I've been sleeping for a few hours before I woke up to type this. It seems the middle of the night is the only time I get, sometimes, to return an email, write a blog, prepare my lessons. After working with my third graders all day and then coming home to be Mommy for Alex (4) and Megan (almost 2!), by the time their bedtime rolls around it is most definitely my bedtime too. My mind is fuzzy and my eyes are tired and I can't think of doing more work, even though I carried home two bulging bags begging to be opened, everything in there important and something that needs my attention. I sleep a little, but I wake with a racing mind, remembering all there is to do, and I quietly make my way downstairs to attempt to do some of it.
When this post is finished, I will turn my attention to Mexico. This is our current unit in Social Studies, leading up to a class trip to a local Mexican restaurant. To be honest, Social Studies and Science are kind of the ugly stepsisters in our curriculum as the focus is always on English Language Arts and Math. I have about 4 different things to prepare for ELA, including Fundations lessons, module lessons, small group lessons, independent reading check-ins and Math is no slouch with concept development lessons, sprints, and problem solving. I am sorry to say Social Studies and Science are often afterthoughts because there are only so many hours in the day and so much a teacher can plan as there are other teaching tasks including parent phone calls, checking and evaluating work, creating anchor charts, updating hallway displays, meetings, etc. requiring attention, too.
So back to Mexico. It would be a lot easier to give out some worksheets on culture, geography, the flag, the food and feel that I have "covered" my curriculum. It would absolutely help me to get a little more sleep. Yet.....a project is calling my name. A teacher friend recently shared how she has her students work in stations when they study a topic. It gets them up and moving and creating and makes the learning come alive. As she described her stations, I thought how I could do this for my Mexico unit. The students could learn about Mexican food and prepare their own menu. They could read about Mexican language and make a little English to Spanish dictionary. Maybe create a travel brochure or a postcard for special places to visit in Mexico. It sounded FUN, something that sadly I feel is often lacking in other areas of my day with the third grade.
My fondest memories of school always go back to the projects. The pine cone turkeys we made and the diorama houses we created for them, the journals we wrote about our turkeys adventures. The newspaper I made with a group of friends about the Roman era, including the horoscopes and recipes we wrote. The totem poles constructed out of coffee cans. I can't remember a single worksheet but I remember these projects still, over 25 years later.
Mind made up, coffee made, I decide sleep can wait a little and the worksheets can sit on their sad little stack. My third graders need to learn about Mexico and I am going to find hands-on, creative ways for them to do it. Adios!