Every year in April, the sixth grade students experience what it is like to work on an International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) unit. While they are physically still in Upper Elementary, they have started to think about 7th grade and what awaits them.
As I introduce the IMYC Unit, the process begins with introducing an activity that is designed to lead students to the discovery of the “Big Idea”. The purpose of the Big Idea, which is a theme, is to link all IMYC subjects that follow that specific theme in which the work flows.
Our sixth grade students worked in groups of twos with decks of cards to build tall structures. They worked as teams and collaborated on balancing the cards to create tall and wide structures. After 20 minutes, we stopped to reflect with conversation. We discussed what was challenging, what worked, what didn’t work, and what could they have done differently. This interaction led them to discover the Big Idea…Balance.
From that moment, the knowledge harvest begins and the students write an entry in their daily journal about a specific experience that ties to Balance. The experience could be an academic presentation, personal story, or anything else as it relates to the Big Idea.
Students also created mind maps to connect the Big Idea to their daily class work and field trips. The last part of the unit is what is known as “Exit Point”. Each student then prepares a presentation using a specific means, such as a power point, board, video, etc. that captures their entire process.
Going through this learning experience allows the sixth graders to bridge to 7th grade and to know what to expect next year. In addition, they meet with both Ms. Jamie and Mr. Michael, the Middle Years teachers, to have further discussions about the class culture, expectations, and most importantly to connect with them. The students have visited the Middle School building and spent some time attending and observing presentations as well as connecting with their future classmates.
This practice has continued for the past three years and I happily lead this class with the goal of bridging Montessori and IMYC. Our goal is that sixth grade students leave with a better understanding of IMYC, what is expected of them, and form relationships with rising eighth graders as well as their new Middle Years Instructors.
Nahla Nasser, M.Ed. | Lower and Middle School Principal