Today was one of those up and down days. I had been gone yesterday for a staff development so today was basically a Monday in terms of behavior. Everyone was all over the place, non stop talking and unfocused thinking. I needed to get students reading and writing again but with all the movement in the room I was not sure that was going to happen.
The morning with 5th graders was not going well. We never made it to reading but they gave bright answers to the guest science teacher when we discussed Engineering. They made a small effort at giving feedback to partners about their personal narratives that have been sitting languishing in their writers notebooks. (This unit got waylaid by other writing and we are just now working to finish and bring this to “publishing ” before our winter break.)
It was an afternoon 4th grader who took my breath away. The fourth graders came into class like the 5th graders – unfocused and non stop talking. We worked on spelling and word work for a short while and then we moved to reading. My heart was aching because I could see that behavior was slowing us down and writing was not going to happen. We pushed ahead with a new book. We are all reading Baby by Patricia Mac Lachlan. They had started it on Monday without me and I knew I needed to pull the group together and focus this book study if nothing else got done in the day.
They announced they were on chapter 1 or 2 or 4. So I backed them up to chapter 2 and we sat together in a circle. I began reading while they followed. (think rolling kids and little fights at this point) I told them at some point I would stop and they would need to finish reading the chapter on their own. I pushed through chapter two – modeling think a-louds, asking questions and gathering opinions on this short chapter. Slowly ever so slowly the rolling kids focused, the fights stopped and the kids moved away from each other so they could read along.
The story had caught them all. They were still, they were reading – the low readers who the book is to hard for, the high readers who quickly finished the chapter and the middle readers who the book was just right for. They were all focused. We did not write but I was happy with the focused reading and discussion.
As we finished the afternoon – I reminded them we would write about our reading tomorrow and then continue reading. I braced for the groan but no! Everyone was excited to write about the baby left in the driveway, they wanted to write about the mother wanting to keep the baby and the father’s need to call the police. They were finally ready to write in response to reading. Oh, I wanted just another 1/2 hour in the day.
All in all – I was happy to get to this point when Christy, a shy child who is learning English, said to me “Ms. Toft I have another notebook at home can I write about this story tonight even if we are writing tomorrow? I will not write about the characters since we will do that tomorrow. I will think and write about my feelings.” What could I say but – “Please write and will you share it with me in the morning?” Her smile as she walked away was all I needed from the day!
Thanks Christy for the small writing surprise. Thanks Patricia Mac Lachlan for a text that pulls us together.