Yesterday was my last free Sunday night. I could hardly sleep, though, with thoughts of tasks running through my head.
This year I've got some things I'm going to try and/or re-try. First, I'm really going to implement a "Reflection Table". It will be a desk separated from the rest, with reflections/action plans for the student to fill out and wait until they're ready to rejoin their classmates.
The group points (each table had an index card taped to the board; when I saw them doing something right, or doing all their homework, they got a point. At twenty five points, the table earned chocolate chip cookies from me) worked really well last year, so I want to continue that.
I do want to add class points to the mix. I'll write 5-4-3-2-1 on the board, and each time I have to stop and wait, or the class as a whole is disruptive, rude, whatever, I will erase a number from left to right. The largest number left at the end of class will be added to the class's total. The rewards will be: 25 points (ie, a week of being perfect)=five minutes of free time; 50 points=ten minutes of game time; 100 points=movie and popcorn party. Thus, each time the class reaches one of the point totals, they will have to decide whether to 'cash in' for the reward, or keep 'banking' the points for one of the bigger rewards.
Let's see. I'll have to change my library organization. This year I had an ever-growing library notebook, where each page represented a book. I must have accumulated over 500 books by now. I have either bought some (cheaply, obviously) or gotten them free through Scholastic Book Orders (ooh, my favorite! I still get a thrill seeing new books sitting, all wrapped, waiting). I saw someone's book receipts online, and I'm going to try adopting that system instead. I'll make copies of a sheet of them on bright cardstock, then cut them and put them as a bookmark in each book. When a student wants to check out a book, they'll fill out the book receipt and then give it to the library monitor, who will file it in probably a recipe file box.
Speaking of monitors, I really need to use more of them. I assigned a few jobs last year that never really materialized, and I always felt bad about it. Also, I didn't get around to rotating roles, so those same few kids had the jobs the whole year. This year I am determined to have some unofficial TAs. It's my hope that a few of my lunch girls from last year (aw, I miss them! They were so sweet and helpful too!) will come during their lunch or after school for a bit, and I'll get some of my new kids to help also. They'll help with paperwork and organization--grading things, filling in assessment information, that kind of thing--and also with the bombsite of the bookroom.
Let's see. I'm going to use the Scholastic vocabulary books, starting with 5th grade. There are plenty of words in that one that will be new to my sixth graders. Each group of words has three pages of activities, and there are 24 groups of words. Once we get through those words, I'll move them up to the sixth-grade level. Right now, I'm thinking that each week or so, I'll give them at least the first two pages. The homework will be to complete those, and then we'll talk in class, we'll find more examples, we'll possibly talk about some roots here and there. We'll definitely practice spelling, probably out loud and written. Then they'll do the third page a bit later, to reinforce. We'll review in class, and there will be a quiz. SpeSo gave a great idea, to have previous words on each test, to make sure the students are keeping on top of this vocabulary.
In addition, we'll focus on one part of speech or sentence each week. I'll start them off right away memorizing the mnemonic (Pr*tty A^rdvarks N*ver V0Te Ins!de Crumbl!ng P!nk Arenas), then introduce each of the eight parts of speech. I will of course use the excellent tool of SchoolHouse Rock, and then do extra reinforcing exercises during the week. We'll probably do the whole eight, then re-do them all, and then move into sentences and punctuation.
I'm thinking right now that the day will be divided into some kind of warm up (vocabulary, grammar, short reviews, word games, etc) for ten to fifteen minutes, and then shortened reading and writing workshops. In theory, I believe I/we may not be required to use the workshop/mini-lesson model, but for now I'll keep it as a structure. The point is that I want and need to have the extra time at the beginning, not feeling like taking the time to explain comma usage or prepositions will be eating into the "real" lesson. I want there to be time for all three. I think they'll complement each other well. At least, that's my hope.
What this means, of course, is that I really need to have my shit together each week. I'm essentially adding a third mini-lesson to do per day (in addition to reading and writing). But I have piles and piles of worksheets and workbooks for vocabulary and grammar, so it's just a matter of organization.
I haven't decided about the writing-cycle-homework yet, because I’m not sure if it is logistically possible. You know, what it does is ensure that each student can achieve the work, even if they miss a day of school. Whatever their ability level, all the students can brainstorm, organize, plan, draft, and revise and then publish. I really want to find a way to do this, because it will be clear to me, the administration, and the students as they progress in writing ability.
By January, the units I think the students will need are genre identification, nonfiction reading and writing, persuasive writing, poetry analysis, vocabulary/grammar/mechanics, note-taking, short answers, four-squares/graphic organizers that can prepare an essay, and the reading skills (inferencing, sequencing, etc).
I also REALLY need to figure out conferencing. I have yet to do real writing and reading conferences in my classroom. How do you do that, with lessons to do and students to supervise at the same time? I don’t know, I’ve never ‘gotten’ how it’s supposed to be all put together effectively and efficiently.
My first day will be pretty much like last year's, I think: fill out the contact card, find the theme, write and discuss, distribute and discuss parent newsletters. The next day, possibly two, will be for the first benchmark assessments. Then, I will start with rules and consequences, and drill procedures. Soon it'll be time for notebook set up and beginning lessons. Probably starting with genres, writing process, independent reading, etc.
Egads! The third year starts all too soon.