And we're back to continue our reflection on preparing for the upcoming school year.
In this post we want to share with you some of the things we want to change for the upcoming school year.
Change is constant, and we are excited to take it on, even as it brings some discomfort (and often a little extra work) into our lives. As Emily Style says, "Half the curriculum walks in the room with the students on the first day.." Which to us means that this list will most definitely get a whole lot longer and intricate as the year progresses!
We are going to try…
We already made a push to have affinity groups at our school. We now run an affinity group for 3-5th graders that we feel has brought so much life and love to our students of color. We love it so much that we have been wondering how to bring even more of that into our classroom, so that it isn't just that once a week moment where our SOC attendees feel exceptionally seen and heard.
As a result, we are going to test out having little 'advisories' within our classroom. We are going to have to be creative about this schedule-wise (never enough time!) but we are willing to take on the headache to test this out.
We have some new students this year, as well. We love the idea of a group of six kids getting to really know each other, have each other's backs, decompress together (especially after tough talks about the news), and take turns sharing together in a conversational community.
We also love the seeds this space sows for storytelling and honoring one another's stories. We can get them well on their way feeling comfortable sharing from their own point of view as storytellers, before we have even begun our storytelling unit!
We are going to try to facilitate with them as teachers at least once every two weeks to ensure a safe space and check in on how it is going. Depending on how things go, we will release our facilitation process (ideally!) as the year goes on.
Differentiating homework more effectively:
This is something we are going to keep thinking about. See our post from our Differentiated Instruction conference here. We are going to be thinking (as always, but even more so) about differentiation and student support all year. Stay tuned.
Service Learning Work:
We love the work our students do with SOME (So Others Might Eat) in which they create portraits of seniors who visit the SOME program.
In general, however, we have struggled with how to do service learning work in a way that doesn't set up an 'us' / 'them' dichotomy and that is realistic about what is actually 'helpful'. We recognize that 26 ten year olds running around a quiet space so they can feel like they 'gave back' is not helpful. We also want to constantly question this notion that students already have about who needs help and who does the helping. This is a lot for 5th graders, and thus, we haven't quite figured it out yet ;).
However, this year, we do want to teach/inquire specifically into the dynamics of help, and discuss working with people and organizations and talk through how we might do that.
There are other things we will change, of course, but these are the big ideas we are mulling over.
In the meantime, let us know what kind of changes you have made (or think we should make!) that have improved your communities and your classrooms. We are always looking to make 5th grade better!