Sunday, September 25, 2011

My First Month in 6th Grade Reading

So I've been in school with my students since August 25th. A month.  Time for me to look back and think about how things are going.  And since I only teach reading this year, this is deceptively simple.

The year started with some chaos about what materials I was going to use.  I made a plan to use Reading Street and then changed it to use Elements of Literature.  I'm generally happy with that decision, even though I now have a set of Reading Street textbooks (and leveled readers!)

Why am I happy?  Well, my school has over 100 copies of Elements of Literature.  After a few weeks of using it, I was able to approach the principal and write a permission slip for families to check out a textbook to keep at home.  The kids do not need to carry it with them daily, since we are only using it once a week or so in class.  So this is a good option - the real test will be how many of the textbooks we get returned later in the year.  I'm hoping for the best (but prepared for the worst - I only gave out copies of the books that were damaged in some way, not the nicest ones.  That way not too much is lost if the books aren't returned.)

I've started "centers" as the district expects.  The original centers just didn't work out - not enough accountability, too fun centered, not rigorous enough.  I revamped them (keeping in mind the kids' needs and keeping it simple for planning) and started them again on Thursday.  What a difference!  The biggest drawback is the amount of copies I'm now using.  I hate it but for now there is no way to avoid it.

I need the kids occupied and semi-quiet because I've been asked to assess all my students using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment kit.  This reminds me of my years in 2nd grade, doing DRAs on my (17-20)students 4 times a year.  Luckily, I think I'll only be doing this 3 times a year (now, January, and May) but I've got almost 80 students!  I've been told to start with the lowest and move up from there.

I have 3 classes - a high group with many AIG kids, a low-ish group with my special ed kids, and a low group with kids who have fallen through the cracks.  I really feel the high group needs to be doing more Reading Workshop style things - conferring and spending most of their class time READING.  My lower students do need the structure of centers, at least until their stamina develops. 

We have a curriculum night scheduled with a set of 7th grade teachers - we are going to talk to parents and students about 6th grade and then what to expect in middle school.  I'm really looking forward to this - I want to adapt my classroom (later in the year) to be more like what students will encounter in middle school.  I am fairly confident that students aren't doing centers and meeting with the teacher in small groups, but I could be wrong. The students will benefit from the structure of middle with the support of an elementary school setting.  I'm hoping it will ease the transition, especially for the low performing students.

I'll end with how I've beaten some of the stress - by getting crafty! The giant binder I need to use as a data notebook had an ugly, stained cover.  Here are a few pictures of the cover I made.  (And I can't have a post with 0 pictures!) It was super simple and I'm now looking for fabric to make several more covers - we teachers use a LOT of binders.

How has your year gotten started?  Have you had to majorly revise your plans and expectations?