School has only been in session two days, and we’ve done the usual start up activities; establishing routines, reviewing school rules, and getting to know each other. Those two days have been very productive and we’re already up and running. There are a few activities that I thought went particularly well.
Our Social Contract
At our staff development meeting on Monday, teachers created a social contract. We were asked to do this with our students as well. At first I was resistant to the idea, because I already had things planned, and my Animoto created, as part of my lesson. I still did those things, but the class did create a social contract.
We began by talking about the ways that kids want to be treated, and we brainstormed words to describe that. Then, we talked about how teachers want to be treated by students, and we made a list to describe that. Finally, we talked about how we want to be treated when we work with a group, and we came up with even more words to describe that. Each time that a word was repeated I put a check by it.
It quickly became apparent, that respect, friendliness, fairness, and kindness were most important to the class. After we finished our list, we all signed it, making the pledge to treat each other in these ways. Later I created the Wordle that you see above, using those words. We will keep it displayed in the classroom.
The Daily 5
When I stopped by school during July, my principal told me about The Daily 5, and the great results that some other schools in the district were having with it. While it’s not really being promoted by my school district, some individual schools are trying it. Later that same day, someone on Twitter was asking about “The Daily 5″. I decided it must be the new “in” thing, but I was open to learning more.
The Daily 5 is a book written by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, and the complete title is “The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades.” It’s a management system for literacy instruction. It’s what kids do when they are not working directly with the teacher, and with 28 kids in my class, kids need to be independent at least 3/4 of our small group reading time.
I’ve been trying to do something like this for the past two years, with less than stellar success. Usually, I have assigned certain tasks and projects to be completed. Then students were to do independent reading, and choose a topic to write about each day. The way this would work is: I would give directions, write assignments on the board, including “independent reading” and “choose a topic to write about.” Students would write the assignments in their planners, and I would call up my first reading group. Within a few minutes the classroom would fill with noise, and I would look up to see kids relaxed, and chatting, with empty desktops. In other words, it wasn’t working. So I have decided to try it The Daily 5 way.
With The Daily 5, students are to be doing one of 5 things:
One of the big differences I see between this and what I have been doing, is the amount of time spent training children to do these jobs. I tend to want to rush things and just jump in. I witnessed how that did not work on Thursday. The authors talk about having students model the right way and the wrong way to Read to Self. I thought that was too babyish, so I skipped those steps.
We talked about how we should do this, we moved into our reading positions, and some people immediately began chatting. I called the group back, and then we modeled the behaviors. When we tried it again, you could have heard a pin drop, our classroom was so quiet, and everyone was engaged in reading. I learned a lesson, and will try not to be so impatient in the future. I’ll let you know how it goes.
We broke out the brand new iPads on Friday. My school purchased ten of them in May, and I have them all in my room right now. I was looking forward to getting the iPads into the hands of the kids, as soon as possible, and basic fact practice seemed like a great way to do it. While I worked with other students on problem solving, our special ed teacher, Mrs. S, got the kids started with the iPad apps. Pop Math was a favorite. It took the kids about 30 seconds to catch on, and we managed to give everyone a chance to work with an iPad.
For just two days of school, I think we’ve accomplished a lot, and we are off to a great start for the new school year.