Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cross Curricular Planning Professional Development

I had the opportunity to work with one of the teacher specialists for staff development in Frederick County, Liz Stiffler. She is the one who is assigned to us because we have not made AYP. She must have a pretty fun job but I can see how some staff may view her as a threat since we are required to attend. So I offered to collaborate with her on one of her sessions. Once again, I am always looking for opportunities to showcase how technology can be used for instruction, even for professoinal development.

The first couple sessions that we attended had some really great ideas for getting students motivated and appeal to different learning styles. I generated several ideas for including technology in those sessions. So when I approached Liz about working together to include a technology componenet, she was more than willing to work together on the idea.

The topic Liz wanted to do was "Cross Curricular Planning." At the beginning of the year, the staff brainstormed ideas of what sort of support the staff development team could give them. One of the ideas was to demonstrate cross curricular planning. So Liz and I brainstormed how to present this in only a 45 minute session. I suggested we make a movie of a sample team meeting where teachers were doing cross curricular planning. This was an exciting idea.

Liz generated a script and we used Inspiration to create a cross curricular planning guide which we would give to teachers are the professional development session. Liz recruited some of her colleagues at Hayward Road and we met to film the video. Later we went back to TJ Middle to edit the video with Windows Movie maker. Finally, Liz 'hosted' a professional development video which we made with VlogIt! software.

We presented the video to the staff on a wintry day when snow was falling. Unfortunately, the snow forced the closing of school early, so we only had time to present to two teams. The first group, made of the sixth grade team did very well. I heard lots of great ideas of how to incorporate skills from other content areas into lessons. The staff seemed to really "get it" and seemed to see the value in it. I am sure many of them already did some cross curricular integration in the lessons on their own, but having a structured time to plan with other teachers usually helps improve a lesson.

As an elementary trained teacher, I firmly believe in the value of cross curricular planning. Students need to see and use skills outside of the content area before it begins to sink in as important to know. Otherwise, they use the skill in math class and walk out the door, never to think about it again. Children need to use a skill 25-40 times before it becomes part of their though process. I know that if I don't do something with great frequency for a while, I will always forget what to do. That's why we can't expect students to divide fractions on Tuesday, take the test on Wednesday and be able to recall that information if they never divide fractions again before the at MSA.

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