Friday, May 14, 2010

Gradual Release of Responsibility

Well, I took a break a couple of days ago because I had a really big and anger-inducing event to write about and I didn't want to spout off anything that I would later regret. Unfortunately, my one-day self imposed break turned into a mini-writing vacation due to some late nights at school events and now I really just need to stop making excuses. ;) The good news is that I was actually apologized to by one of the offenders (the cause of the aforementioned angst) and I will always respect someone who is willing to step up and admit fault and ask forgiveness instead of leaving me to sit feeling bad and uncomfortable with a situation that I did not create, nor am I responsible for fixing.

Anyway, I feel like the kids and I finally got our life back this week. Our schedule has been interrupted so much since Spring Break that my students have kind of mentally extended their vacation. This week was a full week of lessons without interruption and man have they been craving the structure. We are back in action and working hard.

Best part of the week: Literature Circles

There are educators (especially at the middle school level) who are comfortable jumping into the year with this kind of reading strategy. For me and mine, we had to work up to it. After a long year of learning independent reading strategies, practicing with short text, and tying it all together with the Read 180 program, I feel that it is time for the baby birdies to grow wings and read chapter books for class. Now, this is not part of the curriculum (also part of why I did not start it until the last month of school) but I can't imagine better results.

Now that I trust my students to follow routine and put out their best effort, I've started to try to teach them to trust themselves. As I've stepped back and allowed students to choose the book that they want to read, I could see their faces light up with excitement at being given the responsibility to choose their fate. As I watch students gradually stop looking to me in the small group setting, but refer to their discussion director instead, it is like watching them allow themselves to dip their toes in the pool for the first time. They have not jumped in head first, but they feel good about themselves that they can be trusted to handle and direct their own learning.

As they sat around the table with their role sheets, sharing their portion of the work and asking for feedback to add to it, one of my girls turned to me (while shuffling her papers importantly) and said, "Ms. Teach, I feel like we're in a meeting! Everyone has paperwork and takes turns asking for ideas and sharing what they've done." And that was the coolest thing ever, because that's how they should feel. It means that they're taking it seriously and that they legitimately believe that what they have to say is important.

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