Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Best Part of Teaching~ Learning alongside the kids!

One of the best things about teaching is learning alongside and FROM the kids in my class. I mean how could I possibly think that out of a classroom of 22 first graders (and on a great day 3 adults), I am going to be the one with all the ideas?  If I am being honest, the best ideas in our classroom are not planned and they don't come from me.  The beast ideas, the ones worth their weight in gold come from watching the kids and allowing myself to follow! 

Our classroom follows a workshop format throughout the day. Each workshop ends with an opportunity for students to share work, ask question and gain feedback from peers.  To share our work we gather in a circle and I asks for volunteers or call on students to share. Share time is a powerful part of our workshops.

This year the share routine has taken on a whole new dynamic and the credit goes to the first graders!  As we gathered in a circle following reading workshop the kids began to spread their books out in front of them and conversations began immediately. 

“I have that book at home.  Where did you find that book?  Can I read that tomorrow?  Oh, I love that one, the pigeon is funny. I like when he runs down the street naked!" (Thanks David Shannon) 

The overwhelming spontaneity of their comments made it clear they were already book lovers and they wanted to talk about books!  So I simply asked, “Please raise your hand if you see a book you would like to know more about or one that you want to talk about with your friends. “  Hands flew up and the conversations that followed were natural.  The conversations were about the story,  the characters and their genuine joy of the book. The book talk grew as others built on the questions and comments of their friends.  I didn’t need to remind anyone to speak louder, look at the speaker or think about what others were saying. This was a conversation they owned and they were invested. 
The readers were learning about books, how to talk about books and the satisfaction of being a part of a reading community.  Not only did this authentic conversation show me exactly where the kids are as readers, but it also showed the readers how conversations around books bring books to life and how readers connect through books. Readers also gained insight into the variety of books that live in our classroom and the opportunities read brings to a community of readers. In my quest to develop Wild Readers (not just school readers) I think this is a step in building readers who will continue to seek reading community.

The power of student lead share circle has "leaked" into our writing workshop and  has added another level of learning and motivation for our young writers.  as they gather for writing share they lay their writing in front of them and cross their fingers they are asked to share.  They are learning first hand what appeals to their audience (working to have a friend request to hear their story) and what the readers want to know more about.  When writers hear the questions and comments of their friends they are naturally motivated to add more information to their writing .  The audience gains writing ideas, support and the opportunity to learn from other writers. They are witnessing first hand what it means to have mentor authors and to be a part of a community of writers. 

Working out the Kinks~ 
As with anything there is room for improvement. I am still pondering~
  • How can make sure students who really want to share have the opportunity? (Maybe the solution will be a digital share?)
  • How can I make sure their is equity in who is chosen to share?  I don't want the same writers to share each day, but I do want the kids to push themselves as writers to have their work selected. 
  • I need to make sure kids learn how to comment and challenge friends in a way that makes us all feel valued and capable. 
  • I need to make sure the kids understand we are unique and we all progress in our own time and in on our own way.  (Amy Krouse Rosenthal has a few GREAT books for this kink.)


Kyle Faxlanger said...

Deb, it sounds like your kids are really starting to grow into "Wild Readers." It is awesome to hear about your students reading on their own and talking to each other so easily about what they have and have not read. It seems to me that they are really interested in their readings and are. To hear about your students carrying on a conversation about their books is really a great thing. Keep up the good work!

Monica Aldridge said...

Ms. Frazier I like how you get the students involved in class discussions. What I read in your post sounds great, and I hope you continue this. Your students are already "Wild Readers" they are enjoying reading books and discussing them with their peers. And I think this is great with writing too.

Sterling Spencer said...

Hello, I am a student from the University of South Alabama and this week I was assigned to your blog! I really do enjoy the sharing element you have in your class. It really allows for other students to kind of take in what someone else says and allows them to share experiences. I think I will try this with my students. I hope they are as receptive as yours were!

Laura Andrews said...

It really is amazing what you can learn from students! I've only spent a limited amount of time in classrooms so far in my schooling, but I've still probably learned more from the children than they've learned from me. Your post is a great reminder to listen on in their conversations and see what they are interested in. It's great to take that and run with it to turn it into a great learning experience as well as a simple conversation.