Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
The beginning of our new school year is here. Maybe you're a few weeks into the school year, maybe you start this week, maybe you're in the class setting up to begin after Labor Day. Regardless, our thoughts are on students, curriculum, relationship building and classroom environment.
It's the beginning. Time to start anew and think about what we want to accomplish. Many of us set new goals. Many of us think about the goals we want to reach this year. Sometimes we set realistic goals. Sometimes our goals are too lofty that they end up being unattainable.
What we want to keep in mind are goals should help us make an impact on our students. Our teaching should be stronger because of them and they should make students critical thinkers, makers and doers.
When I think about goals I would love to see teachers make for this school year, 3 things come to mind. I think these 3 goals would make an impact on a teacher's teaching and students' thinking.
I know most readers of this blog probably don't need these goals. But maybe you've stumbled upon this blog recently and you're soaking up all the new information you can get. Maybe you have teachers in your building that need an extra push - hear this information from someone else. Maybe you're an administrator and these goals align with your school improvement plan. Whatever the reason, pass them along. Talk about them. How can they make a difference to a teacher? To a student?
3 Goals I'd love to see Teachers Strive Towards
1. Read everyday
As teachers, that's what we tell our students, right? They are supposed to read 20 minutes (give or take) everyday. Then why aren't we doing it? I know, we already know how to read. We've practiced our reading skills. You don't have time to read.
Read in the edges. Keep a book in the car. Instead of checking social media for those 5 minutes you're waiting to pick up your kids, read a few pages. Read before bed. You can only read 5 minutes before your eyes drift shut? At least that was 5 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and allow yourself 10 minutes to read before dinner, after dinner. You'll get some reading done and those minutes add up.
But why should you read?
Read so you can pass books on to kids. Read so you can have conversations with your students about what they are reading. Read so you know a book you can pass on to a striving reader. Read so you have a whole arsenal of books when you need to find that book that has a character like the student in your class. Read the new books so you can find something new and better for that mentor text you've used year after year. Read to be a role model.
2. Pre-read the books you are teaching
If you're using a book with students, don't you want to know the material? Don't you want to know why you're using the book? Don't you hate when you get to the end of a book and you think, oh, I could've done so much more with this book....
Our read alouds should be mentor texts. We should be using these books to show how writers write or how readers read. We should know ahead of time the places where students are going to react, where they are going to want to stop and talk. The places where you're going to want to point out something to teach to students.
Teachers do not want to get to a point in an unread book and realize this is not a book to be reading out loud to students. Because it's inappropriate. Because of a classroom situation. Because of something a student is dealing with.
Just like a chef is prepared - a chef is not going to start making spaghetti bolognese without the pasta noodles - teachers need to be prepared with knowing their reading content.
I hear many teachers saying they don't have time to read the books ahead of time. Then maybe goal #3 is where they can start...
3. Cut down the worksheets
So much reading and writing can be taught with books and notebooks - readers and writers notebooks - and that's it. The practice in isolation does not transfer over to actual reading and writing. While cute and put-together and easy to find, real reading and writing is not found on Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest. I'm not saying there aren't good, maybe even great ideas, on those websites. However, they are very hard to find. Students need to be copious readers. They need time to write. We need to talk to students about what they are reading and what they are writing. We need to model and show and be explicit. A worksheet is not going to do that.
Take the time you're using looking at the websites and the time you're spending at the copy machine and use it to read a couple of books that you'll use with students. Your teaching will be more authentic and you'll be hitting that goal #2.
Students need to refer to anchor charts that help give them steps until they achieve automaticity. But unless they are a part of creating that anchor chart, they don't have any ownership. I know, the poster you make with a class doesn't have clip art or nice fonts and it may even be a little messy. But it will be used. And eventually, when it's automatic, you can take it down. And that's success.
Maybe you'll start with just one of the goals this year. Not everyone can change later in the year. So start fresh. Pick one thing to start this year with. One goal. Maybe it's going to take you all year. Maybe you'll accomplish it months into the school year and you'll think about taking on another one. Maybe it's not one of the goals listed here. Whatever it is, think about what your students need. What can you do to help them get even farther this year than ever before.
Happy 2015-16 school year.