Friday, August 26, 2016

best week ever

No, seriously. You guys, now I'm back in middle school and I have a few of my own classes to teach. It's been three years without! I'm so happy!

Here's my homeroom on the first day. We're already a little classroom family and I love it! I can't wait to share our homeroom theme with you, it's not ready yet, but hopefully in the next week or two!

They're super cute as they learn the big middle school systems. They've done so well this week, I can't wait to see what comes next for them!

I'm teaching two classes: Challenge Based Learning and English Language Arts. This week, I've been working on two big things: Quick Writing & teaching kids to talk to and listen to one another.

Quick Writing
I learned Quick Writing from Penny Kittle's book Write Beside Them. It's prompted writing that happens in three minute spurts. There are three rules:

Rule 1: Write for the whole three minutes. Give the kids a prompt and then tell them that when they run out of things to say, that they need to listen to the talking in their mind and just write whatever that is saying. Main goal, to write furiously and not quit till time is called. Tip: Don't ask a question when you prompt, instead, give a sentence stem. Here are a few I used this week:

  • What I like/dislike about this classroom is...
  • Poetry is different than fiction/nonfiction because...
  • Something I'm looking forward to doing this weekend is...
Rule 2: Don't let your head tell you what you're writing is crap. We all have that critic inside, but writing is messy, thinking is messy! In quick writing, the idea is to get it all to come out, and it doesn't have to be organized or correct or perfect. When you can't think of the next work, put a line to save the spot and keep going! Just don't stop writing.

Rule 3: Relax, have fun, play. Quick writing is meant to be the writer's playground. It builds stamina and fluency for writing, and it also allows a writer's voice to come out. But it has to be done consistently. One other point to note, if a kid has a great thing going after prompt #1, they can skip prompt #2 and stick where the writing is hot. It's recommended!

Quick writing is not collected or graded. Kids do the work, not the teacher. Even if we're not checking it, kids are still reaping the benefits. This week, on an exit slip, one student said this:

That was after session 1 of quick writing. Imagine the confidence they will have after a month of it!

Speaking & Listening
In the three years when I didn't have my own classroom, I read a lot of stuff without a space for application. This week I finally put some of that information to use! I read somewhere that when a teacher repeats what a soft-spoken child says, the message it sends to the other kids is that they don't have to listen to the quiet kid, because the teacher will just repeat them.

I no longer repeat anyone.

If a child shares to the group and is too quiet, I turn to a student on the other side of the room and ask if they heard what the soft-spoken student said. If they say no, I ask the second student to ask the quiet student to repeat themselves. It forces kids to speak up.

I'm telling you, my Challenge Based Learning kids thought I was insane the first day. There were like 50 times when I had to facilitate them listening to one another, but the underlying message here is so powerful: Each person's voice is important and deserves to be heard. So we're going to speak up!

I'm also having them work on eye contact, that rather than having it go from students to teacher and then back from teacher to students, it's one person (student or teacher) to everyone else. So that feedback sounds like this: "You did an awesome job speaking loudly, but can you say it again, and this time, instead of just making eye contact with me, say what you're saying to everyone?"

We will just keep practicing, but I know that the conversations in my classes this year will be wonderful, from kid to kid to me to kid to all the other kids and on and on. I just love it!

Not ready
This is the first year I was not ready - like, I'm still waiting on furniture and my new rug, I didn't have my bulletin board stuff until after the first day, my plans were written on a day-by-day basis, my library wasn't totally unpacked (in fact, 2/3 of it is still in my basement in a storage closet I'm afraid to go in bc I'm sure there's 100s of spiders in there!) And you know what? It was all ok. It was okay that my first day was more about making sure I remembered their names than showing the perfect power point presentation about rules. It's okay that there's a huge empty spot where a rug will soon be, it's okay that I only had planned for the few hours ahead of me. Every kid knows they matter to me, and that's the most important thing.

That being said, I can't wait till my room is ready for the blog reveal! It's coming along, day by day. I'm hoping that in the next three weeks it will be ready for a photo shoot to share with all of you!

That's about all on my end. My heart is seriously so full, I'm so thankful for the opportunities I've been blessed with. Working with kids puts me in that state of flow - you know, where there's nothing else getting at you, you're not stressed about anything, you're not thinking about missing out on anything, you're just living every moment and enjoying the ride.

How was your first (or second) week of school?


  1. You sound so completely happy that it just makes others happy for you. All I can think is how lucky the kids are to have a teacher like you with such a positive focus.Thanks so much for sharing - enjoy your year!

  2. Lovely! So happy for your job and the year ahead for you! Hope you have a wonderful week.

  3. I can feel your joy through my computer screen. Just lovely, Michelle.

  4. I am new to the site and I absolutely LOVE your layout. Now that my aesthetic shock (amazing!) has subsided...I am so excited for your year to start. It sounds like you are ready to teach these kiddos. I am going to have to check out the book you listed to help support writing in my classroom. Thanks for the tips!




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