Thursday, October 31, 2013

My First Month

Hello Friends,

Since my last blog post two months ago, I completed my long-term substitute job teaching fifth grade at a different school than the one I currently work at and signed a one-year contract to teach a kindergarten/first grade combo class for the rest of the year. If you read my previous post, then you know I had my doubts about having my own classroom this year, but as things tend to go for me, sure enough I was picked up and without a moment left to spare!

This Halloween marks the end of my first month at my new job working in a new district, at a new school, and with a primary combo class that had had 5 different subs over the course of the entire first quarter that I was not there. I have a couple of things to share from the past month and my new experiences.

1. Small tweaks can make the biggest differences. I can't quite pinpoint exactly where I picked it up but over the course of my attending a string of professional development opportunities and watching tons of videos of effective teachers teaching, I noticed that those teachers were calling their students 'scholars'. My go-tos last year were the tried and true: boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, class, kiddos, my dears, and my loves. "Scholars? That's awesome! I wonder if my kinders and first graders will get it," I thought, but I resolved to call my students that the very first day I met them.

Well, it's been a month and my kiddos, scholars have lived up to their sophisticated title. What has happened in the last month has been nothing short of MAGIC. We went over what it means to be a scholar when we created our classroom norms together at the beginning of the month. As a class we agreed that scholars listen and follow directions, do their personal best, respect themselves and each other, are kind, courterous, and polite, and finally, take pride in all they do. If these sound like every other classroom rules posted in most classrooms that's becasue they are, but as my scholars internalized these norms it was easy to add more and be more specific. Scholars are laser-focused, scholars don't cry, scholars never cheat their brains, etc. Bottom line, my students LOVE being called scholars and they totally own what it means to be one.

It's literally gotten to the point where they get offended when I call them boys and girls. "We're not boys and girls, we're scholars!" they'll tell me. If I catch them acting naughty I just remind them that they are acting like little boys and girls and immediately they show me scholarly behavior. It's incredible. I wish I would've done this my first year of teaching! (I'm also aware and thankful that I just have a really angelic group of children this year.)

2. I love teaching writing in K-1. I'm no Shakespeare but it's no secret that I get a deep sense of joy from writing. Although I find it's one of the hardest things to teach and teach well, man, oh man, I love teaching writing to kinders and first graders!! My school is using Lucy Calkins' Units of Study and I am a huge fan. Yes, I love Lucy. This is my first year implementing a writer's workshop and I am really pleased with the level of enthusiasm my students have for writing and equally as pleased with the caliber of work that they are producing. Right now we're working on informative writing via chapter books. The sample below followed a mini-lesson on how to write a "How To" chapter.

This is one of my kinders who wrote this and I thought it was hilarious.

Shark Pups

Mermaid drops a purse so the sharks have pups.
Pups turn to babies.
Shark pups turn to baby sharks with boosters.
And they grow up.

I toyed with the idea of letting him run with this, but then remembered we're working on informational text. His brain darn near exploded when I told him that sharks don't really have boosters. We shared a great moment.

I am counting down the days for our Publishing Party. I told my scholars I'd invite my friends and their families to come celebrate their chapter books once they are published. They are all working so hard and diligently to write the best chapter books anyone has ever read!

With that, have a grand evening and as always, thanks so much for reading.