June 29, 2014

Reader Spotlight: Don't Smile 'til Christmas

Hey y’all!  It's Kelly Anne here.  I am so excited to be guest blogging today while Kristin is out on vacation!  (Lucky lady!)   


I’m here to talk about the beginning of the school year.  I vividly remember my first year teaching.  I was so excited.  I remembered student teaching and how much fun I had with “my” students and of course all the great things we did together.  But I didn’t realize how many expectations needed to be set to reach that ability to joke around and have fun.  And I had no idea that fun things (like using pillows during reader’s workshop) should be earned and not a privilege given all willy-nilly.  And who knew that book club shouldn’t start during the second week? I was too anxious, too ready, to have a classroom off-and-running like I had during student teaching.  

Unfortunately, it all caught up to me and about eight weeks in, I knew I had to take a step back and make some adjustments.  Throughout that year, I could see that my lack of structure and focus at the beginning of the year really caught up to me.  After Christmas, I felt like we could finally make some big changes and refocus.  It helped, but not entirely.  That first year, I’m embarrassed to admit, we never got where I wanted us to be.  Ever since then, I’ve really taken to heart two things 1)  Spend the first SIX weeks getting to know your learners and 2)  Don’t smile ‘til Christmas.  Okay, that 2nd one isn’t really what I mean, but I’ll explain in a hot sec.

1)  Take six weeks. Seriously.  I really recommend not starting book clubs until after spending more than what you consider enough time getting to know your learners.  Spend hours focused on community building activities.  Practice and practice and practice routines that you want set in stone. Discuss how each of these go. Make changes, earn privileges together as a class, reward, praise, and share your feelings.  Get to know you learners.  That first year, I wanted to get into the learning part of the school year but missed out on really knowing my students.  By spending more time getting to know who is in my classroom community, I am more able to support my students and be a far better teacher.

2)  We’ve heard it.  Don’t smile ‘til Christmas.  But I don’t really mean that.  What I mean is:  stick to your guns until Christmas.  Practice routines and keep those expectations high-high-high!  After Christmas, once students see that you’re seriousyou can relax a bit, because when you need to tighten the reigns, students will know you mean business.  By reinforcing the routines for the first half of the year, students understand what you expect.  Slack before then and, in my experience, they take full advantage of it… and after Christmas, it takes a lot more work to keep those expectations high and routines in place.  Aren’t those kiddos smart?

So I’ve given you a few things to mull over as you head into the new school year, but wondering what type of community building activities you can play?  Not sure how to set those high expectations?  Visit my Starting off the Year Pinterest boards here for some great activities you can try with your new learners!


Be sure to stop by my blog, Appleslices, for more information!

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