I have been so much more methodical about what I want to teach this year than ever before. Maybe it’s the part-time status; I feel more urgency to be on top of stuff since I only have 2 days a week. I usually only plan units a few months ahead, until the end of the novel studies I do with first grade and older. But sometimes I lose momentum after that because the novels are such a long-term investment, and even kindergarten can lose steam after spring break. So this year I’ve mapped out everything I want to do in grades pre-k through 6th all the way through June. And I think it’s a great plan.
Library curriculum can be tough because there are no NJ standards or Core Standards for library. Some districts have a library curriculum, some don’t, or some have a fairly outdated one. We know the skills we want to teach, but we don’t always have a roadmap for the year to work with. That’s definitely the case this year, so I’ve worked out one I like a lot.
I’ve worked in Black History Month, Women’s History Month, National Poetry Month, and Dr. Seuss Day. I’ve got a wide range of cool websites and current research skills across several grades; I have 4 computers, so it’s conservative. A lot of literacy skills that will reinforce what they’re doing in language arts. I’m trying to squeeze in several genres wherever possible. It’s not that I’ve written lesson plans for the year, but I’ve got an outline of what I want to cover.
Pre-K, 5th, and 6th grades were the ones I spent the most time on. I haven’t taught pre-k or 5th in four years, and I’ve never taught 6th. Even 4th was tricky, because I’ve tried a lot of different things out on my fourth graders in the past.
So my pre-k focus is on themes like winter stories, female authors, silly stories, transportation, community, etc. Kindergarten is all author studies except for seasonal breaks. Lots of new stuff, but some classics, too. Next week I’m going to start my favorite Laura Numeroff unit with kindergarten.
And then the novels. First grade will again be Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Second grade will be The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, and third grade will be Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Those are my trusty old favorites, and I can’t wait to read them again after a year away. They’re like old friends now. Same books, but I’ll be changing some of the activities.
The upper grades were all a challenge and all endured a ton of shuffling and agonizing over what to read. I’m going to do Battle of the Books with 5th and 6th grade, and since that takes a chunk of library class time I had even more limits than usual on the length of book I can read to them. So, the final plan is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg for 4th grade. We’ll be doing a ton of research skills using NYC, the Met, and Donnell Library while reading. And it was a sentimental choice since my mom used to read it to her 4th graders in library class thirty-some odd years ago. I’ve done the first 39 Clues book with 4th grade in the past to work in some research skills (it is great for that), but I decided that I could do almost everything with Mixed-Up Files that I could with 39 Clues. With less time and more sentimentality, so I just love that.
Fifth grade will be Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and we’ll look at some neat websites and (possibly) even make a book trailer at the end. Time permitting! Sixth grade will be The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. That one was the hardest to pick since I haven’t worked with that elementary school/middle school bridge before. But now that we’ve arrived at Halloween, I think I’ve spent enough time with the oldest kids to get a feel for what they’ve enjoyed and haven’t enjoyed.
I’ve already read Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to them, and this week we did creepy folktales. So we’ll do fantasy and work on library skills, and if we have time at the end of the year I’ll read them Jon Scieszka’s autobiography Knucklehead on my grad school mentor Dee’s recommendation (I am just starting it for the first time myself). Graphic novel, folktales, classic fantasy, autobiography. A really nice range of genres. This organization thing means I’ve got time to read so much more to the kids. Plus the class periods at my new school are a little longer. Even five extra minutes a week adds up over a school year, and I am packing it in.
Next week I’ll be starting novels with almost all of the classes, and I can’t wait to dig in. September is for getting situated with rules and checkout and ease-in stories. October is for some basic how-to-use-the-library stuff. November is always when the meat of what I enjoy teaching kicks off, so I’m kind of thrilled to get going.
Between finishing unit plans, starting my favorite stuff next week, and finally finishing the weeding of the nonfiction section (my first big library project), this has been a great week for hitting my stride. Now I can start to think about other things, too. Like the pile of ironing and sending out more article pitches.