I had an interesting three days of subbing, right after the Thanksgiving holidays. On Wednesday I subbed for a second grade teacher at the Temple school where I have been teaching since February 2016. Then I subbed for the music teacher and a kindergarten teacher at my old school. The experiences so different, but the throughline similar, as I relied on the students, the co-teachers and in truth, me, to work together and be each others “right hand man.” More then anything I wanted the joy to permeate what I was teaching and what the students were learning. For the most part mission accomplished!
The students at the Temple school recognize me and greet me when I am on campus, especially the first graders who were last year’s kinders and remember me from my time spent with them. A few children go out of their way to say hello and make sure I say hello back. So important for us, as teachers, to show we care and acknowledge them. And equally important for me, I might add. (I will leave my time in the music room and kindergarten for another post.)
It was an interesting morning in second grade. A morning meeting and message expanded into an incredible brainstorming session as the students focused on a picture and learned about “perspective.” An unexpected mini lesson that engaged the students in understanding the importance of acknowledging deferring points of view “POV.” The students were choosing topics for their 2nd Grade Newlsetter. They discussed what topic they wanted for their article, if they wanted to work with a classmate or venture out on their own. The mini-lesson helped them look at key words to extend their thinking: the Who, How, When, What and Why of their topic, that could enhance their writing and give a more well round understanding of the topic. This was the first time they were applying this paradigm to their Newsletter. As an observer/participant in this lesson I saw a high level of engagment, dialogue, questions and interest in applying these ideas to their writing. I saw this as an application of Writer’s Workshop; authentic writing with a purpose, beyond a lesson to develop a writing skill. I felt that the collaboration between us (the teachers) as we shared our ideas and different ways to approach the lesson, as a partnership in learning.
In their Reader’s Workshop these Grade 2 students chose a non-fiction book from their book bags and were assigned to look for a “shocker” (information that was new to them) they could discuss with the class. Some of the students wanted to read the text and needed encouragement to summarize “in their own words” the shocker. Books varied as did the shockers they shared which ranged from Rosa Parks and not sitting in the back of the bus (delved into that); Caterpillars to butterflies: caterpillar to chrysalis takes awhile; Insects: some have a waterproof skeleton on the outside of their body; Presidents come in different sizes from Lincoln the tallest to Madison the smallest. Although this was new terminology for me, the students were familiar with this assignment and spent their time reading their books before sharing their “schocker.” As with many lessons in a given day some needed more teacher guidance and help staying within the parameters; some students were eager to show what they found out, some were unsure but all had an opportunity to participate.
As I reflect on my experiences with these 2nd graders, I marvel at what they can do, their independence and for the most part, their willingness to try and challenge themselves. I watched how the teacher redirected their questions and when seeking assistance from us (here my role was really as the co-teacher/assistant) guided them to try strategies they could use to work on their own or work with their partner (if they were writing with a partner).
And I have questions which I frame as my “wonders”: The extra time for the brainstorming definitely added to the students’ interests in writing their article for the Newsletter. I also think that the discussion about why we read papers contributed to their motivation to create a newsworthy Newsletter! It made a difference that there was time to extend the pre-writing activity to absorb the information they discussed. I wonder if a rough draft addressing key words on their topic would add to a more detailed article? I wonder if the students knew they had more time they would not rush to finish. And then I wonder if for second graders in the beginning of December, this was just right!