First Grade: Round Two

Somehow, it was the first day of school, and now we’re 15% of the way through this year. It’s weird how fast time has passed this year.

I think my management has gotten a lot better this year – we started teaching routines on day one and I’ve been trying my hardest to stick to them. Lining up the same way every day, moving to the carpet the same way every day, moving centers the same way, doing bulldog bucks at the same times and for the same things, that kind of thing.

I’ve been working on cracking down on the little things, so that my students won’t get the idea that they can get away with little things and move on to big things. For instance, I’ve been giving a lot more consequences for talking out of turn, calling out, and getting out of seats without permission. Hopefully, that’s going to give my students the idea that they can’t get away with anything, and prevent bigger issues like hitting and kicking. I’ve also switched from using a clip chart in the classroom to using a clip stick that I carry with me everywhere. Last year, I would need to give consequences at recess or in the hallway, but I had a hard time maintaining that consistency between the classroom and the rest of the school.

I’m also proud that I’ve been able to make rewards consistent for my students. I’ve been awarding bulldog bucks on ClassDojo for attendance, morning behavior, lunchtime behavior, and afternoon behavior. At the end of the week, students who have 15 or more bulldog bucks get a special treat. The treat changes week to week, but I’ve made sure that it happens every week.

Academics are also playing out a¬†differently this year. I’m writing ELA plans, for one, and my teammate is writing math and science. Last year, it was the reverse. My principal wants us to use Saxon Phonics, but there wasn’t any money to pay for the refill kit, so I’ve been trying to make do with the parts I have left from last year. I really like Saxon and I think it helps tremendously with reading, but it’s a puzzle to teach when you don’t have the resources. We also had this issue with out reading curriculum – our school was supposed to be getting Wonders, but we didn’t have it for the first month of school. Now, Wonders has arrived, but we don’t have any teacher books and we don’t have any kind of training in how to teach it, so everyone’s hesitant to use it.

For the first month or so, I was just using EngageNY’s Listening and Learning strand and doing read-alouds of fables, then fairytales. I think my kids liked it, but my teammate and I were concerned that we were doing them a disservice by not putting more text in their hands – tasking them with actually decoding words on their own. This week, we went back to using Journey’s, which is the reading comprehension curriculum that my school has been using for years. I’m not a huge fan of Journey’s, but it’s what we have, and it’s been working okay. This was my first time using the assessments from Journey’s – last year, my teammate planned ELA and made the assessments, but I thought we’d give the curriculum ones a try. Looking at the assessment, I thought that it might not be rigorous enough, but it was a pretty reasonable bell curve for my students grades.

Our schedule changed this year, so that we’re doing centers in the afternoon, right before math. Our math block is shorter this year, and I’m worried that we’re not fitting enough in, and that our students are going to fall behind in math. I’m also concerned that we’re not incorporating enough spiral review into our lessons. Our curriculum, GoMath! doesn’t really have any spiral review, and I think it’s really important, but it also feels like we just don’t have time. I’m also worried that we’re not pushing our students to higher order thinking enough. At first, I was trying to work those in through my math meeting routine, but that took 15 minutes – it wasn’t working to do math meeting and then keep my kids on the carpet for our math lesson – it’s way too much time for first graders to sit still on the carpet. I’m still not sure how to make that it happen.

It’s funny – I’ve had a couple days this week where I felt like I was right back where I was last year. When I’m writing all of this out, taking the time to think and reflect about it, it does feel like I’ve made progress. It’s helpful, I think, to consider that progress when it feels like you aren’t moving forward fast enough.

And, because I am a total cornball, here is the song lyric that comes to mind in this situation.

“Look at where you are
“Look at where you started”