In chapters 2 and 3 Dave Burgess discusses immersion and rapport. His writing was more directly applicable to older students, so I spent a bit of time thinking about what immersion and rapport would look like in first grade.
I think for a first grade teacher to not be immersed in their teaching/classroom would pretty much be a death sentence. I think you can tell a first grade teacher is immersed in their teaching when you see them sit on the floor with their students or sit beside them in student sized chairs. Basically, putting themselves on the same level with their students. When teachers are immersed, you will see them occasionally model being a first grader. Sometimes my writing lesson is just the kids sitting on the floor watching me pretend to be a first grader writing independently. After a few minutes, we discuss what they noticed. Finally, you know a first grade teacher is immersed in their teaching when you hear the feedback they give their students' work and stories. When feedback is specific and meaningful, the teacher is immersed. It's very easy to tell a kid, 'great job.' It takes a little more effort to comment on what aspects you liked.
Building rapport with students is absolutely crucial. Students need to know they are in a safe, supportive environment. Dave Burgess talks about how he spends a significant amount of time selling his class as different. He wants to convince his students they can succeed in his class, even if they have not experienced success elsewhere in school. At the first grade level, this is not exactly applicable. Most first graders are still engaged in school. What they might be unsure about is their ability to do the work.
Dave Burgess talks about the unspoken questions students have when they enter a classroom. He believes it is the teacher's job to answer these unspoken questions to establish a solid community. What are the unspoken questions a first grader has? Here's the list I thought of:
- Will my teacher be nice?
- Will it be hard?
- Will I make friends?
- Will I like it?
If you missed my first reflection on Teach Like a Pirate, you can read it here.
Clip art courtesy of My Cute Graphics