What a weekend! My oldest daughter didn’t have lacrosse practice and my sixth grade daughter has walking pneumonia (she texted her friends that she couldn’t go to the Saturday night sleepover because she had walking phenomenon – the crazy thing is that all of the girls in the thread wrote back feeling really bad because walking phenomenon is terrible – UGH!), so no where to drive them. My youngest had a birthday party up the road from where we live and my son had musical rehearsal at the high school, which is four miles from our house. This was the first weekend in months that I did not have to drive all over Central New York, so I got tons of school work done and did lots of reading and writing. I also spent tons of time reflecting.
So, here are my highs and lows from this past week. After two full weeks with snow delays or closings, I feel like we have a steady rhythm of learning going on in my classroom. It feels good and gets me excited for the weeks that lie ahead.
- A few weeks back, a friend that I work with was telling me about her husband making a trip to Europe and taking tons of pictures of important places/buildings in Jewish history. He visited many cities and areas impacted by the Holocaust. She offered for him to come into my classroom and speak, and I said YES, YES, YES. On Monday, he came in and presented his beautiful pictures with Jewish history and history about the Holocaust. He had the audience’s (my class) attention the entire time. Obviously, his presentation was very sad. At the end of his forty-minute presentation, a few kids asked questions but I could tell that they understood (for the first time) the impact that the Holocaust had on Jewish history and European history. My class can be very chatty (especially when they come back for lunch for ELA class). After the presentation on Monday afternoon, you could hear a pin drop. It was eerily quiet. They were reflecting, and there was no doubt in my mind that they all learned something new during the presentation. I am really hoping that he will come back in next year.
- On Friday, the class had the opportunity to see and listen to a storyteller. Ms. Johnson is actually a Griot. She tells stories from Africa and from African-American culture. For the morning presentation, she told stories from the Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century. In the afternoon session, she told stories from Western Africa. She was absolutely amazing. The kids LOVED her and her stories. It was such a special event for my sixth graders. They spent the entire day talking about Ms. Johnson and her stories.
- Our first literature circle was a success. I wrote about the literature circle meeting on Saturday. This is the third time of the school year that we are doing literature circles, and each time, I give them more freedom to talk about the book (and less of the literature circle role sheets). They complete a close reading bookmark, and then, during the discussion they use the bookmark to guide their conversation. During the first literature circle meeting, only one group used the bookmarks to guide their discussion. The other groups just discussed their book, and the discussions were AWESOME.
- I have struggled with time management in science throughout the year. The matter unit had sixteen weeks of information to cover in twelve weeks. Well, on Friday, I was out of time. I needed to send the materials to the next school building to use. I made it farther in the unit than my colleagues, but I did not make it as far as I had wanted. Over this coming summer vacation, I am going to review all of the notes that I have taken during the unit and recreate a unit where I can get through more information. I am not confident that I will make it through the entire unit, but I will get far enough to cover all of the standards with time to master the skills. My colleagues and I went to training in November, and we started the unit in December, so we had very little time to work with the materials prior to using them with the students. I will write that I had great success with many of the investigations (including this past week’s electrolysis of water lab), but next year, my goal is to get farther in the unit (with even more investigations).
- Over the last few weeks, I have been struggling with my teaching of grammar. I am teaching it in isolation of writing. Of course, when the kids are writing, I am reminding them of the grammar and convention rules, but I am doing my grammar lessons before or after writing time. Next year, my goal is to incorporate my grammar lessons into my writing lessons. I have also decided to only do grammar lessons on topics that the students need. This year, especially the last few weeks, I have been wasting time doing lessons on skills that the kids have already mastered. I am already in the process of individualizing my teaching of the skills. In my reading notebook, I keep track of the books that the kids are reading. I am putting together a grammar notebook to track the student’s grammar and convention skills.
As a teacher, you always have work to do (teaching and learning is never perfect), but while reflecting over this past weekend, I discovered that we’ve had many highlights in both the science and ELA classrooms over the last few weeks. I am hoping for another week of highlights.