Sunday, May 15, 2016

the grey area

I've been teaching Writing Workshop in fifth grade for the past few weeks, helping out with a maternity leave and I'm LOVING it. (So much so, that next year, I'm going to coteach a fifth grade writing workshop, so excited!!)

We're currently immersed in memoir writing and the kids are doing so well. And then yesterday I learned something new as I moved from black and white thinking to the grey area.

Usually, we follow a conferring schedule and see a set group of kiddos each day on a rotating basis - here's a schedule that our ELL teacher follows when she comes to support her kiddos in the Writing Workshop I've been helping out in:

So, we do have a set schedule for conferring. The ELL teacher, classroom teacher, and myself all have a similar schedule where we see kiddos on a rotating basis. Side note: rather than run mine in accordance with days of the week, I prefer to do so on a rotating five day schedule, and just name the days Day 1, Day 2, Day 3...etc. 

But then, as I was looking over student thesis statements, I noticed that I had a big group of kids who were right on point with theirs, and then a handful who needed to be conferred with right away to make sure they got off to a strong start.

I made a decision to be responsive to the data I noticed - I didn't follow the conferring schedule, I paused it. Then I told the kids who needed more support on their thesis statements to meet with me, and this particular day, I assigned a few kiddos to the classroom teacher (who is the sub) and our ELL teacher.

There I was, sitting with two kiddos who hadn't started yet because of absences, one girl who had a lot written but without much punctuation (so I was confused about her thesis), and one kiddo who had been at school, but who hadn't shared his doc with me on google, so I was unsure of his status.

Usually with conferences, I would call the four or five kids I planned on working with to my table, and have them spend the session working there (rather than at their seats) while I began with one kiddo and worked my way to the others. But this day, since my first two kiddos were absent, I began conferring with them both since they needed the same thing. Then, I got one of them to a place where she was ready to do a little bit on her own, so I focused to the other. When I got him to a similar place, I went back to her. I bounced back and fourth between them for about 8 minutes - conferring kinda together, but kinda apart, before I dismissed the girl back to her seat and moved on to the third kiddo.

I guess what I learned yesterday is that we don't have to be so rigid in our thinking - like, the way to confer is to call the kids for that day to sit at a horseshoe table with me, and then begin with one and spend 4-5 minutes on each of them one at a time.

Maybe I need to pause the conferring schedule so I can get to kids who need me right now, and maybe of those kids, two or three need the same thing, so I can confer with all of them for 8-10 minutes simultaneously. 

And maybe instead of making them sit with me the whole time, once I know they have a plan, I send them back to their seats so I free up a space for another student who was next when I thought about who I needed to talk to.

One of my best friends is a therapist and she has told me in the past that Black and White Thinking is one of the Thinking Errors people make.

So - I am allowing myself to open up to all the grey area - in my writing conferences, in my coaching, and in my life.

How do you work in the grey area?

1 comment:

  1. This is such an easy thing to do but sometimes hard for teachers to "see..." I love how you shifted mid-stream as a response to your students' needs. The shift is what I call the "art" more than the science of teaching. Well done!


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