It seems like only yesterday I wrote about the night before the first day of school, and here it is, the end of the first week. It went by so very fast. There were some big challenges this week as well as some big wonderful moments. I’d love to list off all of the highlights but to be honest, there is just too much to talk about so I’ll give a few of the big ones.
First off, my classroom does seem crowded with 25 students in it. It’s amazing to think that there are classes with more students than that in other schools. In our school that’s a very large class. I have three students who are new to our school. All three are lovely and are starting to make connections with their classmates and with me. I’m so happy to see that they’re starting to put their hands up during discussion and letting their voices be heard.
We spent much of this week talking about and practicing our classroom and school expectations. I’ve had to remind the class a few times that, because there are so many of them, that the expectations for independent work and being mindful of others is much greater. I’m the only adult in the room and getting around to all 25 of them to help them just isn’t possible. I make an effort to get around as much as I can though. The discussions and practices of routines is helping. The first day was more of a struggle. After that, as we worked through what needed to be done, our days have improved greatly.
One of our big routines that the students love is read to self. I took the idea from The Daily 5. We build up our stamina for silent reading. So rather than saying we’re going to read for 20 minutes, I get everyone settled and then I start the timer. Once I see that they’re no longer focused, I stop the timer and we graph how we do throughout the month. I let them sit where they want. As you can see from this picture, there are a few in the closet, one at a desk and one lying on the desktops. A few chose to lie down on the desks the first day, then they discovered it was uncomfortable and so the novelty of that has worn off.
On the first day, we managed 5 seconds after three tries. I think they were just too excited about being back and were having trouble focusing on anything. But we worked on putting the books in the right places and being gentle with them and finding spots, what silent reading should look and sound like, all of those good routines that they were able to show again the rest of the week. On Wednesday they read for 3 minutes. Now keep in mind that these are students who do not have very strong reading skills in French yet. So even though they are in grade 5, their ability to read in French at this point is at about a Kindergarten or Pre-K level. This is more about having the experience of looking at the books, reading the pictures, making some connections between the words and the pictures and some of the “mots d’amis” the words that are almost identical or the same in French and English. So 3 minutes on the second day was wonderful.
The third day they got 11 minutes. I was so proud of them I nearly cried. You could have heard a pin drop in the classroom. They were focused. All I could hear was pages turning. Occasionally, someone would whisper quietly to a neighbour. Then I would hear the neighbour quietly ask the whisperer to be quiet. It was beautiful. Today they were tired and having trouble focusing again, but we did get 9 solid minutes in. I’m so proud of their progress.
This weekend I will try to write more about my new endeavors to get away from the carrot and stick methods of teaching. It’s very challenging and deserves its own post.
This is off-topic for my blog, but I am so excited about it that I feel the need to share. My husband’s band is in a competition called the Galaxie Rising Star. It’s a showcase of artists from New Brunswick and takes place during our big music festival next week, the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival that happens each September. Former winners of this contest have gone on to do amazing things. My husband plays bass in the Jaclyn Reinhart Band and, even though I’m biased, I really do think they are amazing and talented. If you’re in Fredericton, they are playing on Friday, September 16th in the Barracks Tent. It’s a free show starting at 3pm and if they win they get to play on Saturday night.
But even if you’re not in Fredericton, if you could please vote for them in the on-line competition they would be so grateful. all you need to do is go to Galaxie Rising Star, sign up (they just need your e-mail to make sure you only vote once), check out the six bands and then vote for the Jaclyn Reinhart Band. They’re doing well in the competition but would love to get some more votes. Their website has a lot of videos that I’ve shot for them at different shows that they’ve done as well.
I hope everyone has a lovely and relaxing weekend.