Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Answering Questions! **Updated Version.

Thought I would answer a couple of questions in a post, as opposed to writing in the comments.

I mentioned that the kids have their own timers to help them do their math drills and other timed activities independently. I had searched high and low for a timer that the kids could use by themselves that would go both forward and backward. I finally stumbled upon these handy little timers over at Lakeshore Learning, and for $5.99 each, they were a great deal! I use these timers for my two older kids. Anthony, who is still a preschooler, is given our trusty Time Tracker to let him know when his time with a certain activity is up.

Using a Checklist:
I was asked a very good question about my previous post having to do with the file box and checklist. "Have you found that you need both the checklist and the numbered folders? Wouldn't you just put the book/paper in the folder with a note as to what is to be done?"

I was extremely close to not creating a checklist for the kids at all. What made me reconsider was the fact that I wasn't going to be including all books and assignments in the file box itself. Certain assignments require the use of a book (example: Marco is required to copy the definition of a word from the dictionary) that I would not put or could not fit into the file box. I didn't want to create a workbox situation where everything the kids need is in their file box either. I love our bookcases and expect the kids to learn how to use them, find books, and put things back where they belong. In the case of copying the definition, the copy work paper would be in the appropriate file and he would just take that out.

I suppose I should expand on how this file system is going to work around here.
  • The kids get their file box in the morning and see exactly what work needs to be done for the day by looking over their daily checklist. This immediately omits the "what do we have to do today?" question.
  • They proceed to complete independent assignments according to our daily schedule. As these assignments are completed, they check it off on their list and place the completed assignment in the "Completed Assignments" drawer (we have a special drawer for this that the kids have used for a while now...I'll post about it later!).
  • Since not all work can be done independently (the kids are still young), they will still be working with me on the majority of subjects. My responsibility lies in teaching the lesson. Their responsibility lies in getting out their books and supplies. Example: "Marco, it's time for grammar. Please get your stuff!" He would then grab his book, take out any necessary paper or written assignment sheet (to be found in the file folders), and be ready to get to work with me.
  • All paperwork will be waiting for them in the file box, along with workbook assignments.
Please keep in mind that this is a new system for us!! I'm sure there will be tweaking along the way. In having a checklist/planner, however, I feel like they are developing a good habit of keeping track of assignments.

Our daily schedule is pretty important around here too. At the beginning of the year, I make a giant copy and post it in on our bulletin board. It stays there for about a month, until everyone knows exactly what we are supposed to be doing when. This worked great for us last year as the kids knew what they should be doing at any particular time of the day. And if we every fell behind or went over with big deal, we would just move on to the next thing!

In conclusion (sorry for the long explanation to this question!), having a checklist is just what is going to work in our family. I don't want to have to write assignments on 12 different pieces of paper and then put each paper into it's file along with all the required papers and books. Like I said, I don't want to create a workbox system.

Hope this explanation clears up how I expect my system to work!!

Lesson Plans & Checklist Use:
"What I'm wondering though is how you do your lesson plans? Does this mean that you will have your lesson plans for each kid, then write it on the daily checklist AND put everything in the folder. Last year, for K I was spending about 2 hours every other Sunday planning for the next 2 weeks. It seems to go better if I only plan specifics for 2 weeks at a time. How can I make a checklist for him without having to copy all of my lesson plans, which seems like a LOT of extra work?"

Lesson plans, for me, are basically a break down of what to do and when. The majority of the subjects covered don't need detailed lesson plans. It's pick up and go. The best example for this is Saxon Math. I know that I'm doing math 5 times a week and that the lessons just progress. I don't need to write anything out...I just take out our needed supplies (manipulatives, meeting strip, etc.) and open the book up to the lesson we are on.

Grammar, phonics, spelling, religion, and our other core subjects are the same way. All the work is already laid out for me in the curriculum. I just need to know how many times a week I am working on a particular subject and what lesson is next. So when I am planning out the checklist for the kids, I know that yesterday we did math lesson 37, so today is math lesson 38.

For more difficult subjects, like history, there is a bit more prep work to be done. We are using History Odyssey so the basics are done for me. I know how many lessons I need to do per week in order to finish in a year. Each lesson comes with a list of what to read and additional activities, so my job is to gather all our books and materials at the beginning of the week. I usually prepare 2 weeks in advance for history, since it is one of our subjects that is more time consuming.

Now for complete lesson planning. Complete lesson planning does take lots of time. Perfect examples for this are unit studies where you are not following any curriculum. We happen to be doing a human body unit study this year and I am in the process of making lesson plans. This includes reading materials, experiments, activities, etc. Since I am pulling things from different resources, it is most certainly time consuming!!

Now, I do have to state that my planning is done on a weekly basis. I have my own teacher planner where I know what each child is doing for school on a daily basis. I just merely transfer the information to their own checklists each evening. The process for weekly planning is about 1 hour. The process for making the kids' checklists is about 5 minutes. Here is a sample of what my weekly lesson planner looks like when full (only showing page 1. The details are all hypothetical), and what the kids' daily checklist will look like.'s messy looking and full. But it's also realistic. I would show a real sample of last year's planner, but I have packed it up!!

So back to lesson planning. The majority of it is done by the curriculum itself. I just need to divide the number of lessons by how often we do school. For all the other subjects or unit studies that don't come with lessons already prepared, I do them before the start of our school year (yup...I prepare for the whole year!). This way, I can just take them out when I need them and all the work is done ahead of time.

Sunday nights are also when I plan out our week and take out all necessary supplies and materials to have "on hand." We tend to keep our school room very organized, and this is a HUGE help because I always know where everything is!

So, don't have to copy all your lesson plans for yourself and then again for the student checklist; just write the assignments for the student checklist. Keep in mind that a lesson plan details what you will be doing for each lesson. This is for the benefit of the mom, not the child.

Hope this answered your question!!


melanie said...

Great post !! I'd love to hear more about how you keep your school room nice and organized :-) Any pictures?

sophie said...

thank you so much for expanding on your planning, it was very helpful to me. My lo's are just a bit younger than yours and I seem to have a similar style regarding planning and goals for learning spaces as you. I've found your blog to be quite helpful!

I think the part I'm having a hard time with your folder and checklist is the "daily" part! I know that I simply do not have time (and perhaps motivation after kids go to bed...) to switch things around every day. I prefer to slug through it weekly so it's done. I'm thinking though that I could still do it weekly, if I had a folder for each subject and had a Mon, tues...section. But it might be too cumbersome for him.
Anyway, thank you for answering my questions!

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