Thinking deeply about text requires readers to really read carefully and examine evidence. The children are starting to shift their thinking in this way, moving from “this reminds me of” to “the author means”. Part of the demand being placed on our students then is to prove what they say with explicit support.
Yesterday and today I worked with 3rd graders on responding to a more open-ended question. One where a solid answer was necessary but there was no one exact correct answer. It was my goal to help the children analyze as readers how to Answer a question, Cite evidence to support that answer or claim, and then Explain how the evidence “proves” the answer they gave. Not an easy skill and one that certainly requires time and effort…
After reading a short passage, I modeled thinking or planning a response…https://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/planning-an-essay-response/27551200/?ref=link
Once again, I need to stop and reflect on our progress. We have worked hard to establish a routine and solidify expectations. Routines are great. They give us structure and predictability. Yet we live in a world where the unexpected happens and so we must also learn to be flexible and adaptive. If I had the children 5 days a week, 1 hour each day, then we could keep to a rigid structure. Reality is that we have days off, special events, and even personal set backs (such as illnesses that slow us down or cause us to be absent). So I strive to make each and every moment count and prioritize what is most important.
For that reason, I am approaching the month of December as such. This past week (Dec. 1-5) marked the only “normal” week we will have for the rest of this month. So what is important? Well I want the children to use our menu as a guide to keep them focused and engaged in meaningful tasks. “Main course” tasks are always the core of what I focus on. We have had some engaging text discussions as 4th graders revisited two poems about those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington while 3rd graders worked with the importance of referring to text explicitly for the basis for their thinking when answering questions. 4th graders are also working to wrap up the reading of our first novel this year and so our discussions are becoming more about the text as a whole and less about details. Patterns are emerging and we are truly synthesizing all that we have learned thus far. Dive ins are integrating the skill of response in writing and inferring based on what we can observe. Video lessons are helping us build content foundation…concepts and terms that we apply to what we read. Most of this very important learning isn’t measured easily with a “point” system.
Of course in order for me to engage in focused, deep discussions with small groups 3 days a week with only 3-6 students at a time, I have to ensure that everyone else is self-directed and on task. That is where the side dish stations and “desserts” come in. These are the activities students have to choose from in class. Then ELO’s and Blooms Brochures provide enrichment in the children’s homerooms during Tiger Time when they are not with me or receiving supplemental enrichment in other areas such as math. I recognize that each student has his/her own unique pace and quality level; each student has different schedules and demands from their other teachers. By now I know what I can expect from whom. We have had enough self-reflection opportunities that the children know what they are capable of and that I will hold them accountable for it. For this reason, points are important and then they aren’t so important…
I say this because last month and this month, rather than “points” for the week, it is more “points for the month”. I want the children to put forth their best effort in everything they do, I want them to be self-directed and engaged, and I want to make sure how we spend each moment is the best use of our time together. Some days that means independently engaging in tasks and at other times that means stopping to capitalize on a teachable moment as we investigate something together.
Another important part of reflecting and reviewing is for me to consider what I am doing that is working well and what I still need to improve upon. I have worked to create an environment that allows children to make choices and in doing so sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed! Your child is learning to manage responsibilities and their time while having a choice in what they choose to pursue. So I appreciate that families are patient when I work to keep up with meaningful feedback. I don’t provide experiences for “busy work”. So if your child takes the time to do a task, I will take the time to look over it (which often means I do get buried in piles of papers!) It also means that I am needing to access digital work now too! (Again…overwhelming but well worth it!) The progress I have seen in just the past few months has proven to me that the time and energy investment is paying off! What have I learned? To prioritize right along with the children and continually organize with systems that work for me. As our range of digital experiences expands, I have found that it is now necessary to put things in order and thankfully the right tool came at the right time! Symbaloo has allowed me to organize all of the resources we are utilizing in the GREEN ROOM. And so, I have a webmix (which is just a set of icons linking to URL addresses) for us to organize our digital world. The kids have a binder for the unplugged…now we have webmix for the “plugged”!