Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Three Ring Circus

That's how I feel these days in my classroom.  Without the megaphone.  After months of working with this kindergarten I have been reduced to the role of ringmaster.  And I couldn't be prouder.  These children have become independent learners.  They can move from one "ring" to the other, taking charge of their learning as I facilitate small groups.

I've taught reading groups for years.  One small group would get my attention while other children were kept "busy."  The kids were quiet and yes, they learned.  Yet, I felt exhausted after reading groups, tense from trying to keep order.

Enter my partner teacher and her introduction of "The Daily Five."   She turned me onto the idea of teaching the class to become independent through guided practice in reading to self, writing to self, working with words, and reading with a partner.  The kids started practicing each of these for three minutes, gradually building up to 20 minutes.  It was amazing! My little kinders were able to sustain quiet work with an activity for 20 minutes, allowing me time to work with small groups.

Now that I had a reading time that was secure, I wondered if I could also use this format in math and writing.  My partner teacher and I were already sharing kids during our reading time, grouping them based on like abilities.  We gave all our kids a pre-assessment for our next unit in math and grouped them by like abilities as well.  Our math time is now divided into three sections.  Work with the teacher, practice time, and choice time.  My time with each group can now be tailored to meet the needs of different abilities, the practice time is specific to what each group needs, and we squeezed in choice time, allowing us more time in our day to give a shout out to science.  The best part of this time is the kids go to the math board, look for their name and go to the correct area for red, blue or green time.  I no longer have to direct them where to go, saving instruction time.

I was on such a role, I divided my kids into writing groups.  Once again, I had a diverse group of abilities so I divided them into three groups.  After a mini-lesson for everyone the kids go off to write while I work with two groups a day.  This gives me time to deliver instruction just right for my non-writers as well as my novelists.

If you walked into my room, you would likely hear a quiet, healthy buzz of kids working.  Look over to my table and you'll see me with a small group of kids.  It's not a perfect system, we need reminders to be quiet or get back on task.  Yet the expectations are clear.  With a reminder to "check and adjust," students know what they need to do.  I am proud of how my kinders can work in their own ring of our classroom circus.

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