Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Teaching With Intention - Chap. 4

Once again, I am joining in the Book Study fun with The Kindergarten Smorgasboard. Life got a little crazy last week and I missed out sharing about Chapter 3, but as I read I fall more in love with this book with each chapter. Debbie Miller is an amazing person - I am in awe of her. 

This chapter was about establishing a culture of questioning and thinking in your classroom both at a whole group level and at an independent level.  

I know that I don't do this enough, I'd like to get in the habit of doing it daily. I let my students see my thinking the most when I am modeling writing. Sometimes I feel like I am putting on a show - like an actor doing a monologue - but I have learned to just let that weird feeling go. In the beginning of the year, it usually is just me talking, but as my students figure me out, they soon want to join in my thinking game and they soon start to express their opinions, make suggestions, or sometimes just follow my thinking and nod in agreement, and the. I at least know they're with me.

When I do read alouds that I have read each year for several years, I find that I put my thinking on display much better. It's like sinking into your favorite chair - familiar and comfy - so it makes displaying your thinking so much easier. A newer book - no matter how many times I have pre-read it to myself - is much more difficult and something I need to work on.  You can think you are prepared and can plan to strategically lead your students, but sometimes my students veer off the path I had intended. That's okay, I try to go with the flow and learn from the path they take me on.  

In Kindergarten, I think that encouraging students to show their thinking is a gradual, scaffolded process. The thinking that is shared at the beginning of the year is vastly different than the sharing in April and May. The growth students show is amazing! 

As to encouraging my students to show their thinking, there are some things I think I do well, and definitely others I want to improve on.  I love to learn as much as my students, so I am always looking for ways to tweak things or do things better. 

I love discussing books with my students. Read alouds are my favorite times of my day.  I like to see the excitement on my students' faces as they show their investment in a story, hop up and down on the floor waiting to share their ideas, or my favorite - when their really into the story and a pivotal event happens - and they react with "oh, no" or "uh-oh."  One of my most memorable moments came just this past year. It was one of the moments that showed me positive thinking and persistence pays off. It was February and in northern Illinois it's quite a snowy month. We had just finished reading The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler. It's about a little girl who wants to build a snowman. Her family doesn't believe she can. The forest animals end up helping her build the biggest, best snowman ever. I often forget to talk about the theme or lesson of a book, so I was proud of myself for remembering. I asked my students what lesson the author was trying to teach us. One of my little girls said, "Little people can do big things." My teacher heart was filled and I felt accomplished when to my surprise, one of my little boys says, "Aw man, I thought it was don't give up, keep trying." Teacher heart runneth over! And don't worry, we talked about how a book can teach us many lessons and that there isn't just one right answer all the time.

I want to go back into Chap. 4 and write down all the questioning and leading prompts that Debbie Miller shared. Putting these prompts on cards near my rocking chair and on a paper in my lesson plan book would really help me increase the frequency and the depth with which I use the prompts.

The thing I would like to improve the most is what I like to call "dinner table conversation." I had the wonderful opportunity in my Masters program to watch videos of Debbie Miller in action.  She teaches her students how to sit in a circle and share their thinking without raising hands, without being called on, just like a family sitting at the dinner table. I have come close the last couple of years - my students had the capability - but we spend so much at the beginning of the year learning how to raise their hands, that I couldn't get them to break the habit during discussion time. This year I am going to make it happen. If I do, I am going to video tape it and share it.  Cross your fingers!

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you about the dinner table conversation! I find it to be far more genuine and the kids far more likely to share than if I require raised hands. It takes some training, but it is totally worth it. Your snowman story is definitely a teacher gem to store in your crown! Those authentic moments when you know the learning is theirs is priceless. Thanks for sharing!