Today was somewhat of a lazy day. I went to the gym, did some grocery shopping at Trader Joes, played with my roomie's dog, and did some reading.
I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was asked to be a peer reviewer for the International Reading Association. People submit book ideas and they have other professionals review the ideas and sample chapters and provide feedback. I have to read what was submitted and then say whether or not I think the book should actually be published. I completed a form online indicating what literacy areas I am most interested in, so a few days ago I was offered an opportunity to review a proposed book on comprehension. I read a few sample chapters today and it was really good! I was very interested and felt the author did a good job balancing the research based information with actual example and vignettes in order to illustrate how to make it work. I hope the book gets published because I want a copy! I still need to complete the actual review which involves providing comments to the author and answering some specific questions that were provided to me, but I think the actual reading part is the most time consuming.
I also finished reading the book I recently got on morning meeting and afternoon wrap-up. Overall I would say that it was a pretty good read. I particularly liked the author's suggestions for games to play at the end of the day to provide a review and wrap-up of the day. There were many creative fun ways to get the kiddos thinking about what they learned in interactive ways that I know would be engaging for young learners. She created these ideas to combat the typical child's response of "nothing" when a parents asks what he/she learned at school that day because kids need some opportunities to think about and process what took place during the day. One suggestion she has is incorporating the senses. Instead of just asking kids what they did, she recommends asking them what they saw, what they heard, what they did with their hands, etc. That gives them the opportunity to be a bit more focused and specific in their answer.
I also appreciated how the author included lots of black line masters of the forms/letters/sheets she mentions so that it is quite simple to take her ideas and run with them. Sometimes I like to tweak and make an idea my own, yet sometimes it's really nice to have easy access to something that can just be copied and distributed or put to use without any adjustments.
The main message I got from this book is the importance of building community and taking time at the beginning and the end of the day to meet as a group. Kids should know what to expect throughout the day prior to beginning the activities and they benefit from having a little bit of time to reflect on what they accomplished or what they learned during the day. I know I will be very tight for time, but I would like to do my best to incorporate some of her games and community building ideas so that we are not always on the go. She really does a good job giving examples of how community meeting times can be used for instruction and assessment affirming that time is definitely not wasted when these practices are put into effect.
Next on my reading list is The First Six Weeks of School, which many of you said is a terrific resource and then I would also like to start Bright Beginnings for Boys. And, I ordered one of Debbie Dillers books from amazon regarding literacy spaces and stations. The other Kinder teacher I met said she does everything whole group and that was not at all what I was picturing to do with my groups, so I want a resource that dives into setting up stations, particularly ones that focus on literacy activities kids can do independently or explore with one other student. I have heard great things about Debbie's books, so hopefully it will be a good resource. It's possible that the other half day Kinder teacher does stations, but this could be one aspect of my classroom that is different and I am okay with that. I know I have to do what I feel is right for my teaching practice and my students. I want to be able to work with small groups which means the other kids need activities and different areas to access that won't require a significant amount of monitoring or adult help. Now that I have the basic room arrangement ready to go, I am not super stressed about getting each area 100% perfect because I want to know the kids and get into the year a bit before I introduce certain stations/areas. I have lots of work to do, but I realize not everything has to be done before the first day of school. Once the kids are actually in the room I always have some realizations about what I imagined in my perfect world scenario classroom and I end up putting certain materials in different locations and making other adjustments.
Time for some reading in bed before I go to sleep!