Community Webs is a thematic unit developed for my third grade special education class in San Jose, California. The theme idea is taken from our Language Arts Unit which is titled “Spin a Web,” our social studies book titled “Our Community” and our literature book, “Charlotte’s Web.” The culminating activity for this unit is the development of a student created bulletin board titled “Community Web,” which will tie all the disciplines together.
The district adopted curriculum for special education language arts is titled “Language!” by Jane Fell Green, Ed.D., publisher Sopris West. The curriculum is comprehensive. It covers reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, speaking and listening. It is correlated to the California Language Arts Standards, however, it is not grade leveled according to those standards. For example, phonemic awareness and phonics is contained in standards from kindergarten through third grade, and is included in book one which is targeted for third grade. The grade level standards are not neatly listed for each lesson, so for this assignment, I teased out the 3rd grade standards that are addressed in the unit and listed them on a page following the lesson plan. I also included a copy of the California Language Arts Standards for third grade.
The Language! curriculum has a complete and comprehensive Teacher’s Edition, (TE), which provides all the lesson plans, scripts, activities, and answer keys. Normally, I would not re-write the lessons, simply note what is to be covered on a weekly calendar. For this assignment, I took the publisher’s Unit Overview, embellished it with a timeline, lesson objectives, and references to the appropriate pages in the TE.
The students have two books, the “Instructional Text,” which contains all the worksheets for the lessons, and a “Student Text” which contains lessons, expository and narrative readings. The “Student Text” reading in this unit is titled:
- The World on the Web,
- Log On!
- World Wide Web
- Newspaper Connections
Web of Lies
- Spider Webs
- The Spider’s Thread
- Spider Woman (poem)
The students spend a minimum of 90 minutes a day with the Language! curriculum. There are two assessments, one at the end of lesson 5 and the other at the end of lesson 10. The assessment results are entered into the District’s data base. Since we do not have report cards I do not assign letter grades for completed work. Formative assessment consists of reviewing the worksheets and marking work completed. The students are given rewards through our token economy for the completed assignments. The language curriculum is comprehensive in the areas that it addresses. It uses a direct instruction approach and does not advance critical thinking beyond answering comprehension questions after reading.
Literature provides an opportunity to combine direct instruction with constructivism and engage students in reflective and critical thinking. I chose Charlotte’s Web for this unit because of the thematic tie-in with the Language! unit, because it is classic fiction for children, and because it has an excellent animated movie. Literature also allows me to directly address the third grade standards even though many of my student’s skills are on the kindergarten and first grade level. This is accomplished by using video, audio books, lively discussions around the literary topic, and relating the topic personally to each student. Finally, literature provides content for direct instruction in writing.
For this thematic unit, the students are complete a series of graphic organizers. The organizers serve as prewriting tools for later lessons in writing. The worksheets are assessed based on an assessment rubric. The assessment rubric has three columns. Each column addresses a different area. The first column addresses Word Analysis. The second column addresses Reading Comprehension, and the third, Literary Analysis. Worksheets are assessed based on the appropriate content column. This rubric is also used to score Social Studies worksheets.
The Social Studies Standards for Third Grade cover local and California history. Our social studies book is titled, “Our Community.” The unit that is being covered for this assignment is titled, Rules and Laws. There are six lessons in the unit. This assignment addresses two lessons. The first is, “Why is being a good citizen important.” The second is, “What brings our communities together?” The social studies curriculum is rich with activities that allow students to reflect and construct meaning. I’ve captured some of these activities in the lesson plan for the first chapter.
The Social Studies lesson assessment is provided by the publisher of the text. I’ve included a copy of the lesson assessment and rubric that is provided. Prior to the assessment, I have students complete a similar worksheet as a direct instruction activity. I let them know that they should study the worksheet that we did and that they will be allowed to use it on the test. If they understand what we discussed, they will be able to transfer the concepts from one worksheet to the other. Although this may seem fairly easy, it is a real challenge for the students I teach.
The district adopted Math Curriculum has a TE with outlines, scripts and the complete lesson plans for each Chapter. The students spend 75 minutes a day learning the math curriculum. The curriculum has a host of math manipulative and electronic resources. Normally, I would simply place the lesson numbers and write notes on a calendar. The notes would include any manipulative or other supplies that I might need. This would be adequate for lesson planning. However, for the Math component of this Thematic Unit, I developed the lesson plan as I taught the chapter. The lesson plan uses Play Dough to teach concepts in fractions, geometry, and measurement. Prior to teaching the lesson, I made enough Play Dough for each student. I placed it in a plastic freezer bag with each student’s name on the bag. I also provided them with plastic knives. The lesson was a success in terms of student involvement and appreciation. The Play Dough was first used to teach fractions. For the thematic lesson plan, I use it to teach Geometry.
The math is assessed at the end of each chapter and the scores are entered into the district’s data base. I’ve provided a copy of the end of chapter assessment with the lesson plan.
The thematic unit will culminate with the development of a bulletin board. I’ve included a sketch of the concept. The bulletin board is called “Community Webs” and it ties together visually each of the disciplines. Geometric shapes are used as nodes on the bulletin board. The students create a self portrait and write a few sentences on their personal experience as a good citizen. Yarn is used to connect the nodes which include the branches of the State Government, the Santa Clara County Fair, and the local citizens of San Jose and McCollam School. The development of the bulletin board will take place on Friday afternoons during Art and Media time.
I hope to teach this unit in January of 2011. I plan to ‘web’ more of the curriculum together into themes for teaching throughout the next school year. I will need to develop lesson plans for the literature unit, but I will use the publisher provided lesson plans for Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Math.
Language Arts Thematic Overview
This section begins with a copy of the California Language Arts Standards. The standards are well developed and fairly easy to understand and teach. Following the official standards is a set of standards that were rewritten with examples so that a student or parent can understand them.
The next section is the Language! lesson plan. Lessons one, two and three are presented as a week’s worth of study. Each unit has ten lessons and each lesson has six steps. The steps are:
1. Phonemic Awareness and Phonics
2. Word Recognition and Spelling
3. Vocabulary and Morphology
4. Grammar and Usage
5. Listening and Reading Comprehension
6. Speaking and Writing.
The lesson plan was compiled from information from the Instructional Planning Tools, and the TE. The TE information is condensed and reference is made to the actual page number were more information is available. The dates and time for each lesson has also been provided.
The lessons cover standards from Kindergarten through fifth grade. Following the lesson plan grid is the Standards Correlation for the third grade. The Language! curriculum was not developed to address only one grade level at a time but to address subject matter sequencing and repetition for mastery learning. The unit is assessed after lesson 5 and 10. The unit assessments are provided. The scores are entered into the districts database, but letter grades are not assigned. There are no report cards for this Special Day Class, only IEP progress reports. The Language unit may or may not address a particular student’s IEP. Because the curriculum is not developed around the 3rd grade standards, it is possible not to cover all the standards prior to Star testing. Therefore, it is important to supplement the Language! Curriculum with other curriculum that addresses IEP goals and State Standards. Developing a thematic unit with a literature component is an excellent way to address this need.
Literature Thematic Overview
The literature unit is developed around the novel Charlotte’s Web and addresses three ELA standards areas. 1) Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development; 2) Reading Comprehension; 3) Literary Response and Analysis. A three column rubric was developed to determine the level of competency in each of these areas based on the student’s performance on assessment worksheets. The students are given tally marks for completion of the assignments and assessments. The tally marks are part of the class token economy. Grades and report cards are not awarded for this 3rd grade Special Day Class. IEP goals are addressed and samples of the student’s work when related, is used to address the fulfillment of IEP goals.
Some, but not all, of the worksheets are included following the lesson plan. Literature is directly taught on Monday and Wednesday’s from 12:30 t0 1:25. Students may also complete literature assignments, listen to the audio book, or read during morning workshops which is from 8:00 – 8:30 Monday – Fridays. The assessment rubric is included in this section.
Each week the students spend an hour in the computer lab. The County Fair Lesson Plan for this week is tied into the literature unit. The lesson plan covers one lab session for the first week of the thematic unit. The county fair ties well into the Community Web theme. The county is part of the state, which are both part of the Community Web. The titles of the other computer lab sessions are included on the calendar. They tie into the Language! readings. They are titled: “The World on the Web,” “Log On!,” and “World Wide Web.”
Math Thematic Overview
Geometric shapes are used as graphic organizers and symbols that tie communities together. In the first math chapter in this unit, students learn to recognize shapes based on their attributes. These shapes are tied into the unit as graphic organizers for the Community Web bulletin board. A lesson plan was written for each of the five lessons in Chapter 14. The other chapters that are presented during the thematic unit are, Chapter 15, more on shapes, Chapter 16 and 17, which are on Fractions.
The math curriculum is rich with online resources and manipulative. I usually teach the book the way it is presented in the TE, however, for this thematic unit I added an enhancement which does not replace, but is added to the TE guided practice. The students do math from 10:30 to 11:45 daily.
After each chapter is a chapter assessment. A copy of the chapter 14 assessment is included in this section. The assessment is graded using a traditional scale and the raw scores are entered into the District’s Data Base. The students receive grade points which convert to tally marks for the token economy. An A = 4 tally marks, a B equals 3 tally marks, and a C = 2 tally marks, a D=1 tally mark.
Social Studies Thematic Overview
Social Studies is taught every other week for 85 minutes, alternating with Science. The 3rd grade social studies standards focus on local and California history. A copy of the History Social Studies standards is included. Unit 4 of our social studies curriculum is titled Rules and Laws. Chapter two titled, “Why is being a good citizen important,” and chapter three titled, “What brings our communities and country together,” were selected for this thematic unit. These two chapters focus on identifying the characteristics of good citizenship and symbols and seals such as the flag, or State of California seal. These symbols tie in nicely with our math lesson on shapes and our Community Web Bulletin board. Only lesson two is developed into a lesson plan and submitted with this thematic unit. The assessment for this lesson and the grading rubric are publisher developed and are included as part of this section.
For Science we tie in Life Sciences. We discuss food webs which tie nicely in with the literature novel Charlotte’s Web, and the concept of a farm as a place where animals are raised to provide food for people. The titles of the science units are included on the planning calendars.