It’s that time again—time to start planning for the beginning of the school year. We all know that the start of a new school year can bring frenzy, commotion, and even jitters. We’re here to take some of the stress out of planning and preparing, so you can focus on what’s important: getting to know your new students. This month, we’ll be reviewing a few things to keep in mind while setting a precedent for yourself and your students alike.
Create a classroom culture.
You might have heard it’s important to teach routines and procedures early in the school year. But the beginning of school is also the perfect time to establish a strong classroom culture. PhD Science® is a student-driven curriculum that allows students the opportunity to explore and take risks. Therefore, it’s important to create a safe space for your students to speak freely, explore their ideas, and at times even struggle. Determine some ways to make your classroom a safe space for your students. This could mean creating class norms around discussion, collaboration, and argumentation. This could also mean modeling for your students a noncompetitive learning environment that honors perseverance, effort, and learning from mistakes. PhD Science uses rigor to engage students, so consider creating a culture where productive struggle is encouraged and students see themselves as capable learners and fearless risk-takers.
Whatever you put in place, be conscious that you are designing and creating an authentic learning environment that encourages students to own their learning.
Embrace your implementation journey.
The beginning of the school year is also a good time to set goals for yourself. If you’re a first-year implementer, our advice is to focus on the basics. Take your time exploring and facilitating core components of the curriculum such as anchor visuals, instructional routines, and investigations. There’s no need to try and do everything all at once. Become familiar with the curriculum before layering on some of the more complex components.
For second-year implementers and beyond, use the start of the school year to reflect on what went well last year and what can be improved. Also, consider mastering a few new curriculum components. For example, if you’ve mastered those talk moves to promote student discourse, focus your attention on facilitating constructive Socratic Seminars at the end of each module. If you’ve become comfortable with the activities and investigations in each module, lean into the differentiation sidebar notes in your Teacher Edition.
If you’re an implementer around the four-year mark, you’re likely ready to really maximize instructional effectiveness, including by using information from PhD Science assessments to tailor instruction for your students. Think of each year of implementation as bringing new opportunities for you and your students.
Find the resources that work for you.
We’re here to help every step of the way, because supporting teachers means supporting students. Our Implementation Success team is busy at work creating a variety of new resources to help teachers navigate the curriculum. However, we know it can be overwhelming sifting through everything we have to offer. Finding the resources that work best for you will help you establish a routine when preparing to teach a module.
Before teaching each module, select a few resources that will be most useful to you. The PhD Science Teacher Resource Pack outlines our free module-level resources. You can learn about additional resources in our video library. The Video Library provides implementers with foundational knowledge about PhD Science and details on what to expect from the curriculum. The videos support implementation by providing overviews of professional learning sessions, explaining the basics of the curriculum, and building expanded knowledge of the curriculum’s pedagogy and content. Curriculum users also have exclusive access to additional videos that develop deeper knowledge of module content and explain how to prepare for upcoming lessons.
If you are looking for implementation tips, consider exploring any of the resources listed below.
- The Implementation Guide, found in the Teacher Resource Pack, is a teacher resource that explains the philosophy and curriculum design of PhD Science. It also provides additional resources to help you teach more efficiently and effectively.
- Sign up for monthly newsletters to get up-to-date information on events, curriculum updates, new resources, professional development opportunities, and more.
- Sign up for live webinars or access webinar recordings for facilitator-led sessions featuring implementation-related topics.
- Check out the Aha! blog each month to see posts that highlight tips and tricks for successful implementation.
You can find these resources and more on the Getting Started with PhD Science Landing Page.
Set intentions for your classroom and for yourself.
A new school year doesn’t have to mean chaos. Each school year with PhD Science is a new opportunity to advance your craft. Remember to set intentions for your classroom culture and foster that culture early on. And don’t forget to set intentions for yourself by selecting a few new curriculum components to master and a few go-to implementer resources that best serve you. Know that we are with you every step of the way and take advantage of the many ways to connect with us. We wish you luck this coming year and hope that the 2023–2024 school year is your best one yet.
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Sally Robichaux is an implementation support specialist on the PhD Science team who creates and facilitates sessions and workshops that support teachers during different phases of implementation. Before joining Great Minds, Sally taught Prekindergarten and Kindergarten at various schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and also worked as an applied behavior analyst and transitional kindergarten teacher at the Emerge School for Autism.