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Classes without grade levels…….Why not?

As the school year approaches, the science teacher inside of me wants to perform an experiment. Over the course of the school year, I would like my technology class to evolve into a class of choice and without limits.

Last year, I had a conversation with our districts director of technology. He mentioned that in his opinion, teachers would eventually become like doctors in which we would test each student and then write a “prescription” in the form of an IEP. The student would then use selected computer based courses to address their deficiencies.

While I’d hope that an instructor would still be heavily involved throughout the process, this idea resonated with me. In many districts, students with learning disabilities are the only ones with IEPS. No knocks on that - It’s what should be done. But, how is this fair to the average or advanced students without individualized plans that are the silent majority? Now I know that it would take an unrealistic amount of time and resources to create an IEP for everyone, but with modern technology can’t we develop a way for students to grow beyond the pace of their class?

My plan for this year is to create a course for my 5th-8th graders that will not only cover the standards, but also offer new or advanced versions of lessons. I’ll see each of my students for 10 weeks. They will be required to do all of the lessons at their grade level. Then they will have the option (the last few weeks of the class) to either do other elective lessons at their grade level or do the next years version of an already completed lesson.

Ex: All 5th graders will do programming using Scratch. However, during the last 3 weeks of the course (after I’m done with the 5th grade standards) they can either do other 5th grade level lessons or the 6th grade lesson for Scratch.

So, if they do 2 years of programming lessons each year- what will happen when they get through all 4 years of programming lessons at the end of their 6 grade year? Well that’s when they can move on to a 9th grade level lesson of programming (which would be my next level Alice lesson). In theory, they could be through a basic 12th grade level programming lesson by the time that they leave middle school.

Isn’t that the point? If they have the will and the ability, why not allow the students to stretch their legs and run.

Sure it’s going to be a lot of work, but each year I would have to only add one additional grade level to each of my main topics. Being fortunate enough to have Moodle to organize my lessons and seeing my kids over 4 years, it seems like the perfect situation for this experiment.

If you have any experience with classes of this nature or care to offer any suggestions, I would love to hear your views.

Wish me luck!!!!

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