This weekend my friend Mary sent me a link to the very brilliant Kate Roberts and Tricia Ebarvia discussing finding balance in our literacy blocks. I have not watched the full learning session yet but fully intend to. One part did cause me to pause reflect and write down however. Kate mentions the need to be ruthless in our choices of how we spend our time.
There are so many amazing ideas out there, from Notice and Note to the Teaching of 180 Days, we have quick writes and literary essay writing, research projects and opinion pieces. Book Clubs, Literature Circles, Whole class Novels, independent reading, deep discussions and joyful celebrations of writing. We have so much to cover in a literacy period so where can our Ruthless decision making come in and best serve our students?
So Ruthless decisions here we go.
This year I started pushing more authenticity and flexibility in writing. We are starting classes with quick writes, using mentor texts to guide us and then writing about ourselves and our interests. The goal, of course, is to become writers before taking on tasks that require us to dig deeper into the skills of writing. Today I watched a few students in a different class struggle with a piece of writing and shut down, the idea was great but the authenticity for them was not there. I am sure I will encounter this at some point this year in my class and since it hasn’t happened yet I am sure it will come sooner than later but for now, my ruthless writing decision has been to cut the manufactured “connect the dots” writing assignments of the past. The typical assignments and move towards the interests and choice of my students that celebrate their voice as they writers they are becoming.
In years past my reading instruction has been very formulaic. I have strategies I like and know work, I push Notice and Note and Reading Journals. We look at strategies that help us dig deeper into books. When I think about my ruthless decision making regarding reading instruction it is in the reflections of actions I have already taken. The other day I had a few run ins with people who like to utilize TPT novel units filled with pages of comprehension questions and vocabulary lists and “activities”. In my own teaching, I had to make the decision after talking to my students that I needed to remove those types of items from my reading instruction. I needed to learn to support my students as real readers. Not as readers for information only, to fill the blanks and find the answers but as readers who read for joy, who learn through discussion with peers and observations of what a text does to them, how a story can help them discover their own. I was ruthless and cut out the easy, the quick fixes and the photocopied “expert teacher created resources” (A term TPT fanatics like to apply to themselves) and replaced them with conversations across a table, Book Commercials and Reading. Reading as many books as we can and talking about them.
Teaching is hard, time is precious. We have a responsibility to be great for our students. To provide them with an experience worth getting up for because they don’t have choice, they have to be there.
This week, this topic became too personal. Our students deserve more than, “If it is easy I will use it” They deserve more than a search for handouts in a file folder. They deserve ruthless, they deserve a teacher who values them more than easy. We are all tired.
Imagine how the kids feel when faced with another booklet printed off instead a book. This isn’t about shaming, it is about looking at what we are doing and trying to be better.