Wow. Did that really just happen? Photos, paintings and a pile of getting to know you projects litter the tables. There’s so much glitter on the floor it looks like a Kesha concert took place in my classroom. Week one is a wrap.
The first day went really smoothly. After eleven years of teaching I’ve learned to not make any assumptions based on the first day of school. I’ve found that most students exhibit what I like to refer to as “stunned silence.” Kids are excited but overwhelmed. While most students present as quiet and compliant, they are really experiencing sensory overload. It’s always Day 2 when you start to really learn about your class…
This year I have 31 six-year-olds. My students are smart, engaged, curious and passionate about reading. They have diverse interests and backgrounds. The majority of the children are energetic and social. And by the end of Day 2, they were tired! Bodies became silly. Markers became a source of conflict. Tempers flared as “personal space” on the rug was tested.
I think it’s easy to focus on how difficult this first week is for adults, but just imagine how tired those little bodies are! Our students have transitioned from staying up late to getting up early. Gone are the times when they snacked throughout the day and had 6 interrupted hours of physical activity. They’re hungry by 9:45am and want to know when it’s time to go home shortly after recess. Poor babies.
As teachers we need to be especially responsive to their needs this time of year. There are so many changes for our students right now! Sometimes the most important lesson we can teach is to slow down.
After a stressful end to Day 2, I adjusted my lesson plans for Day 3 and did a little bit less than what I had planned. As a result, kids moved through the day and started to internalize routines. Students interacted and started to build knowledge of each other. Wanting my students to feel confident, calm and content I tried hard to channel Debbie Miller and repeatedly asked myself “What Would Debbie Do?’
And so I read. I think Debbie would tell me that there is no such thing as too many read alouds during the first week of school. I read books for enjoyment and books that would build foundational skills in the coming weeks. We read Wemberly Worried and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to connect our school experiences to those of characters we know and love. We read Mrs. Wishy Washy, Old Black Fly and My Crayons Talk to build knowledge of repeating books and to introduce books that we can attempt to read independently. We read The Farmer and the Dell, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and Miss Mary Mack to show that songs can be books and songs connect us as a community! We read and we read and we read.
About 20 minutes after the start of a gray and drippy Day 4, I could see the compounding effect of several days back to school. My students were not silly or bad. They were not disagreeable or mean. They we just “full.” Done. Over it. Four students told me they were tired before 9:30am! Once again, I adjusted my lesson plans. I thought about what my students needed. Would it matter if we didn’t write our classroom compact until Monday? Did they really need to complete their first book review this morning?
So once again, we read. I read. They read. We talked about books. We made a chart about why we read and things that help us practice reading. Students tried out new strategies like reading the pictures, reading the words and retelling a story we read before. After reading, students shared the strategies they attempted with a think partner.
After lunch we read some more! We met Pippi Longstocking and Corduroy. We were introduced to Leo Lionni and Cynthia Rylant. We made plans for books we wanted to read and decided which books we would take home on our first library checkout night. We read.
Before my students and I knew it, it was time to pack up for home. Our first week was over! I am happy to report everyone was still standing and smiling. Even though students were exhausted, the minor adjustment of slowing down and taking time to “just read” let each child exit the classroom joyful and anxious to return. What more could I ask for?
As we lined up to exit the building a little boy who at the beginning of the week hid under the table and repeatedly announced that he “could not read” nor could he name any book that he had ever read, turned to me and said, “I can’t believe I already learned how to read!” Thanks, Debbie.
As we immerse ourselves in the hustle and bustle, benchmark assessments and overall “season of stress,” I encourage you to fight the urge. Slow down. Be responsive to your students. You know what they need and sometimes you won’t find the answers in your plan book. The relationships and tone we set today will be the melody and rhythm our students follow for the remainder of the school year. Take the time to “just read.”