Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Informal Mentoring- Writing Your First Pacing Guide

Time is flying by during this summer break from teaching.

This week, a second year 6th grade science teacher asked an interesting question of me. How do I know what to teach so I can cover our standard course of study? That was an easy one of me to handle. Pacing Guides are what teacher calls them. My brother is an engineer and tells me they call it project management. I do not think this 6th grade teacher would want to devote the energy create a spreadsheet or database to track progress in his class. He knows how to check his email, make a CD play music on a computer, and how to search the web to find out who to call to book a goose hunting trip half way across the US. I do not mean anything ugly by this, he just does not have time to sit in front of a computer and click a bunch of boxes to keep up with data. Heck, there are not very many teachers that want to spend that kind of time on progress reporting. Electronic grade books are nice when it comes to printing out progress reports and averaging columns of grades. But it takes hours to set the preferences and enter assignments and then go back in and update the grades...

Personally, I hate electronic grade book programs. We are required to put numerical values on student assignments, heck it is the law. But, the law does not say you have to use electronic grade books- yet. I prefer portfolio assessments, but back to the pacing guide. I told him to get his teacher's edition and drop by the house and we would do some planning.

Over the past 20 years, I have made many many pacing guides. There are a few tricks that I have learned about hacking out these roadmaps to success. Now, these tips are not the only way to attempt them, they are straight from my thoughts. No, I not a PhD and do not play one on TV.

Materials needed for creating your own pacing guide for your 6th grade science class:
Computer, word processing program, printer and paper, photocopy machine, plastic tape and scissors, School Calendar, and testing schedule, length of class period devoted to science. This is important. If your school teaches science all year, which is best in humble opinion, or like some schools that teach science half the school year and social studies the rest of the year, this means you have to compress or layer the curriculum. Photocopy of National Standards and State Standard (in North Carolina, we call it our Standard Course of Study), If you have access to different colors of photocopy paper, copy the National Standards in a different color from you State or local standards. Teacher's Ancillaries- Textbook, lab manuals and test banks. Get a large 2 liter Diet Sundrop and some ice. Oh, get a couple of cups, clear off a big table, and adjust the AC to make sure the room is comfy. Turn off the darn cell phones and turn on some classical music. I don't care if you do like Country; it is not the time for that. Make sure your chair is comfortable not too comfortable- no napping allowed. I like to use a large flip chart and easel with chart markers. I take the flip chart sheet and fold it in to six equally sized columns. If your school uses 9 week grading periods, you can figure out how many columns you will need...anyway, now the environmental conditions are ready, lets looks at some steps to create our pacing guide.

Step 1: Rough Draft - Calendar/Dates Framework
Using the calendar, write in the dates that the grading periods begin and end on your flip chart. Now, use the teacher’s edition. Most textbook publishers, include a number of days it takes to cover specific chapters in your text. This is not a "written in stone" number. It is only a guide. Seasoned science teachers can tell you that you cannot teach rocks and minerals to 6th graders in a week. But if you spend six weeks on them, you will never cover the curriculum. Use a pencil and write in the number of days the teacher's edition recommends devoting to the chapters on rock, motion, etc.

Step 2: Correlation of Curriculum and textbook
Now, if you do not have a correlation between your textbook and your standard course of study, you have several avenues to try. Contact the textbook coordinator (your assistant principal if he/she is working in the summer, most are 10 month employees and you will not find them). Contact the principal of your school. If you can find the email address or website for your textbook see if they have free ones for your state. You could ask the teacher down the hall (but they are working at Wal-Mart or home working in their garden or in school getting certified). Don't panic, do what I do, just google it! Use enough keywords to narrow your search, like include words like 6th grade, science curriculum, and pacing guide, North Carolina. It worked great to find a Word document in just a few seconds. Dang, I love the Internet. Remember, it is only a "guide". You could make your own, but believe me, this is going to take hours and hours to complete.

Step 3: Cut and Paste
Cut your standard course of study into strips and lay them on the chart paper. Basically, it is time to cut and paste the curriculum on the chart paper to give you an idea of what it will look like at a glance. Using the correlation document, and the textbook's suggested amount of time it takes to instruct and access specific goals and objectives decide where it could fit. Write in the page and Chapter numbers on the chart paper next to the objectives.

Step 4: Tape it to the chart paper
So you can fold it up, tape everything down. Put up you work and let it rest a couple of days.

Step 5: Revision Time
Use the chart paper and the info you have (rough draft) and create a document from your work so far. If you have access to a digital document of the curriculum, you are going to be ahead of the game. Copy and paste it into your document. Be sure to include the National standards too. If you have a fellow science teacher that is teaching the same grade level, this is when you could email them a copy of what you have done and ask them to edit the number of days (keep an original). Again, this is something that you will be changing as you write your lesson plans and access student's mastery of the topics. You need time to reteach some lessons. Check to make sure you have included all the objectives and not left anything out! If you can not find an objective that is in your standard course of study in your textbook, you have to find lesson and activities that correlate with them. North Carolina has a site called LEARNNC.org that has correlated lesson plans.

Step 6: Publish it
Ok, after you have gone through all the goals and objectives, recorded the number of days to spend of them, and even pages numbers and chapters, and it has been checked by a couple of teachers that have experience teaching the subject and grade level, you may want to print out a copy and insert it in a three ring binder. Keep this notebook near your lesson planner. Revise, rewrite and revise again. One thing you might try is to set up a free wiki page at somewhere like Pbwiki or Wikispace. Then envite teachers that you know to contribute to the version during the school year. Posting links to online resources right in a pacing guide would be a great resource.

Well, time to sign off. This is a tough job, but teachers only work from 8-3 and have "all summer off". Yeah right.

No comments: