How do you do?
Have some stew.
Poem is through.
So, the third week of Reading and Writing Workshop is complete. I’ve had my students for fourteen days. Some things are looking up. Some things are…in progress. I’m going to try hard not to make this a rant-release.
Two things. First, I was able to take a breath this week by pausing with the Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Reading and taking a week to set up our Reader’s Notebooks. Weekly letters to me was something I did last year, and it is important to me to do it again. Especially when it is so hard for me to get around to confer with every student in a timely fashion, having a weekly check-in is very helpful. I’m not using Calkins’ reading logs, so letters is sort of a replacement for that. Of course, reading logs don’t take 5-7 minutes to read and respond to, times 28 students. So I’m a little nervous about adding close to an hour a night, three days a week, to the already-full-of-reading Calkins units every school night. It was a small relief to not read and process two Calkins lessons every day for a week, as informative and helpful as they are.
Second, most exciting of all, is that students are starting to get a little excited about their writing. We’ve slowed way, way down, trying to catch up the students who
are a little thick aren’t paying attention haven’t caught on yet. There are still a few. But they are getting there. And there are many students excited about their story. Everyone is excited about our example class story. We will get there. This was a promising week. But 28 students! I still haven’t really conferred with anyone, outside of quick group check-ins. But it was so exciting to be able to actually use examples from our class during minilesson, to say, “T was telling me how she thought her first scene was only going to be a quarter page, but she got caught up in it, and filled the whole page! Things just kept happening to her character! She let the story go. She wasn’t writing it, she was recording it. She let her character take over and just watched where it led her.”
That made me feel good. Yeah? T is even one of the tough ones.
There’s not too much that’s going “badly.” Maybe I should skip right to ugly.
OK, I can share one thing. It’s me. Sometimes I’m going badly. I have always been a very patient, calm teacher. Probably to a fault. I’ve often let too much go. This year, I have had some very snappy moments. Angry moments. When students are wasting time. When students are deliberately disruptive. This is a difficult group with which to try my first true foray into Workshop. And I’ve been bad sometimes.
I always own up to it. I always tell the students, later, how I was feeling, and how badly I felt about how I acted. About how much I care about them and how I care so much that sometimes my emotions get a little heated when I see them making choices that don’t help themselves or their classmates. And at home each night, I agonized less about my students and more about how I was behaving. This week, I was very intentional about pointing out “leaders.” I had been encouraging positive behaviors through noticing. “I see C working so hard.” “I see A reading so quietly so he isn’t disturbing his neighbors.” But it wasn’t working. The disrupters were pretty indifferent to the positive attention that others were getting. Which was making me snappy at them. So this week, I switched it up a little. “I notice C really being a leader for the rest of us, working so hard on her writing. If we looked around the room and saw her, we would know what we were supposed to be doing.” Identifying students as leaders seemed to work better. Everyone wants to be a leader.
It’s pretty simple. Management. Always the thing I have struggled the most with. Always, always, always.
In our class, we struggle with this most during minilessons in the meeting area and sometimes during independent time. We are working on it. We identify helping behaviors every day. We identify acceptable volumes every day. We talk and talk about choosing helping behaviors rather than harmful behaviors. But still. Yesterday, in writing, our minilesson took half an hour, leaving just ten minutes to write. So frustrating. It should be the opposite! I don’t want to ignore and talk over disruptive behaviors, I don’t want to ignore those students who are completely tuned out. I know that I can’t do that. Those things are not acceptable, I do not want to let them slide now and have them become habit (though clearly some of these students had these habits already…). But oh my god it makes things take foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
A friend of mine today told me about the Daily 5. That it is great for setting up stamina and helping behaviors. Some of the 3rd grade teachers use it. I’m not sure if it would work to start that in the 4th week of school. I really don’t know how I could fit something else in–we haven’t even started Science or Social Studies yet!
What do you think?
I’m glad you’re with me, Sam.