Journeying Through Journeys: Tips, Thoughts, & Goals

Last year my district adopted Journeys K-5. It was quite the switch up, at least in 4/5 where we had primarily done novel studies before the basal. Here is a peek at how my teammates and I navigated and tried to tame the beast that is Journeys.

First of all, starting in 4th, we are departmentalized. There are five fourth grade teachers, one who teaches only science and social studies, two who teach one section of reading and the rest are math, and then myself and another teacher take the rest of the reading and all of the communications (writing) blocks.

As the ELA team,  we divided up lesson plans for the week, one going through the book jotting down the reading and shooting the lesson out to everyone, the other did the communication plans. By the time we went through the books to make these, my daily "at a glance" plan was usually on a sticky note, that I would tuck from page to page as needed in the manual.

Each of our periods is a 55 minute block. That is very little time for all that Journey's contains. We did the very best we could to hit it all, but it felt rushed at times. We adjusted the schedule a bit, and ran on 6 day weeks throughout the year. This helped greatly with our communications periods, so that we had a little extra time to work on our writing. This also made for five days of teaching and one test day.

I would try on our Day 5  to run centers to review what we had covered. For one class section, one day with 4-5 centers to rotate through was good enough. Another section, review and one on one work occurred on Day 5 and on into Day 6 as well. Depending on the group of kids in each section, and how things are going, we might focus more on decoding in one class and the target skill more in another section. Having centers throughout the week in addition to what the program itself provides, helped to give my students a chance to apply and practice what we were working on.

My district is also blessed to be a 1:1 iPad district. Having a review on Kahoot was always a class favorite. Finding ways to do the same practice from the workbook in a hands on way on the iPad made things more meaningful than just the worksheet.

Writing was tough. The amount of projects that are to be completed, the time allowed, add in all the hectic things that come into a schedule made it nearly impossible. We adjusted some. Not writing every writing piece. Elongating the project time, so that students could really dig in, especially when the topic was of interest. A favorite for all was during the persuasive writing unit. Students still needed to write in the form of a poster or brochure, but they also had a to create a commercial on the iPad using various apps to persuade their audience as well.  I also made mentor sentences a priority, making sure to have 5-10 minutes a day for the authentic and spiraled practice of grammar--and it worked wonderfully!

In my state, 4th grade is a heavily assessed grade. There are so many standards that need to be taught and met for students to succeed on the testing. Schedules are crazy. Weather is crazy, although it's said wait five minutes and it'll change if you're in Kansas, and days you didn't expect to get off are suddenly cold days or snow days. Students get sick. There are field trips. The list goes on and on.

It takes a few years to truly get into a groove with a basal system no matter what system you use. It takes time to figure out the pace of a single lesson. It takes time to figure out which concepts are truly important to focus on and which are great if you can get to it this week, but if you have to, wait until the program spirals back. Know that, especially in the first year of implementing the program, it can't all be done, but as the great educator that you are, you can focus on what's important and help your students get what they need from the program. I know, now that we've had a year under our belt, we will be able to manage time better through pacing and incorporate even more of all that the program has to offer.

While having a basal is great for subplans, it's been a huge adjustment for me. I'm still learning how to work with it best, but I do know there a few things I want to do this upcoming year. 
  1. Give as many opportunities in my reading and homeroom times for kids to read. There is a lot of extras to Journeys. I truly feel that it's important for kids to read, to have choice, to talk about what they are reading. I want to make this more of a priority. 
  2. I want to continue to make Journeys work in my room. When we first implemented the series, the iPads became a glorified paperweight collecting dust. Things were rushed, it just wasn't working to the full potential. Including more hands on use with iPads, centers, etc. is a goal for me. 

Here are some of the units that I have prettied up from the school year. I have full units 110+ pages for each story {I'm trying to complete everything with plenty of time for prep, as I'll be laminating along with everyone this year.. rather than my 'quick hot of the press let's try this' centers and projects of last year.} For information on how I'm going to attempt to keep it all organized see this post.

For more information please click here or on the pictures above.

I've also broken a part some of the units, for quick skill packs. A sample of these packs can be found  by clicking the pictures below.

I would love to hear from others who have this series or any other and how you get the most from the basal.

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