Well, the first week went smoothly and according to plan! Yay! I feel very lucky; my kids are adorable and very keen.
I gave them each a whiteboard and they are loving those. (My friend and virtual teaching partner, Terri, gave me the idea of buying a sheet of whiteboard at Home Depot and cutting into into small individual boards. The price was just over a dollar board!) I am using them for formative assessment (as suggested in Dylan William's Embedded Formative Assessment,which Terri suggested I read) all day, but especially during Math. I will frequently ask them a quick question that they have to solve on their boards, then hold up. They will look at what others have put, sometimes change their minds, sometimes start defending their answers. It has led to some great classroom discussions, but also quickly tells me who knows what. I find that it has helped give the quiet ones a "voice".
I'm also using a "random name generator". It is a free app called "Stick Pick". I pass the IPad onto a student, and they click on "Stick Pick" which randomly names one of the students in the class. I'm using this during class discussions. The students are only putting up their hands to ask questions, not to answer them. This way we get to hear from everyone. We are only four days in and I think every single one of them is now comfortable saying "Well, I don't really know, but if I had to guess...." The first few times I got a lot of "I don't know"s, but I used Debbie Diller's line "I know you don't know, but if you did know, what would it be?" It's like magic. I've also increased my wait time, (that is the hardest part), AND waiting AFTER the child has responded. If I don't say anything after they comment or answer, they start feeling the need to elaborate. Another of Dylan William's ideas that I am finding works wonders.
My classroom library still isn't opened yet, but it's almost ready. I've been introducing about 100 books a day. I am down to my last bin (out of 8). The kids are practically salivating over the books, "Can I just keep this one in my desk", "Can I place a hold on this one", "Can I borrow a book to show my mother". It is hilarious! They even went to the librarian at recess and asked her if she would let them take some books out because they NEED to READ! The funniest part is that I surveyed them on the first day of school and all but 5 said they don't like to read!
So all is going splendidly well. On Wednesday I will start my formal diagnostic assessments. In our Board we do a Reading Comprehension assessment and a Writing assessment. I also like to use the PRIME Math Assessment Tool for Number Sense.
Once the class library is officially opened, and each of the students has selected an appropriate text, I will begin building their independent reading stamina. I use the Two Sisters' methods (from Daily 5). Each day we will read for longer and longer periods of time. Then, once they can read independently for 20 minutes, I will begin my Reading Conferences, meeting with 3 to 4 students per day to assess their reading and help them set reading goals.
Yes, it is wonderful to be back! But man, do my feet hurt!!!!