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Journeys Common Core

| March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Title: Journeys C ommon C ore: C atholic Identity Edition
Authors: James F. Baumann, David J. Chard, Jamal Cooks, J. David Cooper, Russell Gersten, Marjorie Lipson, Lesley Mandel Morrow, John J. Pikulski, Hector H. Rivera, Mabel Rivera, Shane Templeton, Sheila W. Valencia, Catherine Valentino, MaryEllen Vogt, Irene Fountas
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-544-16053-8
Reviewed by: Fiona de Villiers

In the summer 2014 edition of Independent Education, we introduced you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s (HMH) new Journeys Common Core: Catholic Identity Edition.

Having now had the time to peruse this spectacular resource, I have only one concern: its weight! Each Teacher’s Resource (there are, of course, several) is hefty.

They’re also glossy, richly coloured, spiral-bound and jam-packed with unmissable lesson plans. Teachers are going to develop some enviable biceps as they truck these volumes around over time; again I say that every good resource needs to be thoroughly investigated by educators before it’s time for classroom use.

It’s also worth repeating that the Journeys series is widely regarded in the US as being worth its weight in gold, whether used in a faith-based academic environment or not. Now South African teachers will also discover the lengths to which the authors, consultants and publishers have gone to, to make this a stand-out teaching and learning source. Prefacing each lesson, for example is the key academic outcome children should be able to master.

A weekly focus wall (available as a poster and online) presents the lessons ‘at a glance’, covering for example the ‘anchor text’ and the ‘essential question’. Planning support for teachers comes in the form of a daily breakdown of exactly what to do and when to do it. Because it’s an English language development resource, teachers should consult the useful notes on complex text challenges such as developing close-reading skills and how to use the quantitative and qualitative elements of rubrics.

They’ll also learn that “Journeys builds a deep understanding of key domains and topics within a single lesson, across a grade and across the programme. Each lesson features a domain and topic that tie the week’s two text selections together. The same domains are spiralled across the grades. Lesson-specific topics approach each domain in a grade-appropriate way.” The HMH team has really done its homework, presenting topics and domains from across the curriculum, including life science, history, the arts, civics, communication, community, cultures, earth science, general science, health and safety, maths, media, physical science, recreation and travel, social relationships, technology and innovation and values; all infused, of course with a Catholic worldview.

The exemplar texts are all rich, high quality choices, on a variety of topics that will appeal to a diverse range of interests. In lesson 16, for example, the ‘anchor texts’ are the delightful Judy Moody Saves the World! and My Smelly Pet by Megan McDonald. Using the essential question ‘Why is it important to take care of our environment?’, the whole class will tackle listening comprehensions, vocabulary building, text-based comprehensions, research and media literacy and the foundational skills of fluency, coding, spelling, grammar and writing.

In smaller group settings, students will zone in on differentiating between ‘recycling’, ‘reusing’ and ‘reducing’; will read and analyse additional texts and play with comprehension strategies. Small group settings also allow teachers to use HMH’s range of specialised Response to Intervention resources for students who are not performing ‘on target’. Once you get your head stuck in a Journeys resource, it’s easy to forget what a giant tome it is.

But for those who like to travel light, there is an equally valuable host of online gems, like mySmartPlanner and myWriteSmart, the Interactive Focus Wall, online teachers’ editions, interactive whiteboard lessons, game-like destination reading activities, GramarSnap videos, student e-books, online levelled readers, WriteSmart Online and an entire set of online assessment tools. Whichever way you go, the journey will transform you.

Category: Autumn 2015, Book Reviews

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