This is one of my favorite and least favorite times of year. Let's start with least favorite reasons (just to get it over with)...
Because of my position, I am pulled for the next three weeks to do state testing and benchmark testing. This means no interventions, guided reading groups, guided math groups, or writing conferences. It also means sadness for me. It makes me feel like my year is over even though it is not.
That leads me to my favorite reasons (there is always a silver lining):
* Thinking ahead to next year
* Preparing for next year
* Getting excited about changes
I have a lot of things "cooking" at the end of this particular year. My Title I teammate, Sarah, and I are trying to make the most of our minutes away from testing by rethinking our Readbox, Game Nights for next year, hallway decor, RtI process, and providing more purpose (my topic for today!)
Forever In First has been sharing the wisdom of Regie Routman for years now, but I just recently listened. I picked up two of her books...finally...and started with Teaching Essentials. I have not quite finished the book, yet but there is so much that has already been tagged to be remembered and implemented. This paragraph stuck with me:
...we must always question why we're doing what we're doing and why these students need to know what we're teaching. We need to ask ourselves continually, So what? What difference will it make? Teaching something with more intention or finding out what students are really interested in is hard. It takes thought, effort, extra hours, but in the long run we save time, because our students are engaged and want to learn. (p. 62)Honestly, I read this paragraph and thought to myself, Yes, I do this. I always set the purpose for our lessons. But over the course of the next few weeks, Regie's words continued to come back. Forcing me to rethink what I was currently doing. What I realized is that I do always set the purpose but I could do more.
And here's how...
In guided reading, we read a lot of leveled readers. We do this to grow as readers, to enjoy reading books that are not too hard, and for me to work with students on their strengths. But...I want to have better purpose when choosing the books. When we read a book about Baby Bear, Father Bear, and Mother Bear, we are going to read because we have fallen in love with these characters. When we read a nonfiction text, it will be because someone in our current reading group is interested in that topic and we will look to them to be our "expert." And when we read a how-to, we are going to test it out.
Along with this idea, one goal I have for next year is to include more oral language activities. This includes wordless books and asking students to orally tell the stories. I want students to understand the purpose of their oral stories is for others to enjoy and learn from, while also improving their skill as a storyteller. In the "Readbox," I plan to have some of these stories available (with a tape deck and headphones) for checkout. Other families will be able to enjoy the story telling skills of our first graders.
For writer's workshop, I want the students to understand the importance and purpose that their writing plays in the lives in others! To support this idea, I want to include writing pieces into our "Readbox" to be checked out at dismissal. I want to use some pieces during guided reading lessons. My hope is that these small changes, will have a lasting impact on the purpose that their writing serves for themselves and others.
In math, Jess and I work to set the purpose of each skill taught with a real world lesson. For example, when we started our place value unit, we put out lots of Smarties. After some good brainstorming, the students decided groups of ten would be the best way to count all the Smarties. So this is what we did. We made the Smarties into groups of tens and ones. Not only did it help us to set a purpose to place value, but the students actually helped us to make the manipulatives that we would then use throughout the lessons.
I do realize that I will never reach a point when my teaching is the best that it can be. There is always room for me to grow and improve. So I will keep reading, learning and growing from my students, experts like Regie, from my fellow bloggers, and all the teachers that I share a space with daily.