Last year, I had a horrible experience with two English classes. I felt like a first-year teacher. Some of the kids were indeed difficult to handle, but honestly, I didn’t set up very well for them. I was dealing with a new curriculum and learning the Promethean Board and a new set of kids, and I fell down on getting the kids ready to learn.
So this year, having attended Bryce’s workshops at NTPRS, I bought the Fred Jones book, Tools for Teaching. My room is set up with an interior loop, two aisles, and plenty of space. I have been “working the room” and finding that Jones is absolutely right about moving amongst the kids to stop problem behavior. A cell phone disappeared as I moved in front of the knees it was sitting on, and a couple of talkers responded quickly to the Queen Victoria look. The funniest part for me is what Jones calls the “smiley face reaction.” I can’t believe it. The kids really do it. But I don’t smile back at them any more. I keep my face blank and check on them with eye contact every so often. Really, Jones has made specific what Ben Slavic was teaching in “Circling with Balls.” Ben was using props to do what Jones is talking about. That’s what makes him a master teacher.
I’m also getting routines going: moving chairs quickly to change the way the kids face (it also helps give a little brain break), and emphasizing placement of materials. I haven’t done class starters in a while; now I am doing them every day because that gives me a chance to take roll and breathe for a moment.
I feel incredibly empowered by these simple but huge changes in my structure.
Meanwhile, I am following Bryce’s plan of getting to know just one kid every day. I like this a lot! We are repeating vocabulary over and over, and in the beginning classes, we are learning the stuff that I sometimes missed if it didn’t come up in stories. But we’re also learning some basics for stories. We’re learning important things about the kids, even if I have to keep myself from jumping forward. Slow, slow, slow.
I was getting ready to launch into an embedded reading in the advanced class, when I suddenly remembered people asking how to make the kids care about a reading in advance. One answer was to have them do a parallel story first. I put on the brakes (SLOW is my mantra), and asked for a female athlete, so we got a story going with her before we read the basic story about the Russian pole vaulter. It was great: we were able to knock out the parallel story, which led to a prediction, and read the first version of the embedded reading, in only 13 minutes at the end of class. It worked perfectly, because they were all so focused on their original story and finding out how in the world it was going to match up with the one that they would read.