Monday, May 30, 2011

The Perfectly Orderly T-E-A-C-H-E-R

One of the things that I highly value is the importance of modeling for teachers as much as possible.  Interactive Read Alouds are the foundation of our reading instruction.  We use them to teach content, model reading strategies and think alouds, notice writer's craft and illustrations and build deep conversations about author's intent and interpretations.

Because interactive reading alouds are so important in the classroom, this makes it even more necessary to model powerful read alouds during teacher trainings.  The trick is to be able to tie them in to relavent content for the training that day.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my last new teacher training for the year.  We attempt to train new teachers for 40 hours during their first year teaching in the area of literacy.  Our last session was focused on planning units of study utilizing the standards, student needs and our resources.

The perfect interactive read aloud to model during this training is The Perfectly Orderly House, by Ellen Kindt McKenszie.  This is a story about an old woman who can not throw anything away and she decides to organize all of her belongings by having enough rooms in her house that start with each letter of the alphabet.  In each room, only items which begin with that letter go into the room.  It's pretty silly when she has to go to the closet to fetch cookies and cakes and her glasses in the garage.  Her organizational system is amiss and she has trouble finding anything.  At the end of the story, she realizes the simple, small four room house she had was all she needed.  It brought her peace.  The big message:  Less is More.

So, how does this tie into planning?  Many ways.  As teachers, we are constantly looking for ideas for the most fantastic lessons, via internet, books, collegues and such.  Of course, we can throw nothing away for we just might need this idea at some  point in time.  Our closets, filing cabinet, desks, computers and classrooms become an utter mess.  Finding anything we need is a task in itself.

A perfect example of this was a story I told for this training. I searched relentlessly online the night before for the perfect icebreaker activity.  I wasted at least an hour googling and going through all my bookmarked sites for that dynamite idea.  Needless to say, I never found it.  I ended up deciding to just do some various reflection notebook entries reflecting on frustrations, memorable moments and goals for the next year.  I've been using writers' notebooks in my classroom for almost 10 years.  Doing notebook entries is something I could do in my sleep.  Why didn't I just go to that in the first place?  Katie Wood Ray stands out in my mind here when she says to "teach from the heart".  We know what to teach, so just teach it.  We don't need some fancy lesson to do it.  Less is more.

The message we can ultimately leave with is that when we attempt to accumulate ton of ideas, activities, lessons, etc., we actually "teach" less.  By spending our precious time searching for the perfect lesson/idea/activity, we are taking time away from looking at our kids.   Think small.

It's a really big lesson to learn for a teacher.  Certainly, you don't want to end up like the old woman who has to go to the basement to fetch the butter.  Keep a few tools in your toolbox.  You'll always know where they are.

Shari :-)

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