Welcome Back!  We were very fortunate to have had a two week break and today was our first day back to school. As soon as the kids came into the classroom there was so much energy, so many smiles, and so much anticipation for what comes next. New Years and hopeful beginnings are so closely intertwined, on one hand we don’t know exactly what really lies ahead, and on the other we feel like we can accomplish great work together.

An Idea to Share

To get us focused and talking about our time away, we began the day with a carousel activity. The children wrote and talked about the following questions:

After a long break, kids come in excited to share about their time away and this type of activity takes that into consideration. It is also a great way to get them focused and able to share what is important to them,  in a controlled environment. As I walked around, I could support their language usage, by asking open ended questions to spark elaboration such as “What did that feel like? and “Why did you pick that to share?” Kids were excited to share and when it was time to start our day, they were on task and ready to go. Here are some things I learned:

  • One child went to Florida to check in on her new house
  • Like myself, one girl got a new dog
  • Several students took the time to go see the tree and Times Square in New York City
  • Many students had special visits with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins from different states including Pennsylvania and Virginia

If we had just gone into the day without time to share the things that were a special part of our lives when we were not in school, things might have felt more disconnected, noisy and there would have been some untapped energy.  This activity helped direct the flow of energy into something productive for us all.

So keeping this in mind, we came up with our one word for the year.  Our word is “EMBRACE”.  

  • Embrace opportunities
  • Embrace imperfection
  • Embrace success
  • Embrace challenge
  • Embrace other perspectives
  • Embrace the humanity and emotional piece of teaching and learning

Teaching children to be literate is a complex undertaking. It requires hours of study, observational work, critical analysis, and ongoing practice. That is the truth, and Jill and I are just teachers working in a school. Sure, we are engaged, we are educational writers, and we are in constant search of ways to better our practices. Since we really are educators working in public schools, we know full well that when it comes to teaching nothing remains static.

We prefer to stay out of the fray of political pundits who advocate for reform. Jill and I both know that when it comes to teaching children how to read, how to write, there is a process. Teaching into a process requires many different approaches. Some children need to increase their volume, others need specific skill work, while others could benefit from short term strategy use. Learning how to be a strong teacher requires a lot of time. So, we would much rather put our energy into learning more about instructional practice than participating in divisive discourse that feels tribal and unproductive. However, after Jill and I read a recent NY Times Opinion piece, we thought we would lend some practical wisdom.  

We agree that phonics instruction and language learning are important; however, it is our experience that they are not the only two pieces for comprehension. Readers make meaning from what they already know and using their unique perspectives. There is not only one way to learn.  This is why Balanced Literacy works. It is a flexible framework that accommodates students’ needs in a variety of settings. This approach underscores the thinking that when teachers draw from a wide repertoire of strategies, they will be more responsive.

Join us Thursday at 8:30 pm est to chat about Balanced Literacy on #G2Great