Coetail Final Project

Welcome to my COETAIL final project! It has been an incredible journey and I am so excited to (finally) be sharing my final project.


The Idea:

For my final COETAIL project, I decided to focus on redesigning our Grade 4 Social Studies, formerly titled, Agents of Change. In this unit, students learned about a variety of global issues through the lens of the Service Learning Matrix. We introduced the idea that there are global issues that effect humans, animals and/or the environment, and that people can invoke change through either direct (hands on, for example, building a school) /indirect action (for example, your collected donations for the new school being built) or advocacy (for example, you raised awareness about children who do not have a school to go to.)

The performance task for this unit was for students to identify a global issue they were passionate about and design a service learning project that with helps through direct action. I loved this unit and relinquishing it was not easy. We have spent the last 4 years finding ways to make this unit more accessible and authentic for the students. So… if it wasn’t broke, why did I fix it?

Curriculum review year… that is why! As our school has adopted the Aero Standards and gone through the Social Studies curriculum review, we noticed that our amazing, wonderfully planned and perfectly scaffolded unit hit tons of standards, but sadly, they were mostly Grade 5 standards. So, begrudgingly, we began to make some changes.

Step 1: KISS Keep it Simple Sweetie!

This unit has the potential to be a year-long (life long) study. We decided to narrow the unit down by focusing on two Social Studies standards:

  • Standard 7: Students will understand fundamental economic principles and ways in which economies are shaped by geographic and human factors.
  • Standard 2: Students will understand causes and effects of interaction among societies, including trade, systems of international exchange, war, and diplomacy

Step 2: Identify Technology Standards

Empowered Learner

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
  •  Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and    troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

Global Collaborator

  • Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
  • Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

By keeping the standards at the heart of this unit, not only were we able to successfully meet our standards, we were able to create an age-appropriate unit that will focus on building the foundation our students need to be successful as they move onto 5th Grade and delve deeper into the world of service learning.

Though I was VERY hesitant to change our unit, it was the best thing to do in the long run.

The Benefits:

  • Our unit is focused and we are able to delve much deeper into the idea that wants and needs shape how we make our choices, and that the choices we make have consequences, both good and bad. This is really where we need to start from if we want our students to go on to plan a meaningful and successful Service Project.
  • Our students need time to understand the concept of global issues, what they are, how they form and how people work together to make a change. We went into this unit with the assumption that our 4th graders are coming to us with a foundational understanding of global issues. In fact, for the most part, this assumption was wrong, the students knowledge was quite limited. In our redesign, we have taken a big step back and now have opened up the time and space for students to construct their own understanding of global issues.

Moving Forward:

  • My next steps as we continue to improve this unit is to rebuild and reestablish our science year plan to ensure that our science curriculum in hitting the NGSS standards.
  • Revise our Grade 4 year plan plan that is cohesive and allows for transdisciplinary learning where authentic and appropriate.

Final Thoughts:

Coetail has been an incredible journey. Although I did have a bit of a hiatus and found it really difficult to get my head back into the COETAIL world and focused on my PLN, once I started working on this project, I really started to find my grove again. I have learned so much about how to integrate technology in my classroom and it is starting to feel quite seamless. As I wrap up COETAIL and my 11th year of teaching, I am already looking ahead to next year and I am excited about  a new project I am going to start. It is something I posted about back in Course 1 and was my initial idea for my final project.

Source: Mark Anderson

My Goal

  • What? To treat technology as a classroom resource and build routines and expectations around it, just as I do with our classroom agreements and class routines during the first 6 weeks of school.
  • How? Create an interactive bulletin board modeled after Mark Anderson’s blog post. I am blessed with a 4 meter, foldout whiteboard in my classroom. As we set up our technology routines, I plan to have a brainstorming session about the apps we already know, and start to organize them based on their uses. As the year goes on, we will add and adjust our board as necessary.
  • Why? I think it is important to teach students to be organized and mindful when it comes to technology. I want to provide my students with the knowledge they need to skillfully select the best application fit for their task and/or learning style.

Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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1 Response

  1. Hi Jen. I stumbled across this as you linked to my site and I just wanted to say thank you. This looks epic! If I can help in any way, please just drop me a line. Best wishes. Mark

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