Saturday, August 27, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: Surviving the First Week of School

It's Saturday.  I survived my first week of school.  I'm tired.

This me, on my way to the grocery store. No makeup.  Hair not done.  I don't care.

But it's that good kind of tired that tells me I've worked hard, had fun, and enjoyed getting to know my eighteen third graders.  This week was awesome.  It was busy.  It was good.

My main focus with my students this week was building community.  Each day, during our Morning Meeting, our greetings were personal.  Each student greeted the others by name with a firm, friendly handshake.  Our sharing times were centered around our favorites:  places, animals, things to do on the weekend.  We wrote "Friend Wanted" ads and did team building activities that required students to work together.

We also dove right into choosing books and filling book boxes.  On the very first day of school, I had books ready for kids to look at and choose from.  Then on the second day, I gave them a tour of the library and went over the expectations for caring for the books and library.  I'm so lucky to teach in a school district where independent reading is a daily practice from the very beginning.  Most of my third graders were able to stay focused on books for 15 minutes without redirection on the very first day!  I loved looking around my room and seeing this:



On the second day of school, my assistant and I began conferring with the kids, talking to them about their reading lives and their perceptions of themselves as readers. Next week as the kids begin writing more,  I'll have similar conversations with them about their writing lives.  I've been trying to keep my plans as flexible as a I can so that I can really tailor my introductory lessons to the kids.  One of the first thing I noticed was that several of the kids appeared to be "fake reading"... just flipping pages, talking to friends, flying through books.  So we had a minilesson on fake reading vs. real reading.  From my conferring so far, I can see we'll need to have a lesson soon on comprehension fix-up strategies that go beyond rereading.

I've also made a concerted effort to read aloud to students as much as possible.  Our read aloud novel is Fenway & Hattie by Victoria Coe.  The kids are loving this funny story told from the point of view of a Jack Russell Terrier named Fenway.  I read aloud while they have their morning snack, and when I finish, they always beg for more.  My other daily read aloud has been a variety of picture books related to either our literacy minilesson or our teamwork challenges.  The kids have loved School's First Day of School, Iggy Peck Architect, Be a Friend, and My Teacher is not a Monster.  My ultimate goal is to read aloud as many different kinds of books as I can.  There are so many ways to incorporate great books into the curriculum, and I worked hard to build this classroom library over the summer.

Next week is Curriculum Night, so I need to put together my parent presentation.  The third grade team is also turning to our full on academic schedule.  That means I can't pretend literacy studio is my whole day anymore.  I have to teach math and social studies as well.  Honestly, I'm glad we'll be in our daily routine for real next week.  I could tell the kids were craving the routine and did much better when they knew exactly what our schedule was for the day.

In many ways, teaching this first week of third grade was a lot like teaching the first week of seventh grade.  It's all about getting to know the kids, learning their quirks, setting expectations and routines, and establishing relationships with parents.  The kids in third grade are shorter, they spend more time on the floor, and they give hugs.

I can live with that.