As I mentioned in my blog post the other day, my previous vice principal, Kristi, is one of my favourite bloggers, and her posts often inspire my own. Today, I was thinking about a post that Kristi wrote around the holiday times last year: the post speaks about making changes, and how we “eat an elephant” one small bite at a time. In her post, Kristi mentioned that just before the holidays is the perfect time to make small changes, as there’s a lot less pressure than there is in January. I think that these “small bite” changes are also perfect ones to make in June: just weeks before the end of school. At this point in the year, I’ve met the overall curriculum expectations, and I’m using the remaining time to focus on areas of need, while responding to current student interests. Why not tweak my practice at the same time?
Here are a couple of my changes for the remaining weeks of school.
- The introduction of Work Plans. Last week, I went to observe Nancy and Debra‘s Kindergarten class, and I really liked their Play Plans. I wanted to take this idea and modify it for Grade 1. I thought that having students think about their plans for the day, would help them decide on a focus and link their learning to our Learning Goals. In addition to what I saw in the Kindergarten class, I wanted to give time for students to reflect on their plans, discuss what worked well and what didn’t, and think ahead to new plans for the next day. To help with ownership, I also wanted students to go back and modify their plans if their direction changed. While I know that there are lots of mixed feelings about having students write on lines (as there is a question on if it becomes “visual noise”), I thought that introducing them to these lines might help them for next year in Grade 2. Many students are starting to choose lined paper to write on now, so they can also start to learn how to organize their writing on these lines. With this in mind, I decided to give the students notebooks for their Work Plans. I noticed today that some students drew and wrote in these notebooks, while other students, just wrote. If the lined paper is problematic for some students, then I can always create notebooks with blank paper. I am also currently working with some students in a small group to write their Work Plans, but I anticipate that they will become more independent as time goes on. For a couple of students, recording video or audio Work Plans on an iPad may also be a good option. These plans took longer to write today, as we wrote one together as a small group first. Some students set multiple goals and thought about how to meet different goals tomorrow that they didn’t get to address today. One student changed her plan, and went back to update it in her notebook. All of this took time, but I anticipate that it will take less in the coming weeks. I hope that this process will help students become more metacognitive and reflect more on their thinking and learning.
- A focus on oral language for those students that really need it. I thought that I did focus on oral language this year, and maybe I did, but with a desire to develop strong readers and writers, I really tried to link this speaking and listening time to reading and writing time. For many students, this approach worked. For others, I wonder if I pushed the reading and writing before the students were ready for it. After my visit last week to Nancy and Debra‘s room, I’d like to try a different approach for some struggling readers and writers. For these students, I think that Lori St. Amand, a Grade 1 teacher in our Board, makes the best suggestions in her comment on another post:
I am not going to take away the paper or say no to the writing, but my focus for these few will be on “talking time.” Will I see a difference in a month? I’m not sure. But I think that it’s worth a try, and I’m eager to see what happens.
Now that June is here and there is more end-of-the-year excitement, I think that many students really benefit from consistent routines. That being said, a few small changes to hopefully better meet student needs, seems like a good idea to me. Yes, I am teaching a different grade next year, but even seeing how my current students respond to these changes may help me as my partner and I plan for a new group of students. Seeing what’s possible in Grade 1, also makes me think about what needs to be done to develop these skills in Senior Kindergarten. Who else is willing to take a bite or two out of that elephant and make some small changes before the school year is over? What are you planning on doing? Why? What feedback do you have for me as I nibble away on that elephant? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Maybe we can make changes — and take a few bites — together!