The kids and teachers at my school have officially survived the first week of the 2014-2015 school year! First weeks are notorious for being the most difficult week we experience each year. The week before Christmas break is pretty hard too, peeling the children off of the wall and scraping them from the ceilings, but first weeks are hard for completely different reasons.
By the end of May, your students are capable of doing everything flawlessly. (Not that they do, but they CAN.) And for the most part, they come in, they unpack, they copy down their homework, they read quietly. And for the most part, we always forget how HARD we work to get our kids to that level of independence and routine.
Side-bar. My fiance and I have this couples journal. Withhold judgement for a second. My best friend got it for as sort of us a gag gift last Christmas. We have actually kept up with it though and it’s pretty fun. One journal prompt asked us to give our partner a superhero name. My fiance named me Super Routine Girl. Super. Routine. Girl. I should have been offended, but…it was true. I’m a routine girl.
So I like my kids to be routined too. Every day is exactly the same when it comes to what I expect when they walk in, when they transition to another activity, when they want or need something from me, when we eat, when they dismiss. And for the majority of my students who come from difficult home environments, it’s a type of structure that they so badly crave. So being Super Routine Girl isn’t really so bad.
So let’s not just talk about not just surviving the first week of school, but finding moments here and there to be productive and actually get Daily 5, or any type of center routine, up and running. I will be writing up a post soon about the nitty gritties of the first day, but for now I’ll talk about how to get kids prepared to start centers as soon as possible
My goal was to get to Daily 5 up and running by next week. In order to do that, I knew I needed to teach all of my rules and procedures ALONG with everything that goes with center rotations. And I’m not a patient person so this took every bit of my patience and strength to not just throw centers at them. I knew it was smarter to “go slow to go fast” and that the payoff would be kids who know what is expected and how to be successful, saving me the stress of repeating myself more throughout the year.
I gave them an overview of Daily 5…my tweaked and more tightly managed version. In my version, we do indeed get to all 5 centers a day and I choose where they start and where they go. I used their Baseline tests taken a few days ago to group them.
We made a t-chart for Read to Self, which described what the students do on one side, and what the teacher is doing on the other side and then we practiced it for about 3-5 minutes.
We talked about how the teacher will be working with kids during Teacher Time and went through a list of emergencies and non-emergencies that would constitute interrupting the teacher. Then that was it for the day, and we spent the rest of the time practicing Class-Yes and Hands-and-Eyes. (Please do yourself the biggest favor ever and look into Whole Brain Teaching if you have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.)
We reviewed our t-chart about read to self. Then we practiced it again.
I resisted the urge, yet again, to just talk about all the centers at once so I could be over and done with it.
Then we created a t-chart for Read to Someone, and talked about sitting Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee. And we practiced that. A lot.
Seriously though, how precious are these two babies? SO PRECIOUS.
Then we wrapped it up, and practiced Class-Yes, Hands-and-Eyes and I introduced Teach-Ok with fully body turns, without anything to actually teach. Full body turns take a lot of practice, I learned.
Reviewed and practiced our t-charts for Read to Self and Read to Someone. Then we made a t-chart for Word Work. I had them practice spelling their words with two different colored pencils at their seats.
Reviewed and practiced all of the above, and then made a t-chart for Work on Writing. We practiced using our workbooks at our seats, and learned about the journals at the actual center. My friends learned that blue journals are for Block 1, and green journals are for Block 2.
Then we did something exciting! We practiced moving our bodies from center to center. I wanted my kids to know that if they start at Read to Self, then they move to the part of the room for Read to Someone next, and then Work on Writing, and so on and so forth. It was like a game of four corners, but five, and nobody got out. Success.
We reviewed all of our charts, I faked my enthusiasm through saying the same thing for each block 15 gazillion times, I briefed them on coming to my table for Teacher Time, and now we were ready to try out each center. I decided to do “three minute practices”. We got to our starting points, and practiced working at that center for 3 minutes. I emphasized over and over again, to avoid tears, that I didn’t expect them to *finish* anything, but I did expect them to get started. During this time, I was able to remind my kids to get to work quickly, how to get their supplies, and how to put them away. I was also able to monitor the kids at each center and see what they were confused about and remind them of whatever expectation I had for that center.
When students came to Teacher Time, and I let them look through my basket of “toys” ready for when they visit me.
This is the joyful awesomeness that I captured as they rocked their practice sessions.
Word Work, consulting the anchor chart.
Work on Writing: (Which is the most exciting center because I let them use pencils with squishy pencil grips. Seriously, an audible gasp when I showed them the pencil grips.)
Read to Someone:
Read to Self (and Scout):
Overall assessment of the weeklong process? They did SO well. Going slowly, repeating everything over and over again, and practicing a lot seems like it’ll pay off, if today was any indication.
The hardest part is resisting the urge to fill every single second with instructional content we know we could be teaching, as we go over expectations or practice moving our bodies from one part to the other without trampling anyone. The truth is, we have 175 more days for that beyond the first week. For the first week, just letting them feel successful at the routines and procedures helps US feel successful. And a happy teacher is a happy classroom. 🙂
I hope this helps anyone who is wondering how and when to get centers up and running! Happy Weekend, everyone!