A couple weeks ago, I noticed a reading rut in class. We problem solved it as a community of readers. Read all about it on the CCIRA blog…
Post #4 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… Written after a day of not much instructional time.
All posts in this blog series can be found here.
Take a look at today’s teaching schedule. As you can see there was not much instructional time. If I had absolute control over my teaching day everyday, it would probably look different than this. Alas, I teach in a school community that highly values learning outside of the traditional elementary school subjects of reading, writing, and math as much as it values learning inside of those subjects. While the lack of traditional academic instructional time irks me on days like this, when I take a step back and think about the benefits of all of these programs, I realize how fortunate my students are to receive consistent learning in the arts and physical education. It’s rare. It shouldn’t be.
Where I teach, days like this are a common occurrence. The scheduled assembly, music class, and PE class are completely out of my scheduling control. Plus, every Wednesday is an early dismissal day for students. While all the other days of the week students are dismissed at 2:30, on Wednesdays, they are released at 1:20. Our Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to staff, grade level, IEP, SST, and parent meetings. On the rare Wednesday where we don’t have a meeting, we might have a district-wide professional development afternoon, collaboration time, or teacher prep time. Obviously, my instructional time is limited on Wednesdays- even more so today due to the hour long assembly this morning.
However, lack of instructional time is not an excuse for robbing kids of precious learning moments. I’m a firm believer that we must make use of the valuable little time we have on days like these. Also, the saying that we make time for what we value is so true. If we value it, we do it.
Years ago, I made the deliberate choice to make time for self-selected independent reading every single day. Some days, independent reading time lasts 45 minutes. On days like today, we independently read for 15. Those 15 minutes of time matter.
We should never discount even small chunks of time- we must make the most of the valuable little time we have on the days where we feel like we have no time at all.
My favorite weekend of the year is quickly approaching! The annual NCTE conference feeds my literacy teacher soul in a way that is not replicated any other time of the year. There are many sessions I’m looking forward to attending, and many opportunities to spend time in conversation with friends old and new. If you’ll be in Houston for NCTE, I hope to connect!
My NCTE Schedule
Mini Session with Kari Yates, Conferring with Readers: A Map for Decision Making, 12:15-12:35, Saturday, November 17th, Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth
Responsive Teaching: The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, & Dani Burtsfield, 2:45-4:00, Saturday, November 17th, Room 361 A
CEL Session with Tom Newkirk: Literacy Instruction Worth Fighting For: What Do We Advocate and Why, I’m excited to facilitate an elementary roundtable, 4:15-5:30, Saturday, November 17th, Grand Ballroom A
8:30-9:00, Sunday, November 18th: Exhibit Hall, Stenhouse Booth: Kari & I will be signing copies of To Know and Nurture a Reader
10:30-11:45, Sunday November 18th, Room 362 DEF Words Matter: Shifting Instructional Language to Empower Students, with Kari Yates, Jan Burkins, & Kim Yaris
“I want to write about what happened at the school in Florida,” is the phrase that started the conversation today with my fifth graders.
I’ll let this email to my classroom families explain the rest.
Dear Classroom Families,I’m writing to let you know that we had a whole class discussion today about what happened in Florida. It was not planned- it came up naturally.During our morning meeting, I asked the kids to think about an issue they care about for our argument writing pre-assessment later today, which is a regular part of our fifth grade curriculum (we call these on-demand writing assessments). The kids started to share out their ideas: Pollution, global warming, and then one student said she wanted to write about “what happened at the school in Florida.” Suddenly, hands flew in the air, and the kids really wanted to express their thinking around the topic, which turned into a talk about what they think and feel about school safety and even the issue with guns. Please know that I completely kept my opinion out of the conversation and just made sure they had a safe space to express their thinking. We actually have a lot of differing opinions and beliefs in class, and the kids did a beautiful job listening to each other and talking out how they feel. I’m very proud of all of them.I told them I was going to write to you to let you know that this issue came up in class, and that it is a conversation they should also share with you when they get home today if they still wanted to talk about it. Please, do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Again, this wasn’t planned, but I am glad we had the conversation because many kids in class desperately wanted to share their thinking.-Christina
Thanksgiving break is upon us! So, of course this was a great time to do a healthy reading habits check in with my fifth graders. During the past few days, I spent time conferring with each of my fifth graders around their at home reading habits. As a class, we discussed how Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to truly dig into a good novel… the weather is cooler, lots of in-between moments for reading abound: travel time, waiting time, after dinner time, etc, and no other school work, extra classes, or lessons will be scheduled that may get in the way of the important work of reading.
There’s no need for a cutesy worksheet, dreaded reading log, or homework assignment to get kids reading outside of school. In fact, using those methods to assign reading make reading about complying with the teacher’s expectations rather than reading to grow, learn, and enjoy as an individual. Instead, provide kiddos time to find and take home a great book (or a few in the younger grades), support each reader in creating a reading plan through conferring, and talk about it! Not only did we discuss our reading plans during reading workshop, but also we discussed them in our opening and closing circles at the start and end of the school day.
Each of my fifth graders now have a great, self-selected read or two to delve into over Thanksgiving break. In addition, they also have a plan for reading and friends to come back to after break to chat about the book.
Happy Reading & Happy Thanksgiving!
Small Writing/Big Idea
Think back to your days in school. What is it that you remember most as a student? Field trips, assemblies, friendships, great teachers, reading, writing?
You might be wondering why I tacked on reading and writing to the end of this list. Recently, in casual conversation at school, a couple people were mentioning that kids don’t remember the academics of school, but rather the “fun” stuff like field trips or field days or festivals. While I don’t disagree with this idea (who doesn’t love field trips?), I have to say that it is only part of the truth.
If academics are presented to kids in ways that both engage and empower them, that is
exactly what they’ll remember. The most powerful teachers are those who effectively inspire students to learn, wonder, create, and take chances. Kids remember being engaged in learning.
Nothing warms my heart more than when a former student writes a letter or comes back to visit and tells me that he loved reading in my classroom or that she never knew the power of writing could be so strong. Better yet, nothing is better than when they tell me that they still love reading or writing.
What do students remember? They remember what we value as teachers. They remember the passion, excitement, and community around what we choose to deem important. I know what I deem important. What is it for you? What will your students remember?
Welcome to my blog’s new home: Christina Nosek Literacy! A few weeks ago, I decided to retire my beloved blog of six years, The Teacher Triathlete. It was a great run, but now it’s time to move forward. Archived posts from The Teacher Triathlete in addition to some of my other writing is being added to the Literacy Archives tab above. A new insight, idea, or instructional tip will be added to the blog every Wednesday. You can follow the blog by using the button on the sidebar to the right.
I’m so excited about what’s to come! Thanks for joining me on this journey of empowering all kids through literacy!