Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Back to School Season Filled with QUESTIONS!

For many of you, the start of this new school year this may be like no other,  a back to school season filled with new questions not only about what each new day will bring (and each new spin of the pandemic wheel), but also about where to start your teaching. 

Exactly what did most of your new students actually learn and retain from last year?

Who was in school for face-to-face learning every day?

Who bounced back and forth from in-school to virtual?

Who got a lot of family support during Zoom lessons?

Who never logged in to even one Zoom session?

How much time can you devote to review before you plunge into this year's curriculum? What will happen if you don't give your students the time they deserve to get them closer to where you'd like them to be?

What do your students most need, in regard to confidence, community, and curriculum? How will you find the balance between all three of these?

So. Many. Tough. Questions.

I am NOT a fan of looking at this school year from a "learning loss" or "learning gap" point of view. It's been a tough time for everyone, but keeping a positive attitude is key. I think most teachers would agree that...

1.  Putting more pressure on kids to learn more quickly is one of the least effective teaching strategies imaginable. It's only fair to give them time to SUCCEED!
2.  There will be gaps ... academic, social emotional, behavioral, etc ... in pretty much every classroom.  We have a lot of experience with students coming to us at differing levels and we've always adjusted our teaching to that, and done it well.

Nonetheless, its likely to be an interesting year. It's a good thing you got so good at pivoting last year... but wait, good teachers have ALWAYS been experts at pivoting, reacting to unexpected change within the course of a year... a week... a lesson... sometimes, a sentence, right?!?

Don't panic, because you are a pro. You've got this.

What are some lessons that you can plan right now that will address your new students' academic and social-emotional needs, while also giving you a good look at their academic status?

Here are just a few easy-to-implement ideas that will help you incorporate informal assessment and review into your getting-to-know-you and building class community lessons during the first weeks of school.

* Give careful thought to the read-alouds you choose, so you can get more mileage from them! What kind of mileage? Just a few thoughts here, applicable across the grade levels.        
        * Stories that encourage stopping and listening to your students' predictions AND the thinking that             led them to the predictions. Discussions during the course of a read-aloud are a great way to see
            whether your students have the vocabulary and understanding to use a variety of grade-               appropriate comprehension strategies.

        *  Read-alouds that rhyme will give you some insight as to who's able to supply a rhyme for a               given word.  Can they do it, or will you need to work on building phonemic awareness?

        *  Books that deal with classroom behavior.  They are a great way to start discussions that will be              extra important when some of your newbies have never experiences in-class expectations.                       Think about topics like building classroom community, resolving differences, using classroom               materials responsibly, respect, and responsibility.

* Build some new twists into your usual getting-to-know-you activities. If one of your activities is to have your students complete a page where they illustrate their favorite sport, book, food, etc., try turning it into an interview activity. Pair your students and have them use the page to interview each other, write up the info, and then do a short oral presentation to introduce their new classmate to the class. It's a great way to get lots of information about your students that goes waaaay beyond their favorites!

* Play math games that are designed for the end of the previous grade level. When they're playing, take the opportunity to listen in on the conversations. You'll learn so much about your students' math and their social skills, too! A quick search here on TpT yielded over 13,000 results for end of year math review! Here's a Quick Tip: narrow the results easily by going to the left column on the TpT page and clicking on the grade level you need.


Here are a few of my resources at TpT that you might find helpful as you embark on this year's Great Adventure!

For K-2, build classroom community and review data collection and analysis with Class Graphs: Learning About Each Other with Tallying and Graphing Activities.

For second grade, have some fun practice reviewing important onset/rime skills with this Back to School "I Have... Who Has...?" game.

First grade teachers, if you're looking for a fun way to review kindergarten math and you want a resource that you can be certain that your students definitely did not use last year, you may be interested in the new set of math riddles just posted in my TpT store on 7/24/21.  Your new first graders will love the challenge of solving these riddles. Plus, there's the confidence-building bonus of using topics that are familiar to them. This year more than ever, most children may need that boost of confidence. 

Fourth grade teachers, you'll review loads of third grade math skills with these math riddles. Great for whole class review, or put them in a math center!

Happy Teaching!

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