Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reflections From My Beach Chair...

There is nothing like reflecting with people you trust (and who are removed from your specific school setting) while sitting on the edge of the ocean in your beach chair. I have decided that this is where I do my best "thinking." My family has a lot of teachers in it, so I had some great discussions with them while I was away. I thought I would share some of my "a Ha" moments before I get back into the meaty topics of blogging.

First of all, it feels so good to have been able to sit back and relax these last few weeks. After coming off of a tough year and then that being complicated with a possible job change...I was burnt out. I have decided to stay at my current school and I am confident and excited about my decision. This will be my third year teaching first grade and I know it will be the best yet, because I have learned SO much over the past two years.

After pow-wowing with my family of teachers, I decided I wasn't nearly as explicit with my classroom procedures and expectations as I needed to be this past year. I knew that I needed to have procedures and teach them explicitly, but I'm not sure I really understood what explicit meant. For example, I taught how I wanted students to ask to use the bathroom, but  I didn't review what to do when they walked out of my room. This resulted in numerous bathroom discussions throughout the year and a lot of headaches. Eventually we resorted to taking class bathroom breaks because the behavior was getting out of hand. This year I am going to take the girls into the bathroom and review step-by-step what to sounds slightly crazy, but I think this is what my students need. It is crucial that I make my expectations very clear to them and assume they do not know what to do. Then hopefully they will want to please and do the right thing and will follow through.

My next epiphany came a few days later while walking up and down the beach; I need to find a way to teach social skills within my read aloud time. My aunt suggested Making Meaning. It sounded like the perfect way to combine classroom procedures/social skills with comprehension strategy lessons. Plus, it comes with a very explicit teacher's guide for me. Although I typically think I can do a lesson without a guide, I have realized that it is helpful to use some of the guides to help me learn the explicit language the children need to hear.  Come to find out...I already have Making Meaning in my room! As a new teacher a few years ago, I was overwhelmed with all of the materials in my room, so over the past two years I have focused on using our HM reading series, Words Their Way, and guided reading resources. Making Meaning will definitely be one that I incorporate into my whole group lessons this year!

Our conversations continued back at the beach house one night. Although I know I need to be CONSISTENT, it's not as easy as it looks! We brainstormed several ways for me to stay consistent, including ways to get the class's attention. I like the "call & response" type attention getters because I think they help the students know exactly what it should look like when I need their attention. We also talked about brainstorming a list of rewards that students could earn when they follow through with my expectations. My aunt suggested rewards are more meaningful when the students come up with them and what they want may be so simple, the teacher failed to think of it.

These are just a few of my reflections from the past week. I am already feeling re-energized and excited for the new school year!

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