“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.
Did I say and do the right things? I think so. I hope so. I’m not sure. However, one thing I know for sure is that kids these days are just incredible. We, adults, could learn a great deal from them. They listened to each other, they actually heard each other, and when one had a differing opinion from another, they tried to understand where that person was coming from as opposed to trying to convince them otherwise. It was refreshing to listen in as they lead the honest, mature conversation.
If dialogue like this continues to happen in our schools and in our homes with the younger generation, our future as a country is in good hands. We need to start listening more to our kids rather than telling them what we think. They have a lot to teach us. I hope our present leaders take note.
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.
This reader spent some time choosing a book to dive into over break! He and I then conferred around strategies he’ll use when reading the text and putting his plan for reading into place.
This is his plan- on a stickie note stuck inside the front cover of the book. No need for a purchased worksheet- plans should be authentic and come from each individual reader.
During our closing circle, these are the readers who said they already read The Lost Hero. So, here is who my reader will check in with after break to chat about the book. This stickie note is also inside the front cover of the book. The best motivation to read is a self-selected book and other readers chat with about the book. No need for stickers or points when the motivation is authentic and intrinsic!
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
Making writing engaging and memorable with Heart Mapping inspired by Georgia Heard
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?
Falling in Love With Books
Reading: It’s Just What We Do!
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!