Ignoring the fact that another, albeit short, one will begin tomorrow, I shall record the goings-on from this past week. It continued to go very well and I continued to be positive and motivated.
Thursday we continued discussing the rules. The tasks were useful for several reasons. First, they had to write down each rule, and then write at least one sentence explaining why that rule is important. Next, we practiced different ways of sharing. They discussed rule 1 with their neighbors, and I reminded them and complimented them on things like eye contact, low voices, and attentiveness/being on task. For rule 2, they practiced group talking, and I again reminded and complimented them on doing specific things we want. Rule 3 was another pair talk and Rules 4 and 5 were another group talk.
Finally, we shared out with the entire class, and I called on several students to explain and elaborate upon each rule's significance. Many of the students referenced respect (a discussion we'd had while talking about excellence) when explaining the rules. Hurrah! They're getting it!
As you can see, these activities served many purposes. It got them working quietly and industriously. They had to explain their opinions and justify the rule. They had to work on accountable talk and different noise levels. Also, the rules and justifications should be understood better, on a deeper level, and ingrained through writing and repeated discussions. Additionally, it got every student involved on at least some level of discussion. No one was left out or ignored or allowed to slack.
It all went swimmingly and I told them I was impressed and proud of how much everyone is showing excellence already.
Friday I 'tested' them by putting some review questions on the warm-up board. It took a couple minutes for them to figure out they had to answer them, but they all did, without me telling them to (occasionally I had to say, oops, you've missed something; look around and see if you can figure out what you need to do right now). When they'd finished, we once again discussed the basic rules and procedures of the class. And there was time for them to read if they were done early, which I'm really emphasizing for them to get into the habit of. (What an awkward sentence. Sorry.)
One class had time for the first reading workshop. I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do (several things were in my head) until right when it began. Since I picked up a resource book the other day (Writing About Reading by Janet Angelillo), I'm re-committed to useful, slow and steady teaching. Normally I dislike reading workshop and don't do very interesting or varied things all the time, so it's good to be reminded what's expected for me and the students.
Anyway, so I began by first having them do their heading and such in the reading notebook, and then writing down the habits of good readers. Not that we're going to start that yet, but just to have some exposure to expectations and also to have them write something down.
Then I did a read-aloud of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from a great anthology (ten-minute excerpts of well-known classic children's books that I found in a Half Price Books two summers ago; five bucks!), explaining briefly that you are thinking while reading, so I would stop and tell them what I was thinking while I read.
They were all familiar with at least the movie, so it was easy for them to be interested and engaged in the story, which was clear from their facial expressions and reactions (for example, when I mentioned how spoiled and obnoxious Veruca was being, many students had similar exasperated looks on their faces). I only read about a page worth, stopping at an interesting point. There were some "aww!"s, but I promised I'd do more later. I reiterated that I had lots of thoughts and visualizations and connections while I was reading. Their task then was just to read for 15 minutes, beginning to notice what they were thinking while reading.
My plan for next week (I hope?) is to then get them practicing reading for long stretches of time, then into taking notes and writing on their thinking, and then go from there. Perhaps doing some reaction writing after that? And then beginning to introduce each reading habit one by one, naming and practicing.
We're supposed to do a beginning novel study, so I have to decide which book we'll do and then tie all that together. Assigning chapters or pages, and having them practice those skills in those pages with partners and groups.
Sigh. So much to think about and plan. I hate planning.
In writing we introduced the writing process. Just quick and dirty, reviewing the order of steps to get to a final product. There was just barely time to practice some brainstorming related to their weekend homework assignment (writing an essay about themselves). I told them explicitly that it was an assessment for us all, for me to see where they were at with writing, and to do their best, but that their writing would improve over the year compared to this first piece.
I haven't finalized thoughts or plans for the next three days, but ideas are there, don't worry. I am being careful and deliberate to take things slowly, step by step, to keep all the kids involved and working and understanding. I surely want to quiz the kids on procedures and rules, I think Tuesday. I will be giving group points for excellent behavior and work and following rules. We will soon begin the four square review too, though I'm not sure there's time for it this week.