That's a long time to fight the same battle!! And looking back, I really wish I had given in to my amazingly brilliant teaching partner's thinking earlier. She saw the writing on the wall. She had the bright idea. I fought it... WHY?! :)
When we sat down to talk about it, we had to identify the problem: Kids weren't finishing the daily workpages.
Why? Well, unlike many other schools in our district, most of our kiddos ride the bus to school each day. We have up to 2 runs of 7 buses every morning and afternoon. Some kids arrive at school at 7:15, ready to go and others don't walk in the door until 7:50 just as the bell rings. Very few of my students are car riders or walkers. We always had a chunk of kids who finished their work, and another group that were struggling to make it to breakfast before they came in the room. It wasn't fair to either group.
We knew we wanted the kids to practice and review skills we currently teaching OR had previously taught. We didn't want it to be a chore. We didn't want the kids to hate it. We looked around our rooms and saw lots of games that the kids were playing for a week or two during the year before we put them back for next year's group.
A-ha! Enter the bright idea!
For 2 days a week, the kids played language arts games. On those mornings, I would set out or send down the games I wanted the kids to play. At the beginning of the year, I like to pull out sight word and spelling games. It's an easy way to reinforce skills they've already learned, and to help them begin to build the sense of community and family that is key in our classrooms.
There are also 2 days a week where our kiddos played math games. Most of the time, these were fact fluency games. My brilliant partner had staggered sets of facts, and our kids knew which "set" they needed to pass in order to move to the next level. They often took the initiative to make sure they played these games with friends who were working on the same fact set. :)
We also tried to set aside at least one day each week for something fun and creative. They were particularly fond of this Minion Maker. We all need the chance to chill out and color sometimes, right?
A few more points I want to leave you with:
- Our kids were so engaged in the mornings. They loved being able to come in, unpack, and connect with friends. Kids were excited to get to class and they didn't drag their feet coming in from the bus or the cafeteria. Everyone started the day with a smile on their face!
- They were quiet --- and on task!! I stopped redirecting behavior and got lots of housekeeping stuff done in the mornings. Glory!!
- M and I alternated Math and ELA days. This kept materials together and we didn't have to make extra sets of games for the other classroom.
- As we inched closer to state testing, we were able to set out games that reinforced skills we noticed were weaker in our students. This acted as a "safety net" and preserved LOTS of small group and whole group instructional time.
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