Today was the official start for my new scholars. The slate was perfectly clean and open to creating magical and memorable learning experiences for my incoming fifth graders in ELA and Social Studies. They walked down the hallway, some stoked, and some jittery beyond belief. This excitement and nervousness never gets old.
As my students entered my classroom, I immediately heard them talking about how the books were displayed. A few students mentioned the organization of our library. A few students said, “Hey, I’ve read that book,” upon seeing “Wonder” on display. The hook was immediate for some kids, but not for all. This was to be expected. I would have been the latter when I was in fifth grade.
I called the students to the carpet to read “First Day Jitters.” We discussed what jitters meant and proceeded to make predictions about what the text might be about. As I was navigating through the book, I kept my eyes on students, some of which were very engaged and some that were not. Many students expected the ending to be about a new girl not wanting to attend a new school and were shocked that it was the teacher who had jitters. The conversation was ignited and off we went.
This was the moment I was waiting for. My chance to talk about how passionate I am about reading. My chance to start their transformation from being readers to reading warriors. We toured the classroom library with great enthusiasm. I stopped to book talk my favorite books from the summer. I talked about my passion for picture books and incredible message they can contain. Then I stopped talking. I stood in silence for a minute. The students were perplexed and anxiously awaiting my next sentence. I had them hooked again. I calmly asked them to walk back to the carpet.
As we sat down I told them I was going to be honest. I explained that throughout the year this will become a normal practice. It was time to be real with them. I said, “I really disliked reading growing up.” “In fact, I read very little.” At that very moment, you could see the look of confusion on their face. Some nervously looked around at each other and some turned their attention to the floor. It was the moment I was hoping for. Suddenly, a student burst out, “You’re a teacher. How can you hate reading?”
All eyes turned to me. I said, “I disliked reading because I was always forced to read what the teacher told me. I disliked reading because I was not really good at it. I struggled terribly. Very few teachers really took the time to get to know what types of books I enjoyed. I never was encouraged like I should have been by my teachers. It made me really, really hate books. Most of the reading I did was from textbooks and we had to read aloud. Since I was not a fluent reader, I became self conscience about my skills. I was not confident.” You could have heard a pin drop in the classroom. Then I smiled big and proud and told them I am making a vow to them.
I will honor their reading lives. I will honor their right to have choice and voice in how they go about choosing books and demonstrating understanding in creative ways. I will honor their independent reading time. I will honor their hard work and effort in striving to become reading warriors. I will honor their time to make peer to peer recommendations. I will honor their work by writing focused, purposeful feedback in order for them to get stronger with written responses to text. I will honor their time to Skype with classes around the globe to see reading in a broader context. I will honor them by thoroughly looking over their reading surveys to ensure I can get books in their hands that would surely inspire. I will honor their time to have “Reading in the zone” days to read for pure enjoyment. I would honor our read aloud time everyday.”
Our attention then went to our “You Matter” board inspired by Angela Maiers. Student could not help but smile.
I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching. I was Stamford, CT 2014 Teacher of the Year. I was nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach
peer to peer recommendations