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Just got a job teaching...and hate the curriculum the school uses


mitzvahmommy
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My last two children who would have been homeschooling this year just decided they wanted to go back to school.  Before I even had a chance to feel sad about not being a teacher anymore, the principal of a local private school called and asked me to teach a class of sixth grade boys!  I am very excited. The current English studies principal loves workbooks.  She has eight, yes eight, workbooks that she would like me to use per student this year.  I only have three hours to teach them Literature, Grammar, Writing, Math, Science, History, Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension and Spelling.  And these are wiggly boys, none of whom love worksheets.  So.....recommendations??? Science and math I can tackle, vocabulary we will incorporate as a part of other subjects and use Greek/Latin roots (though one of the workbooks is Wordly Wise, not so bad).  History is fun.  I am a little stuck on grammar and LA.  These are very smart boys who will not need to circle the prepositions on several pages to master the concept.  But I have never taught in a classroom, and prefer not to make up my own curriculum.  Also, I have never taught literary analysis (my oldest is 10), and I HATE the textbook and workbook she wants me to use - could you make it any more boring?!  What do you all recommend?

 

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Perfect.  Which level would you recommend for 6th grade?  I know that these boys all scored well below average on the state exam in the area of language mechanics, but all six are avid readers and basic reading skills are above average.  Reading comprehension is fair (though I thought maybe I would work on reading comprehension through the scientific reading and historical reading we will be doing).  I own Sentence Island, that's it.

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You've never taught in a classroom? Does that mean you are not actually a teacher? It sounds great for you but if I had a child at a school I would expect a qualified teacher and a robust hiring practice.

 

 

My dh is a high school teacher, and I can tell you that teacher licensing and their robust hiring practices do little to create good teachers.  I would take a former homeschool mama in a small classroom over any of my dh's colleagues any day.  

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Does this school go beyond 6th grade? If so, you need to look over 5th and 7th grade scope and sequence, assuming the school has these. You need to make sure you are covering the right skills to take them from where they've been to where they need to go the next year. As a classroom teacher for over a decade, I've rarely "loved" a curriculum I've been handed, but I've been able to make it my own while still keeping in mind that my class represents just one piece of a large puzzle, a puzzle designed by the admin. Just some things to keep in mind as you contemplate your options. It may be better to just stick with what they've given you and find other ways to make it come alive.

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I agree that you need to look at the material they were using last year and the material they will be using this next year, if possible, and if the school goes up another grade than 6th grade.  If you pull out something with a vastly different scope and sequence they may totally flounder next year.  

 

And good luck!  :)

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I'm sorry, but I am baffled by this.
 

You've never taught in a classroom, you are tossing out all the curriculum and planning to use MCT (which you don't even own and don't know inside and out) to teach subjects you've never taught to students you've never met...you only have three hours to cover all subjects with SIX boys...

 

this is not homeschooling. In a homeschool setting the parent wins, hands down, because of the parent-child relationship. (Although I would not take any random homeschool mom over any public school teacher! That makes no sense to me.) But a school is different. There should be SOME training, and some oversight of curriculum above the level of a single teacher.

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I was offered a position in a small religious school teaching part-time afternoons, and the hiring practices, curriculum selection, and methods of teaching were all very flexible, with the teacher making many decisions like this.  I suspect this is a small religious school, as it sounds like the policies at the small religious school where I was offered a position.

I'm sorry, but I am baffled by this.
 

You've never taught in a classroom, you are tossing out all the curriculum and planning to use MCT (which you don't even own and don't know inside and out) to teach subjects you've never taught to students you've never met...you only have three hours to cover all subjects with SIX boys...

 

this is not homeschooling. In a homeschool setting the parent wins, hands down, because of the parent-child relationship. (Although I would not take any random homeschool mom over any public school teacher! That makes no sense to me.) But a school is different. There should be SOME training, and some oversight of curriculum above the level of a single teacher.

 

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Evan Moore's Daily Language Review workbooks don't take long, but are quite good for language mechanics imo. MCT really doesn't focus on that area. I really don't think I would use it in this situation.

 

Daily Language Review does have other grammar in it, and other things as well. http://www.evan-moor.com/p/139/daily-language-review-grade-6 You might see if other materials of theirs might be useful/price out a Teacher Filebox subscription vs. purchasing the student books.

 

Do you have good composition teaching materials/ideas? Are they good writers?

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Is it 3 hours a day? I would find a good writing programme first.

 

I know good teachers are not created by registration but ringing someone up and offering them a job without at least having some interview and shortlist system is something that would not be done here (nor is an unqualified teacher). I think you will do a good job and it will be a good experience but if I were the parent I would be concerned.

 

Have you met the kids? If you have 6 just get it done boys MCT may not be so good - they may like the workbooks. Maybe for now pick the two you find most awful and replace them. Also 3 hours is not long. If you allow an hour for maths you are down to 2 hours for all language arts plus science. You are going to need very quick individual programmes or combined programmes. If you change things too dramatically it might take you half the year to settle them down again.

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A little more than halfway through this free pdf is a "Conventions Scope and Sequence" that covers mechanics for K-12.

http://www.bvsd.org/curriculum/curriculumreview/Documents/CED%20Review%20-%20LA/HS%20Core/L20%20LA.11thgrade.CED.pdf

 

I wish this webpage printed out nicer, but it's an excellent list to cover for remedial middle school mechanics.

http://www.sanchezclass.com/capitalization-punctuation.htm#A

 

I would plan frequent "mini lessons" for mechanics, and then start requiring the boys to use what was taught in the mini-lesson in ALL writing. Make them rewrite any sentence that is not correct. Less is more. Slow and steady. One concept at a time to mastery.

 

The principal has confidence that you are the best person for this job. Jump in, do your best, and don't lose your confidence or enthusiasm.

 

In general, it's important that grade 6 fit into the framework of grade 5 and grade 7, but if there is remediation that needs to be done, then that might need to take precedence. 

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Just keep in mind working in a classroom is much, much different than homeschooling. Something that may be wonderful at home may not work so well in a classroom setting. There is just not the same time, depth, and attention you can devote at home in the classroom.

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My last two children who would have been homeschooling this year just decided they wanted to go back to school.  Before I even had a chance to feel sad about not being a teacher anymore, the principal of a local private school called and asked me to teach a class of sixth grade boys!  I am very excited. The current English studies principal loves workbooks.  She has eight, yes eight, workbooks that she would like me to use per student this year.  I only have three hours to teach them Literature, Grammar, Writing, Math, Science, History, Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension and Spelling.  And these are wiggly boys, none of whom love worksheets.  So.....recommendations??? Science and math I can tackle, vocabulary we will incorporate as a part of other subjects and use Greek/Latin roots (though one of the workbooks is Wordly Wise, not so bad).  History is fun.  I am a little stuck on grammar and LA.  These are very smart boys who will not need to circle the prepositions on several pages to master the concept.  But I have never taught in a classroom, and prefer not to make up my own curriculum.  Also, I have never taught literary analysis (my oldest is 10), and I HATE the textbook and workbook she wants me to use - could you make it any more boring?!  What do you all recommend?

 

 

Is this three hours a day, every day of the week?  First thing I would do is set expectations all around.  What do you expect them to have covered in 5th grade?  What is the expectation to be able to do when they enter 7th next year.  What are the expectations for homework?  How much reading at home do you expect during the course of a week?  What kind of tests are you going to give?  What kinds of writing assignments are you going to give, and will they be done at home, or in the classroom?  What are the expectations for parent involvement?  I'd do parent-teacher conferences first thing in the school year, and be very clear about all of this.  What are the expectations for discipline -- if they don't do their homework, or their reading then what?  What if they are wiggly and unattentive during class?

 

There a reason university teacher training programs spend so much time on classroom management, compared to curriculum selection and development.  I would be much more worried about the former than the latter.  How much of your time have you budgeted of your time per day to grade homework/tests, do lesson planning, etc.?  This can really add up, especially if not all the kids are at the same level.

 

And I'm curious about this school in general -- sure, it is a non-profit, I think almost all private schools are.  How much is tuition, roughly?  You mention using your tithing money to buy materials -- are you being paid?  If a parent complains about the curriculum, is the principal going to back you up, given that she let you chose it yourself, and presumably has no clue about it?

 

If I had to do this, I'd really want the kids to do at least 30 minutes of some kind of PE right before class.  6th grade boys are like puppies, they can be wonderful and lovable, but without daily exercise, they get into trouble.  Does this school offer other instruction other than this 3 hours a day?  If not, I'd be assigning something like two hours of homework a day, just to try to cover the whole curriculum.

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Essentials in Writing will be sufficient and SHORT to cover both grammar and writing. It is thorough and taught by a "qualified teacher". The scope will cover what needs to be covered for 6th grade preparing the boys for 7th. You will need a DVD player for each day's 5 min. video portion. Very boy-friendly.

 

While you may "hate" the reading books, use it anyway. You don't have to love it. Unless you decide to pick up some MP guides or such, use what is already bought and paid for. Spice it up.

 

Spelling/Vocabulary--- workbook it. They only have this for one last year. Go with what they have been using. Same with vocabulary. The parent's are who you have to answer/please to now, and they expect these books.

 

3 hours is NOT enough time to cover all those subjects every day. I suggest a rotation for history and science. 

 

Good Luck.

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I forgot about Essentials in Writing! That's quick, painless, and efficient. You could still add the Evan Moore book I linked for mechanics. It might improve test scores, and it could be done in just 5 or so minutes a day.

 

When the Essentials in Writing is focused on grammar, you could work on research (cornell  notes--w/the summary at the end), outlining (Remedia Publications maybe), solid paragraph writing, and similar skills. You could integrate that into their science and history reading perhaps, given you are so time limited. When I taught middle school boys, I found that short (10 minute sort) lessons with natural breaks worked best.  Movement is important. Given that small size, and depending on the school environment, maybe you could incorporate some quick exercise between lessons.

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It's not a workbook, but might work to go along with the Grammar workbook pages: The Word Spy & Return Of The Word Spy. I think they use Snoop instead of spy in the USA in the title. The books are really engaging & fun with codes to crack & the way it's written is fun to read aloud. I use to read it being dramatic, fast, slow, etc. which helped really engage my wiggly boys. Another idea would be to use Mad Libs to help them understand each part of speech as they try locating it on their worksheets. Are you forced to use the material that the director wants? Can you teach it anyway you want? Can you add or subtract from it?

 

 

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3 hours a day to teach six 6th grade boys Literature, Grammar, Writing, Math, Science, History, Vocabulary, Reading Comprehension and Spelling = NIGHTMARE!  :svengo:

 

I have to disagree with the MCT and Analytical Grammar suggestions (sorry ladies!).  I really think you'll be sorry if you end up going with one of those.  They are too time consuming...not quick and easy to implement (to me, AG is total diagram overkill, but that's just me). 

 

Essentials in Writing is a good option.  But even before that one I might suggest you look at Fix It Grammar.  All you would need to do is choose one and just buy the TM.  Maybe look at Book 2 Robin Hood.  You'd only need to get a lined notebook for each boy.  You write the sentence on the board each day and you all examine it together.  This takes no more than 15 minutes.  You could see who can spot the fixes and they could take turns coming up to the board.  When the errors are all fixed and you've gone through the grammar for that lesson...then they rewrite the sentence in their best handwriting in their notebook.  By the end of the school year they will have a completed notebook with the entire story.  I think it would be perfect in this situation. 

 

Good luck on whatever you decide to do!

 

ETA: There are more samples here and a link to a webinar where the author explains how to use the Fix It series of books.  HTH!

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This is a small religious school.  It is an unfortunate truth that these schools put much less value on secular studies and have a very difficult time hiring qualified secular studies teachers.  They had four math teachers come and go through the school last year.  They have had almost no science education their entire elementary career.  It is not uncommon in these schools.  I appreciate the shock and outrage expressed by a few people here.  The principal of the school, as well as several teachers at the school, have repeatedly told me that I am a natural teacher and have an ability to connect deeply with kids and develop and strong relationship.  I hope to be successful, and my goal is to fill in the holes for these kids before they move forward, or in some cases to provide a foundation from which they can build.  The administrator who chose the curriculum has been out of school and on the job one year, and admits that she doesn't have a good handle on choosing the right curriculum yet.  As a homeschooler, I have been evaluating and selecting curricular materials for four or five years, and despite her Masters degree, I feel confident in my decision to supplement.  Any advice or encouragement would be appreciated. 

 

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sbgrace, they are horrible writers.  This school has never had a writing program.  These are all very intelligent boys - two math and logic smart, one 3D and kinesthetic smart, an art and music smart boy who thinks he is awful at math.  They had no grammar program prior to this.  They all do enjoy reading.  I love to teach science and history, and already have lesson plans written which draw on the textbooks they gave me, yet go beyond.  Language arts was difficult for me in my own homeschooling, as my oldest was a natural reader, speller etc and needed no instruction in these areas - he just "got" everything.  My next son is dyslexic, and we were using LOE, and had just reached grade level in reading (yay!).  I had planned to start Brave Writer this year with my own boys.  What would you recommend? 

 

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I didn't even mention that the principal just told me that, since they weren't able to hire a 5th grade teacher for math and science, I will be teaching those subjects to the fifth grade, combined with my sixth grade!  I was going to rotate science and history - as so many of you pointed out, three hours is much too little time to cover all secular studies without prioritizing.    But the fifth graders will be learning history and LA every day with a different teacher from 2-3:30, and then I will have them for math and science from 3:30-5.  There will be about 20 boys total.  The skills level between these boys is at least four grade levels, but not based on current grade, meaning there are advanced math fifth graders and struggling sixth graders.  The principal told me that if I survive this, I can survive anything.  And then walked away.  Yes, the parents pay a lot for tuition.  Yes, I will be held accountable by them and the administration.  Yes, it is a sad thing that secular studies get such short shrift.  I will not be able to expand my teaching hours or change the whole system.  The most I can do is to give these the boys the best I have to give for this year, and know that it cannot possibly be any worse than what they had before, and that I care very much about them and their secular learning.

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And, before you all blast me for not being qualified by a university program, I am enrolling now in an online program through Seton Hall with 18 hours of online coursework, plus practicum hours( my teaching job will count for these, as the principal will be supervising me).  At the end of the school year I will have my teaching credentials, and will have half the credits needed for a Masters in Special Ed.  Oddly, the dean and principal of the school told me that this certification route will most likely make me a WORSE teacher, as the innate creativity and connection with students that a natural teacher like myself demonstrates cannot be taught in a classroom, and is usually hindered by traditional approaches to teaching (their words, not mine).  I have received this same feedback from several people - from big wigs to other local teachers (trained formally and working in public schools), all of whom are very encouraging of this step into a classroom.  So go a little easy on me, ladies.  My heart is in the right place, I am a very quick learner, an extremely hard worker.  I have read "The First Days of School" and have role-played and practiced classroom management techniques.  I plan to give homework detention for anyone who takes away classroom time.  I have been teaching my own wiggly, burping, crazy boys for five years, and these boys are absolutely every teacher's worst nightmare, but they have learned so much, and just aced the standardized test they took, and are about two grade levels ahead in math, and they could teach the science class themselves.  Please be kind :)

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I attended a small Christian school that often employed "unqualified" personnel. One of our very best teachers was a man who had only finished a couple years of college but was a phenomenal math teacher. I've also taught alongside women who were accountants turned math teachers. Their knowledge of the content and their natural gifts made them very successful in the classroom even though they didn't have certificates or prior experience. Best wishes for a wonderful year!

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Mitzvah mommy, I wasn't trying to be unkind. I am sorry my reaction to your situation came across as critical of your ability and character to make the best of the situation. My incredulity had more to do with the school's actions in drafting teachers this way followed by their washing their hands of your class now that you're there.

 

Again, I apologize. You are in this scenario, unlike any of us who are just reading, so please don't let any dismay on our part discourage you.

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Mitzvah mommy, I wasn't trying to be unkind. I am sorry my reaction to your situation came across as critical of your ability and character to make the best of the situation. My incredulity had more to do with the school's actions in drafting teachers this way followed by their washing their hands of your class now that you're there.

 

Again, I apologize. You are in this scenario, unlike any of us who are just reading, so please don't let any dismay on our part discourage you.

It's quite common for small religious schools to hire those they know. Often they cannot afford to pay teachers much, so they don't have a large pool of candidates to draw from. They also usually highly value teachers who will have the same philosophical leanings as they do over "credentials." It may not be ideal, yet these kinds of schools often do turn out a good "product."

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Tibbie, thanks you so, so much for your thoughtful words.  As GrammarGirl points out above, this is a very common situation.  The difference is that I am as horrified by the lack of secular teaching standards and accountability as many members on this board.  I want these boys to keep all of the doors of possibility open - if they keep advancing with these gaping holes in their math knowledge, they will not have access to careers in computers, engineering, science, really any good college programs due to low SAT scores....I am being paid really almost nothing, but took the job both for the experience and out of a sense of duty to these boys, many of whom I know personally.  These are parents who care also about their son's education, are really dismayed about the teachers who have come before me, and I have their full support - they have seen me teaching my boys and working with kids across the last year.  They have all called to tell me that they are thrilled.  But I am full of doubt and nerves.  So any advice is fully appreciated.  The literature book just bums me out - it takes little excerpts, not from classics usually, and then uses those in a guided, formulaic, boring discussion of plot, setting etc....isn't there a better way?  Or is the program better than I think?  It is from Mosdos Press.  Maybe that is what I should use, and I am being too harsh about the curriculum?  Couldn't we read Edgar Allen Poe and do the same thing, but have more fun?  I think Poe is perfect for 6th grade boys, but maybe I am totally off the mark.  The principal owns six copies of Treasure Island, so she wants us to use that as our novel, but I can think of several choices with more to offer in terms of discussion.  She suggested that book because she already owns it and has no money to buy enough copies of a different book, but I am happy to use my own money to buy six copies of The Giver or a different book.  What would you all recommend?  LA is what is keeping me up at night. 

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Tibbie, thanks you so, so much for your thoughtful words.  As GrammarGirl points out above, this is a very common situation.  The difference is that I am as horrified by the lack of secular teaching standards and accountability as many members on this board.  I want these boys to keep all of the doors of possibility open - if they keep advancing with these gaping holes in their math knowledge, they will not have access to careers in computers, engineering, science, really any good college programs due to low SAT scores....I am being paid really almost nothing, but took the job both for the experience and out of a sense of duty to these boys, many of whom I know personally.  These are parents who care also about their son's education, are really dismayed about the teachers who have come before me, and I have their full support - they have seen me teaching my boys and working with kids across the last year.  They have all called to tell me that they are thrilled.  But I am full of doubt and nerves.  So any advice is fully appreciated.  The literature book just bums me out - it takes little excerpts, not from classics usually, and then uses those in a guided, formulaic, boring discussion of plot, setting etc....isn't there a better way?  Or is the program better than I think?  It is from Mosdos Press.  Maybe that is what I should use, and I am being too harsh about the curriculum?  Couldn't we read Edgar Allen Poe and do the same thing, but have more fun?  I think Poe is perfect for 6th grade boys, but maybe I am totally off the mark.  The principal owns six copies of Treasure Island, so she wants us to use that as our novel, but I can think of several choices with more to offer in terms of discussion.  She suggested that book because she already owns it and has no money to buy enough copies of a different book, but I am happy to use my own money to buy six copies of The Giver or a different book.  What would you all recommend?  LA is what is keeping me up at night. 

Mosdos Press has a pretty good reputation even here on these forums, so I would be inclined to go with it. The depth and interest of our homeschool methods is probably not quite possible in your school setting, at least not the first year. As with your plans for science and math, maybe cling to those concepts of exposure and foundation in LA, as well, so that the children can go further later. If it's the "Pearl" guide that I'm perusing at the website, it seems very thorough and appropriate for a school setting.

 

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, when you have so many goals and objectives that you must try to reach in just one year (with very short school days)!

 

Grammar and writing skills are probably a larger concern. If you'll have the student companion books, writing assignments are built into the Mosdos Press program. You'll need something to cement punctuation, grammar, and usage. Are you familiar with the Evan-Moor daily drills in these subjects? Those can be very quick and effective (and kind of fun), and then you could just look to reinforce the lessons within their Mosdos Press writing assignments.

 

I think I'd start with Treasure Island, too. It's age-appropriate, the principal already has it, and you could use the time spent on it to evaluate your students' abilities and interests as you choose the next novel for them.

 

To sum up, if I went shopping for LA materials for a private school classroom full of boys I would probably not put these options into my cart as the first and best. But they aren't bad. I'd remind myself that I need to help the students advance in all subjects but I'm here as THE person concerned with their math and science, so I'd count the LA problem as solved and pour my creativity toward the STEM subjects.

 

 

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"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, when you have so many goals and objectives that you must try to reach in just one year (with very short school days)!"  Tibbie, that is great advice!  I guess it is hard for me to be in the passenger's seat on these curriculum choices, but if I want to continue teaching in a school setting, I had better get used to teaching the material that someone else chooses and believes in.  And you are absolutely right, I don't have the time, energy or teaching ability to reach for the stars in every subject area.  For boys with very poor previous exposure, Mosdos will be fine.....I just would NEVER have chosen it for my own homeschool.  Textbooks are the reason I homeschool, and now I will be teaching from several of them.  Oh well.  I have so many creative activities planned for math and science that I will take your advice and focus my efforts there.  Maybe I will even get more than two hours of sleep tonight now!  School starts Wednesday.....wish me luck ladies!

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The year is going to be over in a flash. The bigger your goals, the more likely that you won't meet them.

 

I'm assuming the morning is spent on religious instruction. Religious instruction produces major academic results. Most religious instruction teaches a lot of reading comprehension, literary analysis, and cultural literacy. I'd be careful not to overlap any skills and content that are being indirectly taught in the morning.

 

From what I have seen, Mosdos is very nice, but will be overlapping a lot of the morning religious instruction, and as written, will take up too much of the afternoon. You can use bits of it, though.

 

One of my favorite resources to consult is the original early 1990s What Your Grader Needs to Know series. The editions with the sponge painting on the front. There are just 6 books, grades 1-6. The series is not terribly developmentally appropriate, but is an excellent summary of the secular content that an ADULT needs to know. It works well for remediation of older students. It also works well for a lean and mean secular education to supplement intensive religious instruction.

 

Treasure Island is one of the books that Core Knowledge (the publisher of the What Your Grader Needs to Know series) believes is important for cultural literacy. It's a public domain text and support materials are free and plentiful. I would definitely use it.

 

As for making sure the boys can enter STEM careers, that might not be within your power to make happen. You might have to settle for smaller goals, so you can actually meet some goals. I know it sounds arrogant to say this, but read through my signature. 

 

You can have a wonderful year. You can accomplish great things. You can only do so much in one year, though. First be a good model to these boys; more is caught than taught. Secondly your relationship with them is as important or more important than what what you teach. Students are PEOPLE. Teachers are PEOPLE. 

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And, before you all blast me for not being qualified by a university program, I am enrolling now in an online program through Seton Hall with 18 hours of online coursework, plus practicum hours( my teaching job will count for these, as the principal will be supervising me).  At the end of the school year I will have my teaching credentials, and will have half the credits needed for a Masters in Special Ed.  Oddly, the dean and principal of the school told me that this certification route will most likely make me a WORSE teacher, as the innate creativity and connection with students that a natural teacher like myself demonstrates cannot be taught in a classroom, and is usually hindered by traditional approaches to teaching (their words, not mine).  I have received this same feedback from several people - from big wigs to other local teachers (trained formally and working in public schools), all of whom are very encouraging of this step into a classroom.  So go a little easy on me, ladies.  My heart is in the right place, I am a very quick learner, an extremely hard worker.  I have read "The First Days of School" and have role-played and practiced classroom management techniques.  I plan to give homework detention for anyone who takes away classroom time.  I have been teaching my own wiggly, burping, crazy boys for five years, and these boys are absolutely every teacher's worst nightmare, but they have learned so much, and just aced the standardized test they took, and are about two grade levels ahead in math, and they could teach the science class themselves.  Please be kind :)

 

 

I am so sorry about the reaction that people are having to your request for curriculum recommendations.  I am glad that you are confident about what you are doing anyway.  You seem to be very prepared.  I think it is completely inappropriate for anyone here to so harshly judge your abilities at the mere request for curriculum suggestions.  

 

FWIW, my dh had only one single education class that he learned anything from (he also being a natural teacher).  And when he got his masters in education, he told people that he was purchasing a raise, since he wasn't really learning anything.  (Just to test what he could get away with, in one class, he did nothing except attend class.  He did no assignments.  He did not even buy a textbook.  He got a C, along with a note from the instructor about how disappointed she was in his work.)  It is a nice touch that you are seeking to obtain those teaching credentials.  They seem to mean a lot to other people, but they do not represent your teaching skills in the least.  

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I'm going to interject here, repeating a few things. I would focus on math and language arts.

 

In the language arts, I highly recommend the Evan Moor Daily Language Review. It's great for those mechanics that are problematic, and will probably help test scores too. It will take you 5-8 minutes a day.

,

I do like the idea of using Essentials in Writing. It's fast, but well regarded here, and should cover age appropriate skills.

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Edited to add: I'm going to leave all I wrote below, with links. But I think I might do:Essentials in Writing 6 as my base for grammar and composition.

 

If you can, I might purchase three additional books: the Mariconda expository writing book, Mariconda's Most Wonderful Writing Lessons narrative writing book (I see narratives is covered in Essentials in Writing, and great expository writing uses a lot of narrative techniques...this Most Wonderful Lessons book is absolutely fantastic for narrative writing instruction), and the Writing Extraordinary Essays, to get some broader instruction, including persuasive techniques (this won't have lesson plans/will be more informational).

 

I suspect they will add a lot to Essentials in Writing. Incorporate the Mariconda lessons plans from the books and points from Writing Extraordinary Essays, which are both relatively inexpensive, into your Essentials in Writing. You could focus a lot on the writing skills covered in those books, writing across the curriculum, when Essentials in Writing has it's grammar focus lessons. If you purchase via amazon, you could always return if you feel  they don't add anything to Essentials in Writing.

 

If all that is too much, maybe Essentials in Writing and the Writing Extraordinary Essays. Even though it doesn't have neat lesson plans, it pulls a lot from Mariconda. Third choice might be Mariconda's narrative book, given Narratives aren't covered in Extraordinary Essays, and that book is by far the better of the two Mariconda's.

 

This is wordy and complicated. I'm sorry! EIW alone would be good enough I expect!

 

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If you can swing purchasing some books for yourself for reference/lesson plans in the writing area I have a few. This has some really easy to implement, but effective lesson plans for expository writing. http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0439260817/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1 It does use a intro, body, conclusion essay type format, though the number of paragraphs aren't specified. You could pick some to supplement and improve Essentials in Writing. This book is great for showing that real essays have all different types of formats, and talks about good persuasive writing as well. http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0545058988/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1  It's really great, but doesn't have open and go lesson plans. The Mariconda book isn't her persuasive book, and the persuasive book is a lot more expensive unfortunately. She has a fantastic book on narrative (fiction) writing, if you need to cover that, but I don't think you have time to cover that much. If it's tested, I would touch on some of the lessons. http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0590873040/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

I was so impressed with the above, I purchased a yearly writing curriculum from Mariconda's group empowering writers. It's good, and easy to implement, but the yearly writing only goes through 5th grade unfortunately. If they had 6th, I would recommend you use it, and do it instead of Essentials in Writing. The lessons are engaging, informative, and would prepare a child for essay tests well. http://empoweringwriters.com/product/the-essential-guide-to-grade-5/ I see they recommend http://empoweringwriters.com/product/comprehensive-argumentative-writing-guide/ if you're starting in 6th/7th etc. I have not viewed that resource, and given it's geared all through middle school, I hesitate, given I haven't seen it. I do like the yearly stuff. Anyway, this is an alternative thought. I imagine you could possibly preview and return.

 

I would try to the integrate a lot of my other subjects into writing practice I think. Mariconda's yearly curriculum, anyway, is easy to use in that way.

 

 

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Tibbie, thanks you so, so much for your thoughtful words.  As GrammarGirl points out above, this is a very common situation.  The difference is that I am as horrified by the lack of secular teaching standards and accountability as many members on this board.  I want these boys to keep all of the doors of possibility open - if they keep advancing with these gaping holes in their math knowledge, they will not have access to careers in computers, engineering, science, really any good college programs due to low SAT scores....I am being paid really almost nothing, but took the job both for the experience and out of a sense of duty to these boys, many of whom I know personally.  These are parents who care also about their son's education, are really dismayed about the teachers who have come before me, and I have their full support - they have seen me teaching my boys and working with kids across the last year.  They have all called to tell me that they are thrilled.  But I am full of doubt and nerves.  So any advice is fully appreciated.  The literature book just bums me out - it takes little excerpts, not from classics usually, and then uses those in a guided, formulaic, boring discussion of plot, setting etc....isn't there a better way?  Or is the program better than I think?  It is from Mosdos Press.  Maybe that is what I should use, and I am being too harsh about the curriculum?  Couldn't we read Edgar Allen Poe and do the same thing, but have more fun?  I think Poe is perfect for 6th grade boys, but maybe I am totally off the mark.  The principal owns six copies of Treasure Island, so she wants us to use that as our novel, but I can think of several choices with more to offer in terms of discussion.  She suggested that book because she already owns it and has no money to buy enough copies of a different book, but I am happy to use my own money to buy six copies of The Giver or a different book.  What would you all recommend?  LA is what is keeping me up at night. 

 

In 6th grade reading and literature (a double period), my Gifted and Talented class read Treasure Island as one of our books. I remember the project I did from that quite clearly, though not what I thought of the book. Probably I liked it as I like most of what I read.

 

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I'm assuming the morning is spent on religious instruction. Religious instruction produces major academic results. Most religious instruction teaches a lot of reading comprehension, literary analysis, and cultural literacy. I'd be careful not to overlap any skills and content that are being indirectly taught in the morning.

 

From what I have seen, Mosdos is very nice, but will be overlapping a lot of the morning religious instruction, and as written, will take up too much of the afternoon. You can use bits of it, though.

This really depends on what the religious instruction consists of.   There's a pretty big range out there, both between and within different religious groups.  For instance, if it isn't in English, or if the students aren't called upon to have a high level of fluency in reading classic texts (e.g., if they're memorizing them orally, or more sort of decoding them), then there isn't necessarily going to be a lot of overlap with the usual skills for literature and language arts.   

 

I do agree that the OP is going to have to pick and choose which excerpts to teach from the anthology.  Especially if she's doing a novel as well, which sounds like a good idea.

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Mitzvah mommy, I wasn't trying to be unkind. I am sorry my reaction to your situation came across as critical of your ability and character to make the best of the situation. My incredulity had more to do with the school's actions in drafting teachers this way followed by their washing their hands of your class now that you're there.

 

Again, I apologize. You are in this scenario, unlike any of us who are just reading, so please don't let any dismay on our part discourage you.

Me too. I wasn't criticising you for not being qualified. I just think it is a dodgy way to staff a school.

 

How does this school work? You have them for 3 hours ending at 5 so what on earth are they doing until 2 pm? Are they doing 5 hours religious studies followed by 3 hours of academics?

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I didn't even mention that the principal just told me that, since they weren't able to hire a 5th grade teacher for math and science, I will be teaching those subjects to the fifth grade, combined with my sixth grade!  I was going to rotate science and history - as so many of you pointed out, three hours is much too little time to cover all secular studies without prioritizing.    But the fifth graders will be learning history and LA every day with a different teacher from 2-3:30, and then I will have them for math and science from 3:30-5.  There will be about 20 boys total.  The skills level between these boys is at least four grade levels, but not based on current grade, meaning there are advanced math fifth graders and struggling sixth graders.  The principal told me that if I survive this, I can survive anything.  And then walked away.  Yes, the parents pay a lot for tuition.  Yes, I will be held accountable by them and the administration.  Yes, it is a sad thing that secular studies get such short shrift.  I will not be able to expand my teaching hours or change the whole system.  The most I can do is to give these the boys the best I have to give for this year, and know that it cannot possibly be any worse than what they had before, and that I care very much about them and their secular learning.

 

I'm confused (and curious). :) You have them from 2-5 every day? That's late for a school to be in session, do the kids arrive at school at 8ish in the morning? What are they doing from the time they arrive till 2 in the afternoon?

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If it were me, I would refuse to combine the maths.  Just flat out refuse.  The one saving grace on the maths in the OP was that there were only 6 kids, so you could give them individual attention to get them up to their level or maybe a little beyond.  It will be impossible to do this with 20.

 

I would use Real Science 4 Kids Focus on studies for middle school with the combo group--probably biology, chemistry, and physics.  They also have astronomy and geology available, which I would use if there was time.  Geology first.  I'm suggesting these because they are introductions to the sciences that will be essential in high school for STEM students.  Astronomy is not in that category, and geology is far behind the main bio, chem, and physics.  It's a solid program that introduces scientific language effectively along with accurate teaching of concepts.  It is also kind of barebones--not too wordy.

 

For math I would do some sort of assessment, and divide the kids into two groups and teach them separately.  I don't think  you have time for more than that.  I'd have some kind of drill program available on the computers and insist on regular use.  If they are far behind in math, fluency in 4 function work as well as simple fractions will be crucial.

 

For literature, Treasure Island is primarily an adventure story, but it does have the advantage that it has long, complex sentences and also postulates a worldview that is fairly traditional in morals and reflection.  Lots to talk about there.  For a modern choice, I don't love The Giver, but it is well written and as an introduction to dystopian literature is pretty good.  Gathering Blue is by the same author and I actually think there is a lot more to talk about there, but YMMV.  If they are behind, introducing them to Western Civ canon by reading Black Ships Before Troy, The Wanderings of Oddysseus, and In Search of a Homeland would give than an excellent grounding in classical literature.  Plus they are fairly easy with lots to talk about.  Then I would suggest excerpts from Tales from Shakespeare--again, long, complex sentences, but also very engaging stories that it would be good for them to be familiar with later on.  I'd probably do Julius Caesar and The Tempest and maybe Two Gentlemen of Verona.  Then for fun maybe From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler along with an introduction to Renaissance art as well as the issues of 'how do we know what we know?'.  Those canon books have the advantage that they are artistically illustrated also.  And a good Renaissance art book will go a long way toward blending art appreciation into the mix.

 

For history, I'm not sure.  Hakin for US?  If you're doing US?  For world, I'm just not sure--they are too old for SOTW and too young for Spielvogel. 

 

Anyway, the more I think about this, the more fun it sounds.

 

 

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Me too. I wasn't criticising you for not being qualified. I just think it is a dodgy way to staff a school.

 

How does this school work? You have them for 3 hours ending at 5 so what on earth are they doing until 2 pm? Are they doing 5 hours religious studies followed by 3 hours of academics?

 

This is common procedure even in the top private schools in my area. They hire through their network, connections, friends and acquaintances. But, they have a 6 month intern program after which the staff become substitute teacher and then regular teacher. My son's private school K teacher had a degree in Landscape Architecture and teaching his class was her first job (according to Linkedin).

 

I wish you much luck, mitzvah mommy. This job looks like a great fit because you are trying your best to design a curriculum that will best suit them.

I am wondering if you need to prepare them for any kind of standardized testing and also what the kids do until you take over the class in the afternoon? 

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This is common procedure even in the top private schools in my area. They hire through their network, connections, friends and acquaintances. But, they have a 6 month intern program after which the staff become substitute teacher and then regular teacher. My son's private school K teacher had a degree in Landscape Architecture and teaching his class was her first job (according to Linkedin).

 

I wish you much luck, mitzvah mommy. This job looks like a great fit because you are trying your best to design a curriculum that will best suit them.

I am wondering if you need to prepare them for any kind of standardized testing and also what the kids do until you take over the class in the afternoon?

I was digging through my memory and I remember that until I was about 10 (1979) private schools here were allowed to employ non qualified teachers and set their own pay rates. From about then until last year that was illegal but last year the government started some experimental charters and they were given an exemption. So there are four schools that could employ unqualified teachers but being government funded I think they would have to advertise and pay the going rates.

 

3 hours at the end of the day seems to be setting the kids up for poor academic performance though.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all!  An update:  it was clear on the first day that the combined class wouldn't work.  So I have just had my six sixth graders for the last few weeks.  It has been a dream!! They love it, I love it, they are learning so so much and so am I :)  I never thought I could love it so much.  We have had to go back ten steps to fundamentals in math, as they have gaping holes in their knowledge and skills.  Science - I am using the assigned textbook but also using Janice Vancleave and doing experiments nearly every science day.  For history we set the official textbook to the side for now and are using Story of the World - they love it!  For grammar and spelling I also found huge gaps in their knowledge so I am using Logic of English with them to reinforce.  This is a very weak area for them.  Unfortunately it is also the area I am least confident teaching.  I am reading the stories in the Mosdos Press book with them, and we are answering the questions at the end of the stories.  But is there a more exciting way I could be teaching this in a small classroom?  One day I turned out the lights and played an audio of "The Tell-Tale Heart".  Afterwards we discussed the story.  They loved it.  But I am not sure if that is what I should be doing.  Does anyone have suggestions on how to get the boys more enthusiastic and involved in the Mosdos stories?

 

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nm. Was just rambling on about stuff.

 

Well, my rambles led me to say that your focus should be on the 3 r's more than the literature, science, or history much as it breaks my heart to say it.

 

Oh--and focus a lot on grammar and writing. I've seen students who have come out of the types of schools where you're teaching, and there was a dire need for grammar/writing skills.

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Glad it is going well. I am still really curious though - are these kids really spending their whole day doing religious studies then cramming in all academics into three hours? Or are they working on a farm or in a factory for most of the day like in the industrial revolution times?

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