Click on a topic below to read more about Annie's work:
Please describe your experience with Facing the Future materials and how you use them in your classroom:
"I use the Facing the Future materials as the core curriculum of the social studies portion of my class. The first two weeks of every unit I devote to social studies and we use the Making Connections curriculum to explore world geography. I use Making Connections to teach social studies for several reasons. First, students really master the chapter vocabulary because they are using their writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills to understand the meaning of the new vocabulary words. Moreover, my students enjoy the chapter readings because of the engaging topics, eye-catching photos, and age-appropriate content. At the end of the social studies cycle, I assess students in two ways. First, I give a standard test to track mastery of vocabulary, core content, and reading skills. Second, students participate in or create the “culminating activity” located at the end of each chapter. These projects range from creating a persuasive commercial (Chapter Four) to mediating a simulated conflict in their classroom (Chapter Seven). The remaining two weeks of each unit, my students work on a particular writing skill and practice that skill by completing an end-of-unit writing project. Often, I use the writing projects in the Making Connections curriculum to teach students their basic writing skills before launching into their final writing project. The writing projects in Making Connections are structured in a very student-friendly way. Clear steps are given, examples are provided, and rubrics are also included so students know how they are being assessed in the end. This is so important to my students because the writing process is often times very overwhelming to them. The structure provided in Making Connections really sets my students up for success."
Annie uses the following Facing the Future resource:
Please describe the course with which you have used Facing the Future materials:
"[With my] 6th grade Non-Fiction Studies [class in] all units. Non-Fiction Studies [is] a class that combines social studies, writing, and grammar content into one class."
What standards were used or met when using Facing the Future materials?
"A large majority of the socials studies and English language arts Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are met using Making Connections. In particular, many of the reading and writing skills in Making Connections such as using context clues (Chapter 8), sequencing (Chapter 4), determining cause and effect (Chapter 3) meet the ELA TEKS."
What were your main objectives and goals for this unit?
"The main objectives for my course are to get my sixth grade students performing at the same (or higher) level as their sixth grade peers in more affluent communities. Because top-performing middle and high schools have a curriculum focused on writing, researching, and analytical thinking, my sixth grade students need to master these same skills to be prepared to enter top high schools ready to take Honors and AP English and History courses. In order for my students to compete with students in more affluent communities, they have to have strong writing, speaking, listening, and thinking skills that will set them up for success in 7th grade, high school and college. First, students need to write clear, grammatically accurate, and engaging expository and narrative texts. Next, they need to practice and master basic research skills, such as gathering sources, synthesizing information, and presenting original ideas. They will also need to think critically about global issues by reading and analyzing a variety of non-fiction texts. Students should see themselves as a part of a global community, equally invested in both the severity of global problems of our future and the real solutions that they can create to solve them. Finally, my students must have strong communication skills, so they will be able to successfully solve personal conflicts and become true 'self-advocates' for themselves as they take ownership of their own actions and lives."
What parts of the unit engaged your students the most?
"My students found the chapter photos and selected reading topics very engaging. My students really enjoyed the eye-catching photos and this often sparked their interest in the chapter at the beginning. In addition, my students connected with the readings because they often feature students who are their age. Again, this helped student digest the nonfiction text and independently make text-to-self connections. Finally, my students LOVE the culminating projects found at the end of each chapter. In particular, my students enjoyed 'Are you Buying This?!' (Chapter Four) where they used their writing and speaking skills to persuade their classmates to consume or not consume a particular product in a mock television commercial."
In addition to the Facing the Future resources, what other resources did you use to supplement this unit/course?
"I often use the video clips and websites that are provided in each chapter to help students build prior knowledge about a subject before diving into a class reading about it. For example, in chapter six we watched the video clip on human rights before we learned the actual vocabulary word 'human rights'."
How did these resources complement each other?
"They help build prior knowledge or help students see a real-life example at the end of the chapter when they are working on their own culminating activity."
Do Facing the Future materials help you be a better teacher?
"Definitely! As a first year teacher, I felt unsure on how to make social studies and reading/writing content accessible to my students, but also ensure there was rigor in my classroom. Making Connections provided a solid foundation for me to do both of these things. The curriculum also helped me differentiate in my classroom, by providing different reading levels and extension questions and activities."
In regard to sustainability and global issues education, what do you want to know more about?
"I would love to find out how secondary teachers do service-learning and action projects in their classes with over 100 students. I believe that was my biggest deterrent last year. How can I make these great service-learning projects manageable for me and still meaningful to 110 students?"
How do you assess this course?
"I assess students’ mastery of chapter vocabulary, chapter content, and reading skills in a test at the end of each “social studies” cycle (I use and modify most of the questions listed in chapter student assessments at the end of each chapter). I also assess students’ writing skills in their end-of-unit writing project."
What advice, if any, would you give to teachers using these Facing the Future lessons for the first time?
"I would advise following the given format of a chapter at least once and see what worked for you and your students and what didn’t. When I first started, I jumped around the chapters, picking and choosing what I wanted from each chapter, rather than following the chapter sequentially. I soon found out that I was bouncing around too much and my students weren’t mastered the basic vocabulary and content of the chapter. By moving from start to finish in the chapter, I found my students had a chance to engage with the chapter material in multiple and different ways. For my students, this led to a higher level of mastery of the chapter content and skills. It also bettered my teaching because I used a consistent format for my kids every unit so they knew what to expect from me and themselves."
Is there anything else that you would like to share with other teachers looking to engage their students in global issues and sustainability?
"I would highly recommend Making Connections. Not only did my students become more engaged with global issues, but they began to see themselves as part of our global community. They started to reflect on how their actions impacted others in both their local community and global community at large. I found it to be a strong curriculum that helped students build fundamental reading, writing, and thinking skills, but also held students to a rigorous standard throughout each chapter."
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