In the last 12 weeks, my classroom has been revolving around my students. Most people would say that is exactly what you are supposed to do, but in the mean time, I have been burning the candle from both ends. The joy had gone out of my teaching. I have been so focused on getting my students prepared for junior high independence and the systems approach that I forgot to have fun. This time of year is so difficult for teachers and most people don’t understand that. We are close to the summer break BUT- like an accountant this is probably our busiest time of the year (besides the beginning of the year). We are jugglers, and lately, I have not been very accomplished at that.
We are battling students with the school blues. They are just as burnt out as we are, and it is very difficult to motivate a pre teen this time of year.
I am starting another course in my masters program towards a Reading Specialist certification, and at the beginning of these courses the amount of work and the loads of due dates are very overwhelming.
I am also listening to my colleagues concerns about the curriculum and trying to tweak what I can when I can.
The self doubt and devalued knowledge and experience that starts to creep in, makes this job very defeating.
So, with my mother’s voice screaming in my head, I pulled up my boot straps and ‘got over it.”
I reevaluated my classroom experience by using our district benchmark data- We weren’t very good at the fiction genre on our assessment back in March – Yet. So, I pulled out three of my favorite novels- Freak the Mighty, Holes, and Maniac Magee. I thought these would be perfect pieces to analyze character motivation, plot and theme (some of our weakest areas). I also did not want to read 1 book three different times, so I chose all three books to read during a different class – to keep things fresh for me. I know Otis working because the students are begging to take home books or read the next chapters. There is a lot to say about read aloud a- even in 6th grade.
I looked at our strategies, I had the students tell me what strategies they wanted me to reteach, review, and what objectives they needed help with.- when I listen to them- their motivation and focus is much higher- they make me better.
I wish that we could just read and enjoy these books without interruption, but the end of year exam is coming up. They do need to know how to read and analyze all the genres.
Persuasive- I pulled two persuasive pieces about bullying and STANding up to bullying, and the Importance of Never giving up even when there are obstacles (I know exactly what you are thinking – practice what you preach!) The students will also be writing a persuasive paper on the importance of strong character, friendship or grit. They love studying the rhetorical techniques because they are bombarded daily with trying to analyze their meaning.
Informational– I went to scholastic.com and newsela.com and found some great articles about homelessness and the DMC for boys- juvenile detention center. They learned so much from these two pieces.
Poetry– I Googled poetry about never giving up- Pop! out came a poem titled- Don’t Quit. What an easy connection to make with their lives but a more difficult one with the text. They did it and received a much deeper meaning from the fiction text because of our poetry connection.
Biography- Each author has a great biography on scholastic.com. I can’t wait for the students to visit the author website next week. They will be filling out KWL charts to help motivate them.
Each of these genres are easily connected to their feature text and will help us reach our end of the year goal.
What has brought back my mindset has been the quick mini lesson and a few tweaks to the classroom instruction. 20-30 minutes. During that time, I am reteaching one of those strategies they asked help on in a Team-Pair-Solo situation. So, even if it is 30 minutes, I really am not talking that entire time. They are turning to talk, interacting with teammates and peers while I observe. I am able to sit back, observe, clarify and enjoy this time watching them dive into reading. This is what we are here for- making readers reach ridiculous milestone independently!!! Such a great reward.
After the mini-lesson, the students go to the Edpuzzle video and answer some more questions about the focus genre or connected genre and practice the strategy we just reviewed in their fiction text.
By Friday, the students receive a new text and go through the motions picking and choosing what strategies they think work best for them.
My whole group teach time is very limited and the students are experiencing…
connecting the learning to different genres
engaged in challenging, meaningful text
Not only is my classroom life easier, more efficient, more meaningful, and more fun – It is connected to my motto – The Power of Yet!!!
These last few weeks have been difficult, challenging and down right ugly! But, the ongoing professional conversations, positive feedback from students, and Success has led to success!