The end of January and beginning of February is very stressful as an Intensive French teachers regardless of whether I’m doing the flip-flop, like I did last year, or the big switcheroo, like I’m doing this year. And yes, those are technical terms.
To explain, last year we had two Grade 5 classes at our school. I was the only teacher who spoke and taught French so I had one class for half the year as my homeroom, teaching them Intensive French while teaching the other class for a bit in the afternoon and teaching both grade 4 pre-intensive French classes. Half way through the year, my class went over to the other grade 5 teacher and his class switched to me. That was very hard. It was like having September all over again, but in February when you don’t have as much energy and there was no time off to get ready for a new class. Granted I already knew them somewhat from having taught them a little in the afternoons, but it’s different going from being a specialist teacher that they only see for a bit to being a homeroom teacher.
The major advantage to this though was that I didn’t have to do a whole lot of change over work to my classroom. I re-started my word and sound wall but that was about it. I also just re-taught the same lessons I taught to the first class so that meant less prep time.
This time around I’m keeping my class because we only have the one class of grade 5’s this year. This means that they know my rules and expectations already, we’re pretty comfortable with each other and that stuff won’t change. Some routines will change of course and that will throw some of them off, but I’m hoping to ease into it as easily as we can. I’m glad that I’ve already been using some Daily 5 ideas so that should be an easy transition for them.
The big disadvantage though is that I need to do a lot of work to prepare my classrooms and get ready to teach subjects I haven’t taught in a long time. I’m having to learn a lot very quickly about literacy programs and resources for Science and Social Studies. Health is fine because we already have a program in place that I’ve been teaching for a while now so I’ll just continue with that.
The main resource that I don’t have a lot of experience with is Lucy Calkins and doing Writer’s Workshops. I’ve taught writing before but the year that I taught English I was so overwhelmed by all the different programs and resources that my principal kindly told me to just pick two main ones to focus on for the year. So I chose to do Daily 5/CAFE and Book Clubs. I looked at Lucy Calkins for some ideas that year but there was just so much to it; it was so daunting that I didn’t focus on it. As you can see, there are a lot of books, and not all of the books are there because one was in my office. Right now they’re doubling by helping me keep the cats from wrecking the 1000 piece puzzle I’m doing and while I’m eating I can take a peek at the books and try to get my head around the program.
Daily 5 and CAFE are what I’m looking forward to the most. I used these programs two years ago with my two grade 5 classes and I loved them. I was even lucky enough to go to a PD session given by the sisters themselves (the writers of the books. It was like being in the same room as celebrities) and I have to say, out of all the literacy programs I’ve read about, this one makes the most sense to me.
Daily 5 is mostly a frame-work for structuring your literacy block. It’s what you have your students doing so that you can have time to pull small groups and work with students one on one without creating a lot of extra work for yourself. It shows how to teach independence with reading and writing so that your students are able to go and work without you hovering over them and checking on them every few seconds. CAFE is all about teaching, assessing and organizing what the teacher is doing while the students are reading and writing. It helps to make up flexible groups to work on strategies and helps students to make and clearly articulate their goals for reading. The first time I used CAFE I didn’t have my own book and I skimmed through it pretty quickly without being able to “stop and re-read”, one of the big reading strategies the book talks about. I’m hoping that this year, with access to my own book and a little time to get set up, I’ll be able to follow the program more closely. Plus I have the added advantage that Mrs. W has used Daily 5 and CAFE in her classrooms before as well and our new principal was the go-to literacy person at district for a while.
With all of these ideas, going through my old lesson plans and everything from past years, planning out what I want to do with the next five months, my office is looking pretty messy. I’m also spending a lot more time at school. Remember that goal I made to be leaving school by 4:30, 5 at the latest? I left at 6:00 on Tuesday and today I was there until 5:15 and only left because I was hungry. I’m also planning on being there for a while tomorrow night and I’ll probably go in at least one day over the weekend.
The big thing I need to tackle? My library. It’s such a huge job. Today while most of my students were writing the French assessments, I sent a few who were finished over with Mrs. W to start sorting through the books that I inherited from the previous grade 5 teacher. He inherited them from other teachers. I have no idea what’s in that closet of books next door but I know there are a lot of them and I have to find some way to sort them into meaningful categories and find a place for them in the classroom. Plus I have all the books I have at home to bring in! Wish me luck!