Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happy Little Classroom Challenges

Oh, Bob. 

I had a much different class this year than my first year as a teacher.  I had a mix of levels, most of my students being  kindergarten-first grade readers. I teach second so it felt a lot like instructing at three different grade levels. This is an experience I think most (all) teachers can relate to. I also had the ESE cluster and a fair number of undiagnosed students that needed a lot of attention both academically and emotionally.

It can certainly be time consuming to differentiate activities among students that you are 1. Preparing for rigorous unit tests, more complex reading, and 3rd grade state testing while 2. Working on sight words, basic phonics principles, and poor oral language skills with others. It takes creativity. Especially if you're also managing students with behavioral issues and trying to find activities for, and ways to reach, students that don't love school in general.
Because a big percentage of my schools' population live at or below the poverty line, I see a lot of kids that grew up in households where parents might not have been around to read nightly to them. The parents worked two jobs or maybe they couldn't speak the language. Sometimes both. That lack of "lap time" really effects a child's ability to view themselves as a student I think. If they haven't grown up with warm memories of a particular book being read to them, it seems harder for them to connect with reading like some other students that had the privilege of mom reading-them-to-sleep.
I felt challenged a lot more this school year and I left (for maternity leave) with a new perspective on what it takes to really teach.  Some days I wondered if I had the patience to get through (nope). Other days I felt accomplished. 

If you're still here (thanks for staying!), let's talk goals...

I have two goals I know will be on my long list of "areas for improvement":
1. Differentiate word work better! 
- I loved the spelling inventory from Words Their Way because it really gave me an idea of where to start with word work but I struggled a little bit with how to form groups effectively. I want to get a system down next year that will work like clockwork. 
2. Get on the floor! 
- Getting back to the "lack of lap time" I was talking about before. Next year during independent reading, I'm going to get on the floor more with my kids that can't read and read to them and with them. Yes, I do this during guided reading and read alouds but I feel like this one-on-one time might work wonders. I know for some it will be the closest thing they get to having a book read just to them so it's worth a shot. 

The biggest challenge of all will probably be leaving on time each day to get home to my babies!

How do you manage so many different levels of learners?

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