Friday, October 3, 2014

LittleOWL Book Club

Well, I'll have to be honest about why the posts aren't coming as frequently as the past two years...
We aren't changing what's happening in the classroom as frequently! 

Let me give you an example.  In Virginia, as we moved through each week, there was a new focus in Language Arts and Math. While we weren't necessarily doing a "letter of the week," since we taught all the letters all the time, there was certainly a focus given to each letter so students who didn't know them all had the chance to learn them.

Speaking with my sister-in-law recently, she shared a story about a well performing private school teacher whose strategy was to always teach to the highest ability child in the classroom, requiring struggling students to catch up.  It's kind of like ESOL children put in a classroom of English speaking students (or vice versa) -- when immersed with the language, they have no choice but to pick up the language.

In retrospect looking at teaching K in Virginia, I feel like the academic rigor was missing in Language Arts and far too present in Math (kids in Kindergarten rarely understand money concepts).  
In Language Arts, we taught to the children who were struggling.  By the end of the year, we expected children to have concept of word.  (Which is GREAT! Obviously kids DO need basic concepts of print to succeed.) However, kindergarten children were not leaving reading on a level D.  More than half of them weren't leaving reading on a level A!  Here, children are expected to leave on a Level D or higher.

The problem is that the reading skills and strategies taught during reading workshop were missing.  Sure, they are above the heads of some struggling students.  But those students who don't have the alphabet yet aren't limited to just letters and letter sounds. (Yes, they get exposure to that in small group tailored instruction!) But the entire class isn't doing an activity to teach what only 2 kids need to learn. Sure, the activities were fun! I know the kids enjoyed making the jellyfish and gluing things that began with the letter J. But how is that challenging the kids who already know the letter J and the /j/ sound? 

I feel like I'm contradicting myself in the past. I can hear me a year ago saying "But it's developmentally appropriate to cut and glue and have fun in Kindergarten!"  And it is.

I remember being Pen Pals with Cameron's class last year and looking at the way his class signed their names. Many of them wrote in all uppercase or a mixture of upper and lower case.  When I looked at papers Cameron brought home, a lot of the coloring was out of the lines and unrealistic colors. At the same time.... he could read more sight words than anyone in my class and read legitimate books. My mom shrugged and said "the focus is just different."

I can teach all of it: the name, the coloring, the sight words, the reading strategies.
But the focus needs to be on what's going to get the kids farther in their academic career.

And while I initially thought this was first grade stuff, the kindergarten kids learned these and now refer to them regularly!

So - that's mainly why I had lots of photo ops and entries before and a few less now.  We follow a very routine schedule of what's happening day to day in our room.  You can click on the link below to download an outline of the reading and writing pacing grids for the first two units.  It will help you understand what students in my class are learning and why photos of each may not make perfect sense.  My goal in future posts is to elaborate on the minilessons (i.e, how I chose Mo Willem's sketches of the pigeon compared to the final book to encourage students to make their stories look nicer during editing) and explain what children struggled/succeeded with.

Nothing is better than when you see and hear a kid applying what they've just been taught.

Anyway, to get the kids really excited about an hour-long block of time when they need to sit down and read quietly and discuss with a partner (if you think this is impossible in K, you're wrong!) I told them about how adults have special clubs for reading.  I told them about how fun book clubs can be! (Yes, I am a reading nerd, and genuinely believe book clubs are fun.)  I compared their partnerships to mini book clubs and our class to a large book club.  They seemed mildly interested in the idea.

On my drive home, I thought about all the times when I was a kid and saw my mom laminate something. I desperately wanted my own laminated nametag.  When I went to the NEWSEUM in 6th grade, I bought a fake reporter badge from the gift shop. Knowing that my fascination with laminated badges extended throughout my childhood, I thought a fun way to get the kids excited about their "book club" (and promote exclusivity, hahaha) would be to make each child his/her very own book club badge! 

Behold, LittleOWL Book Club was born:

Oh yeah, and it was Pajama Day. Tell me those kids don't look excited about reading. ;)

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