I “Let It Go!”

Just over a month ago, I read this wonderful blog post by my previous vice principal, Kristi, about “letting it go.” She talks about something that I never really thought about before: as we “rethink practice,” we can’t keep adding to our plate. We need to think about what needs to go as we make changes. 

It’s no surprise to many that I tend to embrace change when it comes to educational practice. I don’t do so haphazardly.

  • I read a lot.
  • I listen to other people’s experiences, and I try to learn from them.
  • I connect with others and share ideas.
  • I’m open for feedback.
  • I try to think constantly about all students, and how these changes might better benefit each of my students.
  • I try to give time for all of us (both students and myself) to adjust to changes, and I try to give lots of opportunities to reflect throughout the process.
  • And if changes don’t work — or don’t work well for each child — then I may change again to better meet student needs.

Thanks to many conversations with a fellow Grade 1 teacher, Lori St. Amand, my most recent changes are big ones. I’m thinking more about the flow of our day, the amount of full class time, the amount of teacher direction, and the role that “play” plays in learning. With each new change, I can’t help but think about what’s “going”:

  • My initial full class lesson each morning. I often have a provocation out on the floor, and this leads to our open-ended learning block. Sometimes I pull the students quickly back together to share some thinking and ask some questions, and sometimes students are moving on independently, and I’m just working with those that need a little more guidance.
  • Week long shared reading texts for the full class. Sometimes we read tweets together, or parts of our Daily Shoot Blog Posts, to inspire future learning. Sometimes we read a short excerpt from a website (connected to a current inquiry) or part of a text that a student found and is interested in exploring more. The texts are often shorter. We talk briefly about decoding and comprehension strategies during the reading process, and then students explore more on their own or in small groups. Time is more precious.
  • Guided reading time … to an extent. This was one of my biggest concerns in my last blog post, and it’s something that I’m still contemplating. When I initially made the change, I tried reading more 1:1 or in small groups with students, but during their exploration time. This worked for some students, but was a struggle for my neediest readers. I find that they benefit from more intense intervention. So I decided to pull them aside during part of our learning block and read with them. I connect our guided reading text to current inquiry interests (even if I have to write the text myself), and we spend time previewing vocabulary to help with discussions and writing. For the other students, I read more with them during the learning block. Sometimes I pull small groups, but often use texts that the students are currently reading, and link our area of focus to these texts. From the reading, writing, and discussions shared, I think that the students are benefitting from this new approach.
  • The same read aloud for everyone. I still read books aloud and connect them with various comprehension strategies, but I’m doing this less as a full class. I find myself reading with small groups of students. We’re talking about texts more in groups, and these texts may vary, even though the comprehension strategies explored may be similar. This small group approach seems to give more voices in our discussion, and the students really want to have these voices. 
  • Teaching phonemic awareness in isolation. As part of our school’s K-2 intervention strategy, we’ve been looking closely at developing phonemic awareness skills in students. We’ve used Dibels to assess students, and Class Act to help with intervention. I’ll admit, I started the year teaching skills in isolation. I used the Class Act games. I even used the dry erase sheets. But I’ve been making changes. I still progress monitor (using Dibels), and I know what my students need to focus on, but I’m addressing the skills differently now. We play phonemic awareness games as we line up, tidy up, and get ready for home. We play with sounds in words as students create their own songs and rhymes, often connected to inquiry topics. I also use the students’ interest in Dr. Seuss to play with nonsense words as we read together. I’m definitely rethinking the blackline masters that I used earlier this year.

I’m not perfect! There are many times that I find that I talk more than I should, or I get more involved than I need to be. Sometimes we gather as a class, and I wonder if we really need to all be working together. Sometimes our class discussions last too long, and I think about what I should have done differently. But figuring out what needs to go has helped me focus more on what needs to stay. Have others tried this approach too? What do you think needs to stay? What are you letting go of to make that happen? Maybe we can all share our experiences and learn from each other.


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