The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

A Return to Basics

As a self-contained general education classroom instructor, I am responsible for providing my students with instruction in math, literacy (reading and writing), social studies, science, physical education, health, and social/emotional learning. But I feel like I spend the vast majority of my time working on literacy and math–what used to be called the three R’s: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. I try to cover all of the subjects on a regular basis, but, at the same time, I find that the basics are still just that: the basics.

Students have to have a firm foundational knowledge of the basic concepts before they can delve deeply into the vast wonder that is our universe. I don’t want students to spend so much time on the fundamentals that they miss out on the wonders, but I also don’t want them to spend so much time in the wonders that they become disconnected from the world.

It is a tough balancing act, to be sure.

This whole week has been a return to basics kind of week. We’ve focused almost exclusively on literacy and math, while the students have also been working on completing their European explorers project. I am fairly certain that we have to finish tomorrow, or at least conclude what we have done, and then just move on. We’ve spent far more time on this than I initially wanted to, and now that we are in a new semester, it is time to wrap it up and move on. Maybe when those few who are not done with their contributions realise that everyone else has finished, they will have the motivation to get their parts done. Otherwise we are just going to have a few holes in our alphabet book.

We spent a lot of time today working on math, especially multiplication of whole numbers by a single-digit number. Next week we begin multi-digit multiplication. My hope is that we can get through multiplication and dive straight into division, but we’ll see how it goes. We still need to cover fractions, geometry, and probability, and the days are quickly rushing by! But we also need to dive into science and social studies. Many of this topics will be integrated into literacy units, but I want to make sure my students have plenty of time to explore, experiment, and experience what we are going to be learning.

I know that it will all come together somehow; it always does. It reminds me of something my parents once told me when they were planning Cub Scout Pack Meetings: If you over-plan and have those present actively participating for the entire time, none of them will know what you didn’t accomplish; they’ll only know what you did!


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