Ah, Monday, here we are again.
Like two old friends. And enemies.
The day that kicks of the beginning of a brand new week, and reminds me that my weekend is over.
I'm making myself a promise this week. There will NOT be a single post about being tired. If I can't think of something better to write about, then I'm just not going to write at all. Instead I'm going to write about the awesome that's happening in my classroom, the crazy that are my kids, and the situations and events that take up my time - rather than take away from the sleep I should be getting.
I have no idea what any of those things are, yet. But that's the best thing about Mondays...it opens up a whole new box of goodies waiting to be discovered.
At this current moment, I'm typing while watching a cricket.
Not because I'm curious about said cricket, or interested in what the cricket's up to... but because I have a mild phobia against them. I have to keep one eye trained on the cricket and one on my screen. That thing better not come anywhere near me. I hate those things...ugh!
See...random stuff like that. That's what's in store for this week.
And I just got dive bombed by a flying beetle of some kind. Scared the bejeezus out of me. Almost made me dump my iPad on to the ground. That wouldn't have been good. Gotta love my morning coffee time on the patio.
Oh yeah, it's going to be an interesting week...for sure.
And in case you're wondering: No. I'm not on any new form of prescription medication that's causing me to rant on like a crazy woman. This is just simply what happens when I decide to be spontaneous, and steer away from talking about boring, monotonous stuff like lack of sleep...which I'm currently not suffering from. Maybe lack of sleep is required to write a halfway decent blog post.
OK, moving on, let's talk about my classroom.
This week, I have some cool stuff planned. I was up until 10PM last night making stuff and discovering new ways to deliver the content that I'm teaching this week. It was about this time last year when I realized that I can't just teach from textbooks. While my team are absolutely fantastic at it, I suck at it.
And if you think that teaching from a textbook is easy..it's not. There's a lot of craft and skill involved in order to teach and deliver the information in the textbooks in a way that engages the kids and helps them remember it and use it. Again, my team members are pros at that. They can whip through stories and workbook pages and lessons like nobody's business. I have a long way to go before I perfect the art.
My forte comes from other stuff...using the textbook as a guide and other resources as my sidekick.
This year, I have a co-teacher with me for math. It is the expectation from the district that I implement station teaching with my co-teacher. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of stations. Not because they're not great teaching tools, but because they are time consuming to prepare. And with my already cram packed schedule, it's hard to fit them in without putting myself behind. I have designated the task of preparing said stations to my co-teacher. However, there's only a day or two at most we can actually do them during the week. The rest of the week, I need to come up with highly engaging stuff that's educational and fun. And that part I don't mind doing.
On top of that, I also have to prepare lessons that are differentiated. I have several levels in my room ranging from kindergarten up to 5th grade levels. When I teach, I have to make sure I'm reaching all of those levels...without leaving anyone behind or holding anyone back.
I remember in college "differentiation" almost becoming a bad word. We got so tired of hearing it, learning about it, and practicing it. But, I guess now I get to see the fruits of my labor, and thank all things holy that my college professors drilled "differentiation" in to our heads with a jack hammer.
I've decided that I'm going to dabble around with layered curriculum. Which is basically a menu of activities that provide practice skills and in-depth discovery.
I attended a training at the beginning of the school year that focused on station teaching and layered curriculum. And I'll admit, when I first saw the stuff and heard all about it - I was less than thrilled. In my mind all I could think was "great, more work and not enough time to do it".
But, I'm starting to take some time looking more in to the possibilities layered curriculums offer...and the more I find out, the more sense it makes. I can't teach across 5 grade levels with each and every lesson. It would be great to claim I could, but I can't. I also refuse to hone in on the group in the middle, hoping that the low group with wing their way through it and the high group will appreciate the practice. All of my kiddos deserve to be educated, but not to the point of frustration or boredom. That's just mean.
So, I'm working on building curriculum maps/menu activities that cover the topics being covered in our units that can be adapted to all skill levels.
On top of that, I also spent a lot of time creating groups for me to work with each day. I have a small group time at the end of the day. It's only 30 minutes, and during that time several of my kids are pulled out for various interventions.
I started out using that time for Writer's Workshop...which my kids really enjoy. Then, when pull-out interventions started, I had to figure out a way to still continue with Writer's Workshop.. but at a time my pull out kids still got a chance to do it. And I quickly realized that there wasn't another time in the day for that to happen. So, last night I made up Writer's Workshop groups.
At least once a week, every kid in my class will sit down for some one-on-one time with me to conference about their writing. During the 30 minute time, I'll have a group of kids working on the computer for Study Ladder, I'll have a group of kids working with me, and the rest of the kids will be writing on their own or reading on their own (reading time will also be thrown in a couple times a week).
I'll deliver a mini lesson each day, like normal, but the kids that are gone for pull-outs will receive their missed mini lessons in our small group that's scheduled for the days they aren't gone from me. We'll spend a few minutes together discussing the craft of writing, and the rest of the time reviewing, sharing, and conferencing. And the best part about working in small groups for Writer's Workshop will be the fact that I can give additional mini lessons that are differentiated. I have several good writers in my class, so I can work with them on more detailed writing skills like dialogue, voice, and vocabulary usage. Those kiddos that are just starting out can receive the basic instruction that covers stuff like sentence creation, phonics, etc. The kids that are somewhere in the middle can get mini-lessons that are focused on the particular skills they are needing to move them forward, like punctuation, grammar usage, and eliminating the overuse of pronouns.
I have absolutely no idea how it will all play out... but I'm committed to giving it a good go.
I've finally got to that comfortable place of the school year where I'm ready to try out new things and challenge myself. It takes a few weeks to get to know the kiddos, learn about their styles and their abilities. And I feel like I'm just about there. I've had a chance to see what motivates and engages them, and can use that information to guide my instruction.
I'm a firm believer in a new year, a new set of kids, and a new set of learning situations...meaning I need a new set of content deliveries. One size never really fits all. And yes, it creates a lot of work. But, that's why I became a teacher. To stay on my toes, develop myself, recreate myself each and every year. I knew coming in that what works one year doesn't necessarily work the next.
And the challenge is what motivates me. I figure that when I'm done wanting to be creative and finding new ways to motivate my students...I'll be done with teaching.
Right now, though, I'm done with this blog post. I need to go and get ready for my day.
Have a great Monday!!