Blogging has fallen to the wayside while I have been getting my brain wrapped around how to teach 3 grade levels effectively. My class and I are finally starting to settle in and our morning routine is working great.
In the morning I teach 2nd-4th grade reading, math and English. That means I am teaching 9 subjects before noon! This makes for a busy morning and a demands lot of flexibility from the students and my brain. The students are learning to use their books to answer their questions while they are waiting for me to finish up a lesson with another grade level. They are learning to skip what they don’t know and can’t find, and come back to it later, rather than just sitting at there desk for 30 minutes stuck on one problem. They are learning independence. While this situation might not be ideal, especially for my second graders, it is the most effective way I have found to teach these core subjects before the morning is over.
After we get back from P.E. and lunch we have 2 and half hours of the day left. In that time we have a lot of ground to cover: spelling, science, history, literature, writing, phonics and penmanship. Luckily I teach these subjects to the whole class and do not have to worry about individual grade levels. But even so, I can’t work in all of these subjects every day.
Despite teaching to the whole class and getting to only 3 or 4 of these subjects per day, going 2.5 hours straight was still killing me and my students. After our 9 subject morning, grading papers through P.E. and lunch, I was pushing myself super hard to cram in as much as I could in the last part of the day. I noticed I was losing focus and so were my students. I was at a loss of what to do until parent-teacher conferences rolled around.
I love conference time. I know that may sound weird, but I love getting to know the parents. I spend so much time with their sweet kiddos it is nice to get a clearer picture of where they come from. I also get a TON of my new ideas while talking to parents. It seems that talking about problems aloud shifts things in my brain and allows me to think outside the box. This happened so many times during conferences this year, but the biggest thing that became clear was something in the afternoon had to change to get my class through the day.
The parents kept asking me about how their student get along with others during play. Every time this came up I wished the P.E. teacher was there to chime in. You see, besides lunch I rarely get to see my kids interact with each other while playing. This didn’t sit well with me because observing how students interact with each other is a big part of understanding them as human beings. And then it clicked, the answer to all my problems was recess! I needed something to break up the afternoon and something to allow me to watch social interactions and recess fits that bill.
At first my brain fought back on this idea big time. I didn’t want to lose 15-20 minutes of precious class time. Our school day is already shorter than most, giving up more time seemed like a terrible idea. Instead of having recess, I could be reading chapters of classic literature aloud, or discussing the founding of our nation, or teaching how to write a correctly formed letter which all seem like very worthy endeavors. But my students and I needed some time for our brains to relax and transition from one subject to the next. I also needed time to observe their social skills. So despite the scholar in my crying, out I added a 15 minute recess halfway through my afternoon.
This has been the best decision I have made all year. Not only do I get a little extra time to grade (or play games with kids) I can watch the students interact and get to know them even better. I get to watch them be kids. In return, they give me their full attention after recess. Instead of feeling like we are in a time crunch I feel like we have gained time because I do not have to correct as many behaviors or repeat myself as often.
I used to cringe when kids said recess was their favorite subject, and I probably still will in the future, but for now, recess is my favorite subject because it gave me my class back.
When have you made a simple adjustment that at first seemed to be counterproductive to your goals, but turned out to be the thing you needed most? What is helping you get through the fall? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,
I love you more than recess games and refreshing our brains,