Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Any Better....
It's been awhile since we have posted on this blog, but we have been crazy busy this school year! To get caught up a little on what has been going on this year, you can refer to Miss Wright's blog.
I am here to share something amazing that happened today during phonics. We are at the point in the year where kids are growing insane amounts and at very different speeds. At the beginning of the school year, we maybe had 4-5 phonics group levels going on at once. At this point in the school year, we have 10 different leveled phonics groups. During our phonics block, we have 3 teachers and 2 paraprofessionals to teach 40+ students at these 10 different levels. To accommodate this, some groups get on ChromeBooks and work on activities in their PLPs (Personalized Learning Plans).
We switch groups often, so that one set of students isn't always on ChromeBooks or one group of students isn't always working with the same teacher. With the personalized learning that we are doing in K/1 this year, we have been talking about implementing more voice and choice into our phonics time. Voice and choice means that the students take more of a lead role in their learning, deciding how they want to learn, what they want to learn, and where they want to learn. Instead of the teachers telling kids what they have to do, the kids decide.
Today, during phonics, I decided to give this a try. I had a group of students working on final /k/ and a group working on prefixes and suffixes. I planned on working face-to-face with the final /k/ students, so I needed to explain to my prefixes/suffixes group what their expectations were. While I met with the prefixes/suffixes group, I had a review activity ready for the final /k/ group to work on. I explained to them that I needed to meet with the other group and I needed them to work on their own for awhile until I could get back to them.
As I began explaining to my prefixes/suffixes group, the other group went off, completed the activity while working together. Not once did they interrupt my meeting with the other group, come to me with questions, or bother us in any way. They were able to work collaboratively with each other to problem solve and complete the activity.
With the prefixes/suffixes group, I showed them the variety of activities they would be able to complete during phonics. Their activities ranged from videos and lessons on the computer to using Google Drive to create their own prefix/suffix game to paper-pencil activities to hands-on activities and games to working with partners to practice. I cleared a shelf in my room that contained all the activities, manipulatives, and resources they would need to complete any of the activities. I gave them some expectations, as well. I expected them to work quietly for the entire time. I expected them to keep a log of what they worked on or to turn in their finished products at the end of the period. I expected them to clean up their area when complete. They also had folders to keep their unfinished work in until the next day. With these expectations, I explained that everything else was up to them. THEY were in charge of their OWN LEARNING. They had the choice of which activities to complete, how long to spend on them, and where in the room they wanted to work.
You probably think we are nuts to let kindergarten and first graders make these types of decisions and to put that much trust into them. But, guess what...
They did it...and they surpassed my expectations. As I was working with my final /k/ group, I overheard them discussing prefix meanings, and working together to figure out the meanings of words. I watched them help each other solve for the answers. I saw all 6 students working on different activities at different times. They all didn't just flock to the same activity and copy. They worked at their own paces, in their own areas, yet still were able to help each other and work together.
I was mind blown. On the FIRST day of letting the kids loose, they took control of their learning and soared. I am just amazed at the things these kids are accomplishing. I can't wait to see where they are in May. I can't even imagine I am so proud and feel very blessed to be working with such an amazing group of kids.
Stay posted for more awesomeness as our year continues!