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Your Summer To Do List

The best time to update a course, curriculum or even just lessons is in early summer. We have a clear view of what worked, the motivation to put in a bit of work on the task and we are aware of how that that work will make our lives easier in the next school year.

In the early summer we are still in work mode. It takes me about 2 to 3 weeks to adjust to the summer work load. In that time I transition from thinking about classes and lessons to thinking about my garden. I like to focus on curricula while I am still in a school work mind set. It simply does not work for me in later summer as the lessons I need to change are not fresh in my mind and there are a thousand other things that grab my attention.
I begin with a “to do” list I keep every year. Each time I think of something I need to do to improve a lesson I jot it down on the list. If there are lessons that need a full replacement I keep those ideas in the “to do” list and a file as well. When I pack my room away I keep the “to do” list and any lesson files I want to improve out. I am slowly switching to doing this digitally and keeping the list online. I have not done that yet but that is on my new “to do” list.
So, the room is all packed for the summer and I am at home on my deck ready to begin my summer. The list and file come out and I select the task that sounds like the most interesting. It is important to work on the topic or idea that is fresh in your mind or the one that captures your attention. That way the topic will feed from your interest. I always write better lessons when I am actively interested in the topic. Currently there is a lot on the news about floods so I will be working on the units that involve water first.

Summer gives me time to get back and really dig into some web sites that captured my attention. These web sites hold solid gold for my lesson updates. I archive web sites that look good in a folder on my computer bookmarks. I also use the free service “Delicious” and “Live Binders” to keep my bookmarks organized and available regardless of what computer I am working from.
http://www.delicious.com/
http://livebinders.com/

The web sites that help me the most at lesson revisions are those written by teachers. I am drawn to these first because even if the lesson is not one I will use as is the lesson materials always include teaching tips and strategies that are exceptionally helpful. As a science teacher I have had to learn the tricks of the trade in teaching reading skills to my students. I have picked up some techniques from colleagues and at conferences. The lion’s share of good ideas have come from my early summer lesson reading. Many of the teachers who post lessons on the web do a great job at integrating other subjects with science. Many  of my favorites come from the Smithsonian.

http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/lesson_plans/science_technology.html

Many of the larger web sites, like Smithsonian, hire teachers to help with their lesson plans. You can tell from one read those that have a teacher in the classroom voice. The PBS folks do an exceptional job with their lessons as well. Simply go to the PBS site, click on your favorite program and look for the link to lessons or the teacher link.
http://www.pbs.org/topics/science-nature/

The departments of education in many states are loading up their web sites with lessons that teach to the core of their state standards. Many of these lessons are found elsewhere and may be more engaging. However, you can find gold even in the state documents as they are generally written by teachers. One to check out is listed below:

http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/sci/secondary/default.htm

Other states that may not have good online lessons will have links to good sites. The Washington site lists their Science Olympiad which is a gold mine for good activities.A few years back I reformatted my lesson plans so that they were all in the same format and I knew where to look for specific things. There are quite a few templates online but the Microsoft site has some pretty good ones that can be modified with ease.
For those of you thinking of moving your lessons online and having many of the resources available to students in their “off” time, there are some key resources you should check out.
Cool Kat teacher outlines all sorts of resources that help to make the transition easier in his blog.
http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/

For integrating social media into your courses of course you should check out the Center for teaching, Learning and Technology site.
http://blogs.ilstu.edu/ctlt/2011/04/21/integrating-social-media-tools-into-your-courses/

The summer is so short and there is always so much to do on my list that I never complete it all. I encourage you to select the most interesting tasks and keep summer as a time to recharge both your lessons and your own personal batteries. An hour a day in the garden can help make me much more effective and focused in the fall.

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