Monday, December 10, 2012

Less is More!

Revamping Literacy Stations...Daily 5, Take 2!
When something doesn't go quite right in my classroom, I don't let it go. I've learned to take a step back and really take a look at what the problem truly is, and to find out what is causing the problem. Although I don't like to often admit this, most problems are usually  caused by me. 

When I was a younger teacher, I used to find myself blaming the kids when things went wrong. You'd hear me say, "There must be a  full moon (I do really believe times), it's getting close to the holidays/weekend, they just don't know how to use the classroom materials/clean-up", etc. You know the drill. It wasn't until I was taught to be a reflective teacher that I started to take a good look at myself and my teaching practices. 

Last week, I was fed up with how the students were not using the literacy stations properly. Many were off-task, and it was just annoying...especially when I was trying to hold conferences/small groups with children. I took a step back and observed them the very next day. It was like they forgot all that I taught/modeled/practiced with them at the beginning of the year. 

That night, I began to look through my Daily 5/CAFE books and the DailyCafe website. I realized, as I wrote in a previous post, I started stations way too quickly. I also realized that when I took down our homemade Daily 5 anchor charts to replace them with cute/colorful ready-made signs, all of that prior learning was gone. There was nothing solid that we could refer to when things went south. 

I already wrote about how we started from scratch last week with relearning how to read to ourselves and how to work on our writing. Yesterday, I reread some articles about work work. I realized there was way, way too much out for the kiddos to choose from. There were only 5 activities, but still, that was WAY too much. Yes, there were practicing vocabulary, word families and sight words, but not in the most effective way.

As suggested, I used only beans today (dried kidney beans). Of course, I've heard of this before, but sometimes by rereading an article or a book, that information comes back to the front of my brain again. So, anyway, I typed up my Words Their Way word sort lists for my three spelling groups. I copied enough for everyone in all spelling groups to have one copy. I then put some beans into 8 small plastic cups (thanks to my friend and colleague, Karen, who loans me everything in a pinch). I put the cups of beans, word lists (in 3 separate boxes) and quiet mats in one section of the word work shelf. That's all that was (and is) there.
Sidenote...I actually thought about introducing stamping and writing words too, but then I saw nothing but disaster and mass chaos students who may become off-task in the near future and I came to my senses...wait, wait, wait!!!

We made our Word Work anchor chart, and then I demonstrated how to make spelling words with beans (how to get paper, beans, mat, how to use the beans, what to do when done, how to put away). Some students then demonstrated what to do/not to/what to do again. I made sure to tell them that the bean spelling was the ONLY Word Work activity they would be doing. We reviewed the other anchor charts for the 3 previously learned Daily 5 stations, they made choices, and I released them to work independently. 

And, guess what...two students went to the velcro word wall and began to remove sight words, one girl went to the listening station. As I felt my blood pressure rising, I took one huge breath and called everyone back to the carpet. We reviewed everything again, and they did such a great job! 

So, in the end, the lesson repeats itself again and again...less is more!

Before I sign off, I want to let you know that Lisa, from Growing Firsties chose me as one of her reviewers for her fantastic new STAR Readers Workshop resource. I was amazed at how thorough,  useful, developmentally appropriate and fun this is. If you are thinking about starting a readers workshop in your room, or you need some fresh ideas, check it out at TPT.

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