One best practice of being a teacher is constant reflection. Constant reflection is a practice that teachers do every day. The challenging part to reflecting is admitting that something isn’t working and figuring out how to change it. As this quarter comes to an end, I have been looking back on the progression of the year and asking myself a series of questions: Are the students engaged with the activities? How are students feeling about tasks they are completing? Are they actually learning or just putting on a good poker face? Is there an easier way to accomplish a task?
I recently read this article on Edutopia that talks about literacy practices that teachers should abandon. I wondered if I am doing these things within my classroom. This list includes:
1. Looking up vocabulary words in the dictionary
2. Giving students prizes for reading
3. Weekly spelling tests
4. Unsupported independent reading
5. Taking away recess for punishment
While my students are too young to look up vocabulary words in the dictionary, I am guilty of still giving spelling tests. Spelling tests are an expectation of most of the parents of students I teach. In the past, I have forgotten to give a spelling test for whatever reason (ran out of time, had an assembly, etc.) and I will get notes and emails from parents asking what their child made on the test or asking if I can give the test on Monday. I have tried to explain that spelling tests are not the end all be all of their child’s grade, but traditionalist parents do not understand. This year, I have explained to parents that “school” is about the experience and how much each child grows throughout the year.
I recently began implementing Letterland into my classroom routine. Letterland has differentiated lists that students are given depending on their knowledge of the skill that is being taught for the week. I love that these lists are differentiated because this way I know that students are being instructed on their level–those that need a challenge are receiving that instruction, and the ones needing review are getting that as well. I haven’t figured out a way for the students to “show what they know” with the lists other than to give them a spelling test. The purpose of learning the phonic skills is so that students apply them in reading and writing.
Looking at number 4 on the list, I have a “reading” center set up during my literacy stations. Students are able to choose from a large selection of thematic books. I also have a classroom library that they can visit if they want to choose a book on a different topic. My intentions were to teach students that they have a choice of what they can read and that reading is fun. Is this a good practice? Is it purposeful? According to this article, independent reading time should include coaching from the teacher or responding to their reading. What are some ways that I can make this center more meaningful? I have thought about having students complete a thinking map on the book they choose, but I do not want to take away from the “reading is fun” aspect. (Students are already receiving instruction in 2 small groups and completing reading responses in small group and other centers.)
Reflection is a powerful tool that everyone benefits from. If you don’t reflect on a regular basis, I recommend that you take some “hermit” time and really think about your students and your practice within your classroom.