Monday, May 11, 2015

A Day in ELA (Using Engage NY's ELA Modules)

As the school year comes to an end many districts may be contemplating curriculum changes for next year.  Throughout my eight years teaching fourth grade I've had experience with various combinations of language arts programs ranging from Harcourt Trophies to Fountas and Pinnell's Balanced Literacy and Guided Reading to Lucy Calkins Writing and Daily 5 from the 2 Sisters.

This year my district decided to adopt Engage NY's ELA Modules in hopes to increase rigor and provide students with opportunities to dissect challenging and engaging text throughout the content areas.

What does a typical day in ELA look like?

Here is how we spend an hour working through one of Engage NY's ELA Module lessons.

Students come to the carpet with their ELA binder at the start of each lesson.  Their binder houses the worksheets and books needed for the unit we are currently working on.

Each lesson contains a nice combination of teacher modeling, partner and small group work, as well as independent practice.

After discussing our goals for the lesson, and examining some of the new vocabulary we may run into, we begin.  Students read, and then re-read, text closely to dig deeper into the content, make inferences, and synthesize new knowledge.

Each module integrates social studies of science content.  We are currently working through Module 3A: Simple Machines.   After reading about an experiment and determining the gist students split into groups and collect a few simple materials to begin the experiment.

Today students are making a lever by using a water bottle as the fulcrum and a ruler as the lever arm.  The text called to use dimes as the load but we substituted them for yellow and red counters.  Students experimented with placing different amounts of counters at the ends of the lever arm and trying to balance the arm.

While working through the experiment students began to notice that in order to balance the lever arm, the heavier load needed to be placed closer to the fulcrum and the lighter load needed to be placed further away.

After our experiment, students read more information in their text about levers.  They learned the science behind their results.  While reading we placed post-it notes on a chart containing our gist statements, important vocabulary, and examples of levers in real life.

Since our post-it notes have a tendency to fall off easily, we summed up each section and wrote our ideas in marker.  This poster was added to our wall display that will soon contain facts about each type of simple machine.

Students will refer to these charts throughout the remainder of our module.

Throughout the school year we have started to adapt the module lesson slightly to best fit the needs of our students.  We have looked for ways to squeeze in multiple choice questions, extended response writing, and skills practice.  We have purchased, tweaked, and even created our own Power Point presentations and Smart Notebook files to accompany each lesson.  Most importantly, we have searched for ways to make sure that each lesson is engaging and fun for our students.

I am lucky to teach in a district where we also have an additional hour allotted for guided reading groups and centers as well as an AIS block 3 times a week which we have frequently used to add in additional time for explicit writing instruction.

Have you tried out Engage NY's ELA Modules?  If so, how do you like them so far?

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