Ideal Course Sequences

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Brendan, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jan 10, 2011

    So for my new job, we are in the process now of determing Math, Science, and Social Studies course sequences for our new gifted school for grades 6-12. Keeping this in mind, what would be your ideal sequence. My thoughts:

    History:
    6th grade: Ancient Civ.
    7th grade: Intro to American History and Gov't
    8th grade: Western Civ. I
    9th grade: US History I
    10 th grade: AP Euro or Western Civ. II
    11th grade: AP US History
    12th grade: AP American Government and Politics Honors and for AP Politics (one semester on American and another on Comparative)

    Science:
    6th: Earth/Space Science
    7th: Introduction to Physics and Chemistry
    8th: Introduction to Life Science
    9th: Biology
    10th: Chemistry
    11th: Physics and AP Biology/Chemistry (if schedule permits)
    12th: AP Biology, Physics, and/or Chemistry

    Math: (this is really what my bosses think, not sure how I feel)
    6th grade: pre-algebra
    7th grade: algebra I
    8th grade: geometry
    9th grade: algebra II
    10th grade: precalc
    11th grade: ap statistics
    12th grade: ap calc

    Languages (example: Spanish)
    6th grade: Spanish I Part I
    7th grade: Spanish I Part II
    8th grade: Spanish 2
    9th grade: Spanish 3
    10th grade: Spanish 4
    11th grade: AP Spanish Language
    12th grade: Spanish Lit

    English:
    6-8th: "English 6-8"
    9th grade: American Literature
    10th grade: European Literature
    11th grade: AP English Lit
    12th grade: AP English Language

    In grades 6-8: Students will have a double block for English: one block for writing and one for lit.
    Starting in 9th grade students will be assigned a semester long writing course taught by various departments.
    11th grade:

    Thoughts??
     
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  3. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Jan 10, 2011

    your math pacing is VERY ambitious...

    If you don't have kids who are high in math, they will really struggle with this pacing. Is it possible to sort kids by math level rather than ability?

    It's ok to have 7th and 8th graders taking algebra, provided that's where they are at on the scale.

    Also, I would personally switch ap calc and ap stats... it's better for kids to hit calc after pre calc.. that way they don't forget stuff from precalc that's not used in stats.
     
  4. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Jan 10, 2011

    We're a public school, but I'll throw out our "enriched" track for your reference.

    Social Studies:
    6th - Ancient Civilizations
    7th - US History 1
    8th - US History 2
    9th - World History I
    10th - World History II, Government (or AP Gov)
    11th - AP US History
    12th - AP European History

    Science:
    6th - 8th: currently being revamped
    9th - Earth or Life Science
    10th - AP Bio
    11th - Dual Credit Chemistry I or Dual Credit Physics I
    12th - Chemistry II or Physics II, or Anatomy & Physiology

    Math:
    6th - General Math
    7th - Pre-Algebra
    8th - Algebra I
    9th - Geometry
    10th - Algebra II
    11th - Pre-Calc
    12th - AP Calc

    English:
    Currently being revamped
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 10, 2011

    I don't like the math sequence. I think that trying to teach abstract concepts to kids before they're developmentally ready to truly grasp them is a bad idea. The time would be better spent exploring and solidifying basic arithmetic and number theory. For example, the recent thread about multiplication: I would much rather see students spending time discovering the difference between the two basic operations than continuing to believe there's only one operation that gets more complicated. I would also rather see students able to see the "bigger picture", that they miss out on when we try to cram too much too soon. I think the earliest Algebra I should be taught is 8th grade.

    Even if he decides to go with that general sequence, he's got Calculus and Statistics backwards. You need an integral calculus background to deal with continuous distributions, so calculus, through basic integration techniques, is really a prerequisite.
     
  6. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Jan 10, 2011

    In English, I would change "European Lit" to "World Lit." Our students LOVE their freshman world lit course.
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Jan 10, 2011

    But, mm, Brendan did specify that this is a gifted charter: it's broadly the case that gifted kids are somewhat or more than somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to abstract thought. I don't know that teaching algebra in seventh grade is necessarily wrong.

    That the students need a SOLID grasp of the fundamentals first, of course, goes without saying.
     
  8. glitzeyes

    glitzeyes Rookie

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    Jan 10, 2011

    7th grade is usually introduction to Life Science and 8th grade is earth and space science. I am teaching 7th grade life science right now in Alabama. I am orginally from MN and 7th grade is life science there too....
     
  9. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jan 10, 2011

    MM and Catcherman, what would you suggest?

    Having a lower track of math in which students take Alegbra I in 8th grade? We are toying around with offering that.

    Ron, how do you find the APUS students retention of the material from 7th and 8th grade. We hope that by offering US I before APUSH they will have a knowledge of some of the material.
     
  10. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 10, 2011

    Good point. I did forget he said that. On the other hand, I still think spending a year exploring number theory and fundamental theorems of arithmetic might be a better, and more novel way to increase understanding of algebra and advanced mathematics.
     
  11. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    For a non-math person, who has previously taught 9th grade Algebra and 10th grade geometry as a permanent sub, could you tell me how a course like that would be useful and what it would entail.
     
  12. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    All the "why's" of math. Why do the traditional algorithms work? What's the difference between an adder and a multiplier? What, precisely, is a "scaling" operation?

    I think this could be good because it would get kids thinking on a different plane. They would discover that math is not a series of random rules, but connected, with each step logically following from the step before it. Actually, I think kids should be taught logic. 6th grade would be a great place for it, if they don't get it earlier. I also think, that instead of just a rehashing of the same topics over and over, a course designed to bring it all together, and take arithmetic to it's roots, would be a great place to start teaching abstraction, since the topics themselves are something they've already learned.

    When they do get to algebra, those topics would Just Make Sense.

    Does that make any sense at all? I wanted to respond right away, but I need time to put my thoughts together in a way that's more readable.
     
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jan 10, 2011

    Take your time, PM, with anything else you can come up with. I'd greatly appreciate it.
     
  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    (This is going to be fun to watch develop: can we see it here, pretty please??)
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 10, 2011

    Brendan, give me a couple days. I have Wednesday's off, so I'll have a lot of time that morning to really put together a thoughtful proposal, backed with more than just my opinion.
     
  16. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    As long as I'm not imposing.
     
  17. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 10, 2011

    Oh, and for what it's worth, the above is the approach I take with supplementing my own children's educations, and all their teachers comment on how well they "just get" math. I don't know if it's because they inherited my natural leanings toward all things math, or if it's because of the way I approach it with them, but they all do really well with math and science classes.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oh, goodness! Not at all! I really miss teaching. A lot. I would feel useful again.
     
  19. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    In regards to your question about retention of US history material from middle school to AP US: honestly, it's fairly poor. But I'm not sure if that's because of our curriculum, or our staff. To be brutally honest, our 8th grade US History teacher this year (and he previously taught 7th for many years) is what we call "R-O-J" -- retired on the job. The students learn very little there. But our 7th grade teacher does a great job, but he only came into that role two years ago.

    So as it stands now, retention is problematic. But we kept the sequence as is because of a state test in 8th grade that has a heavy focus on US History. But regardless, I would imagine in a school for gifted students, you would see a better scenario.
     
  20. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    That's too bad. At my current school students have US History before APUSH and the rentention is pretty good. Or it could be the fact that the summer reading assignment for APUSH covers a lot of the US I material.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Brendan, if you want to PM me with your email address, I can send you all our syllabi.

    I think your math program is probably too ambitious too.

    Also, keep in mind: for the first 3 years, all your upper level kids will be transfers, with a HUGE variety of skills. Putting those kids into AP courses might not be the best plan.
     
  22. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I think you're saying that they have 9-12 Lit in one class and writing in another. I love this idea for the 9th graders as long as the classes are synchronized. My only thought is that, because these are gifted kids, they probably won't need separate classes by 10/11/12. (You could have a writing tutorial elective for the kids who still need targeted help in 10/11/12.) And, it might be to their benefit to combine Lit and Writing in 10/11/12 to prepare for college classes, which combine the two.
     
  23. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    I taught at a school with a math sequence like that, and most of the students did fine. You need a really great algebra teacher to pull it off, though - he used lots of manipulatives and put in a ton of time tutoring kids who were struggling. The math block was 90 minutes per day. You would need a way for 8th graders who transfer into your school to take algebra if their 7th grade school didn't offer it, though.
     
  24. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    The Writing Seminars will be taught across the departments, so they aren't necessarily English classes. The goal is after 10th grade for students to choose the type if writing they most likely will do in college.
     
  25. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Brendan, I looked up the k-12 math standards for your state during some free time I had at work today (okay, I could have been doing something else, but I did that instead). I have some thoughts. I think a traditional "pre-algebra" class might be unnecessary....

    ...More to come....
     
  26. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    I just think you should get away with the idea that certain grades must take certain math classes.

    Kids should be grouped by their ability level and not by grade level in math. You need to have a solid understanding in the first subject before moving on to the next subject.

    Now, My personal opinion is pre alg, alg 1, geo, alg 2, pre calc, calc/stats. This is a list of courses to be taken in order. I wouldn't put a 9th grader in Geo or alg 2 just because that's where the schedule say they should be, I'd place them in the class with the correct academic ability level.

    How long are the classes? Are they Semester based on year long?

    At our school, which has gifted kids making up about 50% of it, we make all freshman take Geometry. Since our classes are semester based, they either fit into a year long geo (which spends a lot of time reviewing algebra skills) or a semester geo. All other math classes are semester long. We look at the kids ability before placing them in the correct pace of geometry. We also are not hesitant to force kids to retake classes in order to make them successful in the next level.

    Does that make sense?
     
  27. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Brendan, regarding your question about retention: our students take US history in 8th, then US or APUSH in 11th.

    Retention of *facts* is not great. But they have a good sense of the basic pacing and can make certain conceptual leaps that I think are possible because of their year studying US history before.

    One thing you might consider is a class focused on non-western history. Our 9th graders take Eastern Civ, which traces the Silk Road and moves through time and space. They love it, and we love that they know about Asia and the Middle East. It also helps to spread Geography throughout the high school history curriculum.
     
  28. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jan 12, 2011

    I think that your course sequence for the first few years should pretty much match the traditional curriculum from your state, since so many of your kids will be transfers. For math I would say:

    Math 7/ Pre-algebra
    8: Algebra I
    9: Geometry
    10: Algebra II & Trig
    11: Precalc
    12: Calc (maybe not AP right away; you could do that in a few years once you had a higher percentage of kids who had gone through your rigorous syllabus.)

    Right now I'm teaching Geometry to a group of 30 freshmen; a typical freshman in my school takes Algebra I. What I find is that there are isolated holes in their knowledge. For example, the other day I realized that only TWO could factor a trinomial if the leading coefficient greater than one couldn't be factored out. It's something that all the other kids in their homeroom have learned in our school, but that the local elementary schools apparently neglected in their effort to accelerate kids. It's not something they NEED for geometry; I was enriching the syllabus a bit.( I also realized a while back that most of them haven't seen absolute value inequalities; it came up in an SAT Do Now question. That's another topic we teach our algebra kids.) So if I don't get around to teaching those topics, I'll give a heads up to whoever has the accelerated class for Algebra II & Trig-- this is something they SHOULD already know, so someone will have to find a way to squeeze it in next year.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that, because of the large number of transfers you'll be dealing with, you need one sequence now, and another ready to ease in once the upper level kids are "yours." You can certainly add rigor to your courses-- and hire teachers who aren't afraid to push beyond the basic syllabus. But I would be cautious about assuming a background that isn't there, or that is less solid than needed. No matter how bright the kids, are, they'll need to have been taught the concepts. And the odds are that they're transferring to your school for a reason-- I think you have to assume some gaps in their basic knowledge.

    What you DON'T want is a whole lot of kids in a brand new school taking an AP exam, but unprepared to do well. It won't do the school's reputation any good.
     
  29. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jan 12, 2011

    Alice, I totally agree. But, when I was looking up the MA state standards, everything I would consider "traditional" pre-algebra is covered in 6th grade math, though some concepts might not be covered with expectations of mastery. MA seems to have taken the route of pushing more concepts down to the lower levels instead of adding depth in order to increase performance.

    So, my thought, instead of a traditional pre-algebra course, was to work within the given state frameworks, which already include the necessary skills, then beef it up with added skills such as logic, set theory, and hands-on discovery, so that when the kids DO get to algebra I in the 8th grade, their foundational knowledge allows them to grasp the subtleties far better than they would otherwise.

    See, I guess I believe that the way to increase student achievement isn't to add more topics, but to cover the topics they already have in a more in-depth fashion. I can't tell you the number of college kids I taught that took Calculus in HS but couldn't factor a basic trinomial (a=1) and didn't understand that roots and radicals were inverses of each other. That is the road I would like to avoid.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree 100% mm.

    It's just that you did your homework on the MA standards, and I did not.

    Yet another reason I love my school: the focus is more on depth than on variety. Our kids graduate KNOWING the math they've been taught.
     
  31. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 26, 2011


    You can google the formulas; I'm not sure I can format them correctly here. But here goes:

    Geometric:
    an = a1*r ^ (n-1 )
    where a1= first term
    r= common ratio
    n= term number.

    Arithemtic: an = a1 +(n-1)d
    where a1= 1st term
    n = term number
    d= common difference
     

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