What’s your focus for the beginning of a new school year?
If your students have not yet begun:
What do you know about school, the year, your grade level, your students and yourself as you begin to plan? How do you set your priorities? What are you planning based on your own personal belief statements?
If your students are already attending, think back to how you began the year.
Nobody knows how much you know until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt
Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Anonymous
How important are relationships?
As an adult, how comfortable are you in those situations where you “play” icebreaker activities? Which ones work for you? Which ones make you think “Is this really the best use of my time?”
Dana Murphy addressed this conundrum in her post, “The Chicken and the Egg”. Please go read her blog if you haven’t yet! The notion of “Significant 72” is critical. Relationships are critical. But how can relationships, fun and academics all work together during the “Significant 72”?
Obviously in upper grades, this would not mean “boring and endless reading of the classroom rules” for we know that co-constructed roles, expectations, and norms result in increased collaboration and learning.
And then Shaelynn Farnsworth’s post, “Kicking Off Back to School with Camera Fun”, caught my eye because it combined content, learning targets and building relationships within the classroom. Of course it was also FUN! But I also loved the ideas because they involved some form of “creation”, higher level of Bloom’s or DOK, as well as a source of formative assessment for the students, if I chose to use the student products to not only tell me about the students but also to tell me what my students currently know about 6 word memoirs.
How do you make decisions about your learning priorities?
I see Dana’s thinking about how writing together can build relationships as well as Shaelynn’s “fun” and “technology” as integral parts of first days of school relationship building and setting the classroom expectations for learning. “It’s all about the learning” would be a mantra of mine! As well as “It’s about ALL learning“. How much do my beliefs and values enter into my decisions?
Tricia Ebarvia posted this on twitter on 8.15.15 and it’s a quote that I plan to hold onto. It matches Kylene Beers keynote at TCRWP during the March Saturday reunion as well as the August Reading Institute. A reader has to read in order to be a better reader. How do students get that time? How do teachers provide that time? How do systems protect that time?
Twitter has also provided other sources of inspirations and decision making. A favorite quote of mine from Dr. Mary Howard is “Tick Tock, Every minute counts and must be designed to make the most of precious available time with students!”
Time is finite. Our minutes with our students are limited. In order to teach both the reader and the writer, we must make deliberate choices about how to spend that time.
To begin the year I choose:
- Quality Read Alouds – where students will choose a word, phrase or sentence that captures their “ears” that they want to linger with. (Relationships will be built as we consider who has similar words and phrases as well as WHY the choice was made.)
- Writing about our Read Alouds – what are some of the most important things in my world? (Relationships will be built as we talk with partners about the ideas in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book.)
- Speed Dating with Books – Read a book and share with others in my group about who might want to read it and why. (Relationships will be built as students create To Be Read, TBR, lists.)
- To watch and listen (no interrogations) as students talk, read, write, and speak to capture their words and the essence of their thoughts.
Why does it matter?
Sharon Salzberg says it best, “We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by why and how we do it.”
Check out Tara Smith’s post “Begin the Writing Workshop Year by Writing on ‘Day One'”! It’s fabulous!