Observations from the Desk of Mr.G

A bit of a hodgepodge of thoughts this morning but I have not blogged for a couple days and just feeling a little like I am being lazy.  Life gets busy, trying out new things in the classroom and just working out the kinks, planning around student attendance which is hit or miss lately, trying to figure out intervention that is going to work, balancing choice with what I know is a useful practice, especially for students that are building their literary analysis skills as they move up from year to year. Do what I love doing as a teacher and meeting the students with what they love doing as students. Just a lot going on so we take it piece by piece.

New Things

Back from the Christmas break I wanted to get 2 things going. Book Clubs and morning Quick writes as a soft start to the day. We use to start with independent reading but now that we are doing choice bookclubs (which take way more time than i realized, more on that later) I like this moment of writing and reflection in the morning. It is quietest with my 7’s and I love that we are getting to a point of just grabbing our books and sitting down. It is going better than expected, Using the words of Simon Sinek from Together is Better. As I type they are reflecting on “Genius is in the idea. Impact comes from the action.” I get a kick out of celebrating their unique take on each quote we do.

Book CLubs have been great so far but a few things I am noticing. Time is a huge factor. I have 65 minute blocks and wanting to get a book finished in 4 weeks means that large chunks of time must be dedicated to the reading. We do a mix of 40 or so minutes and 20 minutes depending on the day. Students set goals and we have book club chats on Friday. Tomorrow is our first chat day, I look forward to sitting in and listening and then reading their reflections on the week. I do have a little concern about the amount of time this will take but I also think it might help me to focus my instruction on what really matters versus filling time. I would rather more reading and less fluff work.

Speaking of Fluff work here comes rant number 1.

Grammar work books…My teaching bestie sent me a picture of her nieces grammar book that she was to correct. Filled with red marks she was to just circle the prepositions. PAGES AND PAGES of circling the prepositions. I will be the first to admit at times I use to go to isolated skills worksheets in my first few years in elementary, I would have lesson time just for that and the kids would grab their sheets and hand in the finished answers in my cute mark it bucket and then I would mark it and return it. I am not convinced it did anything but frustrate those who struggled and make the excelling kids who loved worksheets develop a false sense of success. Skills developed by worksheets (in my experience) do not transfer over. I am finding this with my 8’s who complain that last year they had a 93 and now they are low 80’s. The grading rant is coming later but the fact that a student has a 93 based on all their text book work and worksheets and Lexia scores but only did a handful of actual writing is baffling to me. I join the chorus of teachers who ask why we continue to think doing Chapter 24 and 25 of your DOL is even remotely the same as an authentic writing piece where we discuss areas of need and areas of success. The END.

Technology Use

Ok so I have at times ranted about technology because as readers know I do not think many use it as it was intended. Technology should, in my opinion, be used as an assist to boost student achievement not a crutch to keep kids busy while MAYBE learning. I love FlipGrid and Quizlet and all these other tech options but I do not want them to replace human interaction. I hate AR and do not think Lexia should be a whole class initiative. That said I have a struggling reader that tries harder than any student I know. We are trying out an Examreader pen for the tough words and it is awesome. I think tech used for tech sake is bad practice but when a student lights up at the possibilities that could open for them because of tech we need to reflect on how best to use it.

Sometimes I gotta be me

I love the student Voice and Choice movement. I like seeing what my students can come up with and when they tell me they are not learning the best one way and want to try another way.  I jumped a little too much into those waters though and it started to steer my teaching and what I have come to find is some times just because students don’t like something does not mean we should abandon it at the first groan and moan. I think the important thing is asking their opinions, t o be open to the dialogue but abandoning good practice just because a few kids roll their eyes is not doing anyone any good. This week I have taken some me academic time. I made BHH videos with my grade 7’s and we used Notice and Note strategies with non-fiction with my 8’s I am certain that a few strained an eye muscle from rolling their eyes but I am also sure that good learning took place. When good practice is employed sometimes we need to push through the complaints of some. I want to hear their voice and then explain why we are going the way we are. We are the teachers and we need to be making informed decisions not just knee jerk reactions.

Thanks for reading that ramble…

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