Last weekend, I blogged about our desire to extend learning over the nutrition breaks. Thanks to some feedback on this post, we decided to try a self-regulation break in the morning. Overall, this break is working well. We realized though, that many students are hungry around 11:00, when they would usually be eating during the First Nutrition Break. We responded to this, and decided to open up a couple of extra snack tables during this time. Students have helped clean-up and/or relocate items on these tables to allow for this to happen, and this small change still has students breaking when they’re hungry while allowing for the continuation of learning from the morning.
There is a problem though: the transition to tidy-up prior to the second nutrition break is a challenge.
- Students are still immersed in the learning/play.
- Many of them have taken snack breaks as needed throughout the morning, and they don’t have much left to eat at the second break, nor are they hungry to eat then.
- It’s becoming a struggle to stop the learning/play, keep students engaged during the second break, and provide meaningful instruction at the end of the day, when students would really be better in small groups versus a large group.
I was thinking about this as I drove to school yesterday. That’s when I began to wonder, why are we stopping? Could the same system that works in the morning, work in the afternoon? We could still have our outdoor learning time around 12:00, but just leave the indoor learning for students to come back to after our outdoor learning and recess ends. If I have a Phys-Ed prep at the end of the day, we can still tidy-up after the second nutrition break and transition smoothly to the gym without additional transitions to a full-class activity and/or new learning/play options. If I have coverage Period 5, maybe I can talk to my prep coverage teacher about continuing with the classroom learning/play during my prep time. She could even add in her own provocations for different learning opportunities. This teacher spoke to me about being open to new prep options, and yesterday, I thought about what I did for prep coverage a couple of years ago thanks to a great online conversation with Angie Harrison. I wonder if this could work in our classroom as well.
This new system would be a very new approach for me. Basically, all teaching would be done in small groups, with either myself or my teaching partner. If needed, we could always pause at different times during the learning/play, for a movement or mindfulness break to help students up- or down-regulate as needed. This might be beneficial for the full class, or this might be better for a small group. Both are possibilities. Even this week, I noticed how much small group learning time we can get with larger blocks of learning/play. With such different strengths and needs of students, this small group time, allows us to really target individual needs, and provide modelled, shared, and guided learning opportunities, but at the right level for each child. Students can even showcase their learning in these small groups with peers, and many, are even more eager to do so since the audience is smaller. I’ve always had full-class learning time, but I’m starting to wonder, is it necessary? Why do we think that students need to learn how to sit on a carpet in Kindergarten? Could good thinking, learning, and skill development happen without the need for “criss cross applesauce?”
I know that all students are different, and maybe with different class dynamics, I’d also be thinking differently. If we truly believe though that “kids do well if they can,” then if they’re struggling, is this because they can’t do well in this situation? If it’s not just one child, but the whole class, then is it up to us to make a change? The more that I look closely at our students and their needs, I realize that problems happen the most during carpet times and transition times. Maybe both then need to change. I thought of this more after school yesterday, as I struggled through another hallway “pack up and get ready for home” time. I find myself constantly trying to redirect students to sit down and wait when they’re done, and those that finish fast, struggle with sitting for so long. Then I’m feeling stressed helping students that still need to get dressed while managing students that are ready to go but need to wait. What if we had students bring their items into the classroom to get ready? Those that need more time, could get their items earlier, and those that need less, could get them later. Staggering times and slowly preparing for this transition home, might make things a lot easier. Having a story, dance, or song for students to enjoy as they finish getting ready, could also help eliminate problems with long wait-times. What do you think?
It’s hard when things aren’t going the way that we want them to, and I think that it’s even harder to admit that we might be the ones that need to change. The more that I think about these challenges though, the more that I’m convinced these changes would help. On Tuesday, I start with a new partner, and I’m excited to have these same conversations with her. Maybe she’ll see things differently and/or have other suggestions for greater success. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these problems and proposed solutions. What would you do?