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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tied to a Basal & Clippin' It Up!

Sometimes I get confused....

New district, new state, new school...

New experiences, new curriculum, new MANDATES...

So I attend new teacher orientation, after only a phone interview - explaining that I need some wiggle room.  As in I will teach the basal's weekly: skill focus, strategy focus, comprehension focus, vocabulary focus, and even read the weekly selections/stories.

However, I enjoy adding my own flare.  Choosing "better" or "more appropriate" books - as in strategy is prediction, basal says read The Little Red Hen and everyone (95%) of my class knows the story.  How can they predict with a book they're so overly familiar with?

Problem?  NO!  I happen to have thousands (not joking) of books available on my shelves & sorted by comprehension skill.  Do I have a book that I can read/share how to make a prediction with...are you kidding me?  Let me grab a favorite!

Former administrative team I started at this school with said, "Make it work."  "Don't stray from 'the core' - We teach ____ for Reading & _____ for math, SOLELY!"  What?  What happened to wiggle room, didn't you hear me say this in my interview?  Do you know who you hired?

All this to say, I need to have freedom.  This year has been quite chaotic.  New administration - since returning from Christmas Break - has been very supportive of start with "the core" for math & literacy, but use your professional judgement for differentiation and remediation.  YAY - as we all know 1 program, 1 curriculum will never meet the needs of all kids, in every classroom.  All basals/programs/curriculum have strengths & weaknesses.

So this week has been so FUN!  I pulled out the basal for writing was the what of my modeling lesson.  From there, it was pretty weak & really lacked engagement!  We are writing messages, aka letters.  I mean this is so EXCITING!  I was like "BOY do I have a book for modeling this!" - ever heard of The Jolly Postman and Other People's Letters?  Such a great text for fairy tales, letter writing, heck even just for enjoyment!

The kiddos are loving the postcards, apology letters, catalog orders, & attorney letters from Jack, Goldilocks, the Wicked Witch, and B.B. Wolf.  I read 1 letter a day to kick-off/review parts of a letter & then I write a message and read it with the kiddos.  They're so excited to write their very own letters tomorrow & it's amazing what a little injection of creativity does to make lessons more enjoyable to TEACH!  Same content from the basal, just a little bit of my ideas and resources - that's the key, the CRUCIAL key to a successful lesson - engagement (when I'm excited about what I'm teaching it transfers to the students & BAM - look out, we're learning).

I'm not a huge teacher/professional book reader about educational research, but I was required to read Robert Marzano's The Art & Science of Teaching.  What I've learned from my own 10+ years experience and this book, is that Marzano is ABSOLUTELY correct in his research, teaching is both art & science.  In fact it's a constant balancing act - it's hard to juggle in all subject areas, in all lessons, every day!  However, it happens & man, it's truly MAGICAL!  It's the best, it's why I became a teacher, it's LEARNING!

BTW these are the academic freedoms, hands were also tied for behavior/classroom that I have more freedom in this area as well, my school year is finally shaping up!  I feel the system that you have, that works for you and your students/parents - is the system you should keep and use.  No judgement about your cards, no judgement about my clips.  Yes, I clip - it's posted and for WORKS.  Oh, freedom (insert Aretha Franklin vocals)!

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