The first 20 days of literacy instruction in my building are set aside for helping students build stamina and establish regular routines. We also ideally begin our literacy assessments during this time so that, after the first 20 days, we can start working with small guided reading groups.
The purpose of spending the first 20 days on routines and strong work habits is so that the remaining 160 days or so of school can be spent on learning and growth. I need my students to be able to stay focused on their tasks so that I can focus on mine. If students are supposed to be reading independently while I am meeting with a small group, for example, I need to know that they will actually be reading independently. This allows me to focus my energy on working with my different groups.
To this end, I began introducing literacy rotations to our reading workshop time. I divided my students into three groups and assigned each group a specific location and task: the first group was on the carpet for independent reading; the second group was at their desks working on Front Row ELA tasks; the third group was assigned to read self-selected articles from Wonderopolis at the back of the room. Every 20 minutes we would pause and rotate so that each student had the opportunity to work at each station by the end of the literacy block.
The first 20 minutes went great! Everyone was focused and working on what they were supposed to be doing. The second 20 minutes were good, but not great: there were a few brief snippets of chatter and a few students who were getting up and walking around instead of staying focused on their tasks. The last 20 minutes were just okay: more chatter, more distractedness.
So we now have a plan for our stamina: 20 minutes, 20 minutes, and 20 minutes, with 5-minute breaks between each rotation to let students move and talk before getting back to work. (My goal is for the students to work through the block with fewer breaks, though; I am hoping I can have four rotations total, with one break at the halfway point. But we still have lots of time to build up to that.)
At the end of the literacy block, I shared a video from Flocabulary about finding the main idea of a text, which we watched twice. (I will likely use videos like this at the start of the literacy block in the future to tie in to the mini-lessons of the day, but today it was used in part to give the students time to get up and move around before we switched to the last part of our morning.)
All in all, it was a good start to using rotations in literacy. Tomorrow it will look a little bit different, but we will continue to work on building stamina and establishing routines day by day until the students can regularly and consistently maintain the focus they need to be successful in developing their literacy skills.
Many of my blog post titles over the past seven years or so have overlapped with other titles. Today’s is definitely unique in every way. (Of course, I will likely be writing a similar post in about seven years, but that is seven years from now; will blogs even be a thing by 2024?)
We had the awesome experience this afternoon of witnessing a solar eclipse; and not just any solar eclipse–this was the first full solar eclipse to pass through the continental United States from the Pacific Northwest through the Atlantic Southeast (totally not a term we use but one we ought to use). The path of totality was about 150 miles south of us, but we still got to witness an eclipse that covered about 94% of the sun and that was pretty cool!
Thanks to our fantastic district superintendent, every student and teacher in the district was given a pair of eclipse glasses so we could all watch at the same time (but not at the same place). Here are some things I learned about 94% totality:
- 6% of the sunlight is dark enough to turn on street lights but nowhere close enough to being actual dark.
- 6% of the sunlight definitely results in much cooler temperatures.
- Watching the moon cover 94% of the sun leaves a pretty remarkable sliver of sunlight that is neat to watch through eclipse glasses.
- My iPhone camera isn’t sensitive enough to pick up the moon when 6% of the sunlight is demanding attention.
- My fourth graders still thought the eclipse was pretty cool and were excited to watch, even if they didn’t get to see the sun’s corona or the neat phenomena that accompany 100% totality.
My front-facing camera adjusted for the moon and showed the full circle of the sun.
My wife came down during the eclipse and took this picture by placing the eclipse glasses over my phone’s camera. You can see a tiny little sliver of the moon on the left, even though the eclipse was almost as total as it got in Urbana.
If I get the opportunity, I might try to travel to Carbondale, Illinois, in seven years to experience full totality. But if I can’t, I’ll still enjoy watching the eclipse wherever I may be!
(PS: I apologise for the lateness of this post; I didn’t get home until 8:45 pm and I am unable to update my blog from school due to network filter issues.)
Today was my seventh first day at Wiley Elementary School in Urbana. I have 22 students assigned to me currently, although only 18 were in attendance today. I am expecting to have 21 in attendance on Monday (one will be absent due to a family engagement). So I am hopeful that all 22 students will be present by next Tuesday.
So, how was my seventh first day?
Well, it started out as it always does: students gathered outside by classes, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Wiley Promise as an entire school before entering the building and getting into the classroom. The students had breakfast in the room (a program that was started last year that I never got around to blogging about), worked on all “It’s All About Me” poster, and then went to their Fine Arts class, which I believe is Drama. (The teacher does both Dance and Drama, but I can never remember which she does first, or even if she always does the same one first each year.)
We spent the remainder of the morning going over routines and procedures in the classroom until it was time for lunch, which is about 25 minutes earlier than the students ate lunch last year. (We have three lunch periods, and the students eat K/5, 1/4, and then 2/3).
After lunch we had a class meeting about expectations and then I shared one of my (many) favourite stories with the class, a simple but profoundly touching picture book called One, written by Kathrn Otoshi (which I wrote about three years ago here.) What was interesting was that several of my students were in Miss C’s class back then when I shared it, they remembered the story, and they were so excited to hear it again. (By the way, if anyone ever tells you picture books are only for little children, have them read one like this and think about the message it sends to all.)
All of the intermediate students had a brief assembly with our principal, who went over her expectations for the students this year, and then we came back and wrapped up the first day with some technology time, including a couple of Kahoot! quizzes about expectations and voice levels.
We started packing up at 2:45 pm and everyone was ready to go within ten minutes. My goal is to get the end of the day transition down to just five minutes and you know what? I think this class can do it.
So, again, how was our first day? I’ll let this picture tell you:
Our bulletin board in the hall has my class theme for the year on it. After talking to 2 parents in person and calling the other 16 after school to tell them what an outstanding start of the year we had, I feel blessed to know that I was able to have a hand in making a lot of people smile this afternoon!