Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We Definitely Need Those Remaining 176 Days!

We just finished day 4 of first grade, and holy smokes! You know when you attend a professional development class and they show you videos of the strategies in action? It looks so lovely. You think, "Yes! This magical approach will make everything better!" 

What's Happening in first grade? This is teaching in real life, and it's hard! Fortunately, we can do hard things!

Then you go back to the classroom. It's not like the video: it's hard!

Get this: The kids don't say what they are supposed to say to your open-ended questions. Who could have predicted this!? [you're getting the sarcasm, right]

This is teaching in real life.
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I went across the hall to my teammate to tell her my problem: My class is struggling to develop our class rules because we have no idea why we are at school! And we are to the point where we need some rules. 

***It's not like I'm allowing complete chaos, it's just we're doing lots of discussing, and noticing, and wondering, and modeling. It would just be much simpler to say, "Remember, we said we'd __(follow the rules!)____." Also, I'd like to get to the part where we have set procedures to follow if someone is not following the rules!***

My teammate's response to my problem was: I'm so glad to hear you say that! I thought is was just me!" (We both attended "advanced" Responsive Classroom training this summer.) I completely love Responsive Classroom, and I really believe in it. I'm just sharing my experience because I think we all try things that just don't go according to plan from time to time. I'm all about telling it like it is, and it is....SOMETHING.

I started out by talking about developing a safe community in our classroom where we could all learn together. I read Me...Jane, which is a fantastic, award winning book about Jane Goodall. The book tells about young Jane loving animals, learning about nature, dreaming of going to Africa, and her dream coming true. I also read You're Wonderful to emphasize they are filled with dreams. In retrospect, You're Wonderful may have been a little too much of a feel good book. I think I'll save that as more of a celebration for AFTER we've identified our hopes and dreams. Later we read Do Unto Otters to prepare for the "what do we need to do to achieve our goals" portion of the process.

Then we began discussing their dreams. It started out with playing, so I pushed that to be making friends. Then the next dream was to ride a horse. Um......I wrote it down, hoping it would lead to more dreams about things they hope to do one day. Someone talked about being a cashier at a store. I twisted it around and eventually turned it into owning a store. We're moving forward. Then someone said, "cousins." Hm. I'm not sure we're really understanding what hopes and dreams are. We got back on track with the goal of being a doctor, but then the discussion turned to kittens, unicorns and rainbows. I kept pushing for bigger dreams. 

One student said he dreamed about food. I suggested maybe he would like to be a chef, and I wrote that down, but he clarified that he just wanted to eat a lot. 

So...I tried to link the conversation back to the goal of being a doctor or a store owner and squeezed the words math and reading onto the chart at the end. I thought maybe when I directed them to draw their most important hope for first grade they would remember the suggestions of reading and math, but no. 

I arranged the hopes and dreams into a little quilt, then I told them that we were going to get more specific about our hopes and dreams and make some goals for the year. I read Morris Goes to School to try to get them thinking academically. It got a little better. Learning to read was a big goal.

Next I asked them why they wanted to learn to read.

Crickets.

Finally someone said, "to learn words." Well, learning words was good. Why would it be helpful to learn words?

Nothing. 

Hm. This little tangent is a bit more complicated than I expected.

How does reading help us?

"It helps us know our letters."

So I started going through my entire weekend and listing all the different things I read. Text messages from my sister, an email from my mom, the TV guide, a recipe, signs while I was driving, stories to my kids, information about teaching...
Then I asked, why do you think I read these things? Why did I read the TV guide? Why did I read the recipe?

No ideas. I gave some explanations.

Whoa. There is lots of work to be done here! I got some books out of my class library and began holding them up. Here's a funny looking book about a mouse. Why might someone choose to read this book?

"To learn?"

To learn what?

"words."

Oh dear. Finally someone said, "can you read it to us?" Why do you want me to read it?

Silence. 

"Um...it looks funny?"

It looks funny! Yes! It would be fun to read this book!

I held up a book called "Why Does It Rain?" Why might someone choose to read this book? 

Blank stares. Finally one kid says, "um, so they would learn why it rains."

Yes! Exactly!

We eventually managed to put together a reasonable list of reasons why people might choose to read. I also sent home a note to parents with a homework assignment: Have a conversation about reading with your child. Tell them all the different things you read each day (and I listed possible things they read), and why it is important for you to read those things. Explain to your child why it is important for them to learn to read. 

We took a little break. When we returned to the hopes and dreams discussion. We listed the things we needed in order to reach our goals. We got a very long list. We went through the list and found things that went together. 

Finally we ended up with these rules:
*Be good to others.
*Be safe.
*Take care of our room and our materials.
*Focus on learning.

Establishing our hopes and dreams and classroom expectations took longer than expected. This is teaching in real life!


In the end, I think we have a good list. 

Isn't it amazing how we stumble upon such enormous holes in their understanding? I never would have thought that they had so much confusion about what they're doing in school! They all knew to spit out the word learning, but absolutely no clue about the purpose of learning or reading.

What serious confusions have you discovered in your students' understanding?

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1 comment:

  1. Your description of the conversation in your classroom points out very clearly how so much of what teachers say and ask goes over the heads of their students, and sometimes teachers don't take enough time to get to the bottom of what is going on. Congratulations to you for taking the time to ALLOW THEM TO understand what you were talking about. Many teachers would just TELL them and move on to the math lesson lesson because that's what the schedule says!

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