I love teaching literacy. I think it’s amazing helping and watching a child acquire and use a language — truly, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m especially passionate about fostering a passion for writing in my students since I think it’s more often than not seen as a chore by the majority of students these days. There is so much creativity and freedom about literacy, and that makes my heart happy.
Last year I had only one hour to teach fifth grade reading. To be completely honest, I feel like I didn’t do too much teaching — we had book clubs, which met on a regular basis, and that was pretty successful. The books we read and swapped around book clubs all had the underlying theme of race, and we got some really great discussions out of those groups. There were a few days here and there where I’d do a mini-lesson about something like genres and then we’d do a cool activity (because I only do cool activities. Well, at least I try to only do cool activities.) to go along with it. Even though I didn’t feel like I taught much, I feel like they learned a lot, and that’s what’s most important.
Now, here’s where this debacle comes in — I have TWICE the amount of time to teach third grade reading this year. You’re probably wondering, “Well, how is this a debacle? That’s great! She has two hours to teach literacy!” Let me explain.
Something about the literacy block feels disheveled to me. I feel like I’m not getting enough time to introduce my word wall words to my kids at the beginning of the month (we add words to the wall monthly, and we use this book — it’s awesome), and I feel like writing is kind of getting pushed to the side. The literacy schedule our team initially made at the beginning of August isn’t really being followed, and I thought it was pretty good. In that schedule, the first thirty minutes to an hour of each day was something different — every Monday, the first thirty minutes would be all about spelling/grammar practice, Tuesday’s first thirty minutes would be all vocabulary-centered, and then Wednesday and Thursday we would spend the first hour doing writing. Friday was always for flex time in case we needed to go back and reteach something. The remaining time for the blocks on those days was for Daily 5/comprehension mini-lessons when necessary.
Here’s what I’m doing right now.
So during my two hour literacy block in the mornings, there is just a lot going on. I feel like there is no possible way for me to do everything I need to do during that time. I have literacy support from about 9:30-10am, and those teachers pull small groups to work on things like fluency and accuracy and comprehension skills. While those students get pulled, everyone else is either reading to self, reading with someone, writing, or working with words (shout out to The Daily 5 program!). I know during that time I should be pulling kids for reading groups and things of the like, but I feel like I’m still having to monitor their Daily 5 time and I’m having kind of a hard time actually creating my reading groups and getting on a schedule with that.
The second hour of literacy, from 10-11am, is normally when we do a mini-lesson of sorts. We’ll do a read aloud, model a specific strategy, and then work through it with the kids (as the week progresses, I am ALL about some gradual release, so I usually have the students work on something on their own with whatever our mini-lesson themes are about for the week). This is also the time when my AIG students are pulled out twice a week.
Ultimately, I just don’t think there are enough hours during the day for me to teach everything I want to teach them. It’s impossible for me to start and end everything RIGHT on time, especially when there are certain teacher duties that must be done before the morning is over (attendance, turning money into the office, etc.). One-third of my class are native Spanish-speakers, and I wish I had more time to just sit and work with them on their struggles with the English language. It’s so hard for me because working with ELLs is something I’m so passionate about, but I feel like I’m not getting to do it very effectively. I feel as though it’s crucial to be effective for a non-native English speaker during a time like literacy, since literacy is really at the heart of all we do.
A good teacher can teach 150% of the curriculum in a year, and that’s my goal. I’m feeling like I can teach more than standard curriculum during math and science, so now I just have to figure out how I can feel more comfortable creating a stronger literacy block.
Note: SUGGESTIONS/ADVICE WELCOME.