By Teachers, For Teachers
Do you ever have on of those “I totally rock” moments when you step back, look around the classroom and realize that your kiddos are just fully engaged in their learning? (And then you pat yourself on the back because, most of the time, nobody else will.) Maybe it’s my ego that’s brimming over, but I have recently had that feeling and it is addictive!
It was early the other morning, and my class had just filed in and put away their coats. I always have something for them to do right away waiting on their desks, but once that is completed, there is some down time, or choice time, before we gather on the carpet for our morning meeting.
Now, I know the idea of “choice” strikes fear in some of your hearts, as you imagine your peaceful classrooms deteriorating into chaos. I’ve been there. But, if you are willing to go there, it is truly wonderful.
I was enjoying the remnants of my lovely morning coffee and shuffling my last few piles around to be ready for our morning when I sensed a slight rise in the overall volume of the classroom. In a rare moment of restraint, I paused and observed before dispensing admonishments. (I’m never at my best first thing in the morning...I don’t think the caffeine has kicked in in all it’s glory yet...)
As I looked around the room and noticed children, gathered in small groups of two or three (as per our rules) working collaboratively around the classroom. Everyone was doing something different, but everyone was totally into it. My room was literally brimming with all sorts of learning and activity. It was almost the way I imagined it a million years ago, when I sat in my education classes...okay, in that little fantasy I also have a drop dead gorgeous assistant ready to staple, copy and correct on my command, but (ahem!) it was pretty darn close to what I imagined good teaching would feel like.
I pounded the last of my coffee and with a smile on my face, called my little ones to the carpet.
Here are daily small, but totally manageable ways that I engaged my little friends (and hopefully YOURS too!):
Monday: Estimation Jar
I know, it sounds obvious, right? Every Monday throw a few candies, cookies, popsicle sticks, whatever, in a cute jar and my friends spend the week jotting down their estimates. On Friday, we group and count our objects to find the actual total. We are able to do a lot of skip counting and quick difference work each week.
Tuesday: Post a New Mama Word
Mama words are really long fancy pants word with lots of letters. My friends spend the remainder of the week creating all the words they can using the given letters in our fancy pants word. Before we get a new word on Tuesday, we spend a few minutes reading through the various responses and sorting them by spelling pattern.
Wednesday: Math Challenge
Create a large, open ended math problem for my kiddos to solve on chart paper. They must show their work using pictures, numbers and words. It is important that there are a variety of correct answers so that the class can dig in and see a few possible solutions.
Thursday: Observation Station
I change the objects in our Observation Station. Nothing major lives there, sometimes it’s a plant, sometimes it’s a bunch of crayons...whatever is handy and visually interesting. Children may spend time at the Observation Station doing close observation, creating drawings inspired by the given objects or generating questions about the given objects. We have had some great conversations about the difference between a scientific drawing and an artistic drawing come from this one!
Friday: Wrap Up (and Rest!)
Sit back, relax and enjoy watching your kids in action!