pick what she wants to do each week, though I suspect the video-making ideas will have a big appeal. Olivia is a video maker by nature.
- Musicals. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Musicals drive interest-led learning around here. In addition to our beloved Hamilton, we’ll include viewings of 1776; Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson; and Little Women, the Musical.
This planner is signing off now! Happy summer to you.