Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where to start?

I had gotten in a good blogging mode in July and early August.  I was feeling reflective and had big plans. Funny how going back to school changes plans!  The early mornings and long to-do list just zap my energy.  Here are my thoughts on the first 7 days in 6th grade.

We started school on 8/25 and let me say - I'm so glad! It was awesome to begin on a Thursday - I didn't feel guilty for not beginning academics. I took (and am still taking) the time to teach routines, procedures, and expectations.  Since the kids are 6th graders, they know most things (especially school wide stuff) but it never hurts to go slow now to go fast later.

The first full week wasn't without its issues.  We still aren't on a regular schedule (won't be until this Friday) because of the 10 day attendance counts.  We have to wait in homerooms for the principal (or data manager) to come count the kids each morning.  Also, we have  a block of intervention time (for RTI) that we are currently using just as a cushion since we are getting a late start.  We have Benchmark/Universal screening day on 9/12, so after that we'll get groups set up and start Tier paperwork.

I'm surprised by how my classes have sorted themselves out. We knew one group was high - it has the AIG kids and potential AIG kids in it.  We deliberately made that group larger (29) so the lower functioning groups would be smaller.  I was initially nervous about having 29 kids in a group - but it works.  Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to manage them.  My feelings (and I've got some back-up from various sources) are that they are high enough (mostly at or above a 7th grade level) to not need typical guided reading groups.  They need more of a reading workshop approach (like I've been reading in The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell and Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb.)  I've got my Google forms set up so I'm in good shape for this - I can conference, they can read.  Perhaps the last 30 minutes will be "centers" so they get word study, writing, etc and maybe I'd pull a small strategy group.

My 2 other classes - whew!  The 2nd is low, it is where my special ed kids and ESL kids are.  I've also got a TA during this block.  She will be providing support for them when they do centers/independent work.  I think it will also work well because she can help with providing their accommodations and modifications during classwork and testing.  My 3rd class, which is after lunch, is just your run of the mill LOW kids.  There are a few who are doing ok, but they all did poorly on the first administration of the EOGs last May.  A few passed on the retest, but most did not.  This group is more boy heavy than the other 2 classes.  Add to this that we meet after lunch and you've got a recipe for disaster.  I'm really banking on them being motivated to go to recess (which is RIGHT after this class.)  I've got support from the other 6th grade teachers that if they don't get their stuff done, they stay in and work until it GETS done.

That's an overview for now - there are a boatload of other things I need to blog about.  Here's a list so I can remember them all: (I'll try to come back and make these links as I write the posts.)
  • Reading Street (remember this debacle??) - I've now got SOME (used loosely) materials for it, not sure how to use it with it being so incomplete
  • Spelling
  • Guided Reading vs. Reading Workshop
  • Computer testing expectations
  • Uses for TAs in upper grades (must be student centered, not clerical)
  • Centers/Stations during Guided Reading
  • Books I've read (wow! some awesome ones out there!)
How has your year started?  Have you got any suggestions on what on Earth I can do?