Saturday, April 23, 2011

Could Your Classroom Run Itself?

Mine can. Not only can it run without me, but  yesterday for about 40 minutes it did! Picture the scene: I had previously (or so I thought) arranged for an aide to monitor my students while I work on our school's inventory. I'm in the office working. A colleague comes in and comments, "Your kids are amazing! I walked in there and they were all busy doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing!" Confused at first, I ask about the aide. "No, she wasn't in there...No one was in there, but they were quiet and working hard!" After a brief moment of panic passed, I must say I was overcome with pride. (Side note: Readers, please do not worry. There was a miscommunication with the aide, and the class was covered for the rest of the day).

When I walked down to my room and stepped in, I saw a student leading the Morning Meeting. She proudly exclaimed that they had completed their morning routines, finished (and checked) grammar, worked on writing, and were well into Morning Meeting. Seriously??!! It was 8:40 by this time, and they were right on schedule, about to begin math. Keep in mind that I teach elementary school (4th grade). 

In college we're taught that we should teach students routines and procedures to help them be more independent, but how many classes actually manage to get there? HOW do you get your kids there? What works for me is a combination of the advice and tools from the 4 following websites:

 When I stumbled upon this gem early in my career, it was known as Ms. Powell's Management Ideas for Teachers. She has since changed her site to The Cornerstone for Teachers. Much of the same amazing content, plus blog postings and more!

 Although I've had no formal training in the Responsive Classroom approach, I've read many of their books and whole-heartedly agree with this way of interacting with children. RC encourages careful, respectful interactions that focus on developing students' awareness of appropriate behaviors and social interactions. My journey down the RC road began about 4 1/2 years ago when I first implemented Morning Meeting.

 The 2 Sisters have a wonderful literacy model that they call "The Daily Five." It is highly adaptable across grade levels, and fosters independence, choice, and responsibility. I have used this system for 5 years now in both 3rd and 4th grade. I LOVE their 10 steps to independence!

 What a life saver this was! I found these FREE PDF books the year I had "that" class. (You all know the one I'm referring to). Whole Brain Teaching is a super common sense approach to classroom management. It encourages community, teamwork, active engagement, and accountability---all in a fun, up-beat manner. And if the documents aren't enough, Chris Biffle even has a Youtube Channel!

How about you? Have you used any of these resources? What do you think?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Swing the Other Way Already!

Before I begin, let me preface this post by saying that I LOVE reading and I truly love to teach reading. Reading is of paramount importance. I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher in the area of-----you guessed it: Literacy. I structure my day so that students have multiple opportunities to read, write, and talk about their reading. I incorporate the Daily Five and CAFE and try to teach the required basal reader to the best of my ability.

With all of that said, I am  left wondering: When is the education pendulum going to swing back the other way? More senior teachers than I say that it eventually will, but I'm starting to wonder...

Maybe it is just my state, but we are in a "teach the reading program to fidelity, don't worry about science and social studies" system. Now, again, let me stress that I AGREE that reading is extremely important. But I'm about to say something somewhat controversial:

----------------Reading is not the ONLY important subject---------------

I am a fourth grade teacher. My students need science and social studies, if for no other basic reason than they need the background for middle and high school classes. I'm getting students at the beginning of fourth grade that don't realize that they live on a CONTINENT called NORTH AMERICA! I could go on and on about the lack of background knowledge my poor students have, through no fault of their own, but I won't.

Please don't think that I am criticizing the teachers of the lower grades. They are doing exactly as they are told to do, and doing a fine job with what they are allowed to teach. (I was told that our state superintendent said to focus on reading and not worry about science or social studies.) Hmmm....Am I the only one who is worried by this? 

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