Today was our first day back from Spring recess. Teachers were smiling and sharing stories about their adventures over break as they were getting ready for this last part of the year. Down the long hallways students’ writing adorns the walls and we see a noticeable shift in the quality of writing – there are signs of growth. The buses empty out and students begin to fill the cafeteria and spill out into the hall. They’re taller than they used to be, they walk down the hallways more confident than in the timid days of October’s falling leaves. Our students’ bright faces are full of happiness and expectation. It’s springtime and our school is bursting with energy, this is a time when students are coming into their own. We have tilled the soil for learning and we want to celebrate growth:
Transferring Mindset: He came through the door carrying Italian chocolates that he knows are my favorite and a big white orchid. Quickly, he ran over to me, his big brown eyes sparkled, “I have something for you!” Being a teacher is more than just teaching a subject especially when you are in a primary grade. It’s about teaching children how to be kind, and how to learn to work together. We want the best for all our students, to feel accepted and valued. This gift celebrated the teamwork between home and school and his success was a shared victory. All of our efforts are coming together and now his growth has begun to take root and is becoming known to him. For this boy, optimism and resilience were the underpinnings for his emerging growth. He is learning how to get past the issues that would hold him back, he is learning how to see the world from a brighter perspective.
Ownership and Mindset: Students were working in partnerships and groups, clustered around posters, gluing index cards, and all sorts of books lay open on floors and tables to guide their work. This is ownership. Children who are empowered learners, who embrace the work because it is meaningful. For one student ownership has not come easy. He tries to be compliant but more often than not, he avoids doing the sustained work that he needs in order to grow as a reader. Today, was different. Today he was able to deeply comprehend a text with a sense of excitement and joy His understanding fostered a deep personal connection to the book because none of its meaning was lost on him. The Bear Son An Inuit Tale is a touching story of love and he couldn’t wait to share his feelings, thoughts, and insights with us: “I wish this was nonfiction because the bear is so gentle with the children. I want it to be real.” As he gazed down at that page, it wasn’t abstract to him, it was palpable. It’s not the book, it’s the boy. How did his personal growth as a reader get us here? There were many threads that pulled together to elevate him to a new level of understanding: the consistent message that he can work to learn, the expectation that he will read deeply, and the narrative of success that was just waiting for him to believe. Everyday he is surrounded by students who do this work with the same spirit and zeal and today he did too.
Thank you Gravity Goldberg for writing Mindsets and Moves (Webinar) and giving a voice to student ownership. This boy is learning how to grow into himself as a reader, one who is beginning to care deeply about his work and reflect on his process. We share this success with you.
A Flexible Mindset: “Do you know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?” You might expect the answer to be a quick and easy yes. One boy looked back shaking his head no, and the other squinted his eyes and cocked his head to the side, “Is that the one where the witch takes him out in the forest and feeds him candy. Then she tries to eat him.” The plan was to use a familiar story to develop saliency. There really is nothing predictable about the classroom. Truly, flexibility is an essential quality that teachers are endowed with or learn to develop over time. Flipping through the book, giving a brief explanation of the story was all that was needed to model the strategy: Retelling What’s Most Important by Making Connections to the Problem.This strategy was carefully selected especially for them. It wasn’t about the book, it was about the strategy. The boys went to work transferring the strategy to their independent books. One boy quickly discovered there was more than one problem in his traditional literature book. Time to flex again, out came a goal card that would enhance the mini-chart. Its job was to give a useful prompt for the boy to do the work at hand. Meanwhile, the other boy had placed his post-it’s at all the right spots in his book. Fabulous! He looked earnest with the “all done” look that young children master so early. “So let’s talk about your book…” A few words and our flexibility flag began to fly. His next step was to give him the language to talk about how the resolution connected back to the problem. Leaning into the mini-chart he practiced, and success followed. What a difference 20 minutes can make. Today, for these boys, they got exactly what they needed. They were confident, happy kids.
Thank you to Jennifer Serravallo for writing The Reading Strategies Book (video). You created a resource that empowers skilled teachers everywhere. Your work, combined with our knowledge allowed us to be flexible and match the needs of our students, and set them up for achievement.
We appreciate our colleagues, and thank you for showing up and doing this important work. You amaze us whether you are our friends down the hall, our loving and supportive connected colleagues, or the authors that fill our minds with every idea you pose.