But They Already Know This!

October 21, 2015

 

During the past three months, I've worked with teachers in four global capital cities- Paris, Dublin, London and Washington, DC. And no matter where I go, I hear the same thing from teachers: "But I know my students learned this last year!"

 

Fear not. While Summer Slide is a very real concept, there are several ways we can help our students get back on track...and quickly! Much of this work involves chatting with the educators in the grade below you. I find that these types of vertical planning meetings and discussions are rare. We're more concerned with what students need to know next that we forget to reflect on where they've been. Set aside some time for this important work. Meet with the teachers your students just had and try the tips below.

 

1) Dust off those process charts

 

Those of you who were knee-deep in Reading and Writing Workshop have oodles of charts. You've poured your soul into them and perhaps even explored Smarter Charts (2012) by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz. Chances are, your colleagues did the same, and chances are, they still have them. (Could one really throw away those works of art!?)

 

Ask if you could borrow the charts used for the specific genre you're teaching. Show them to the students, unveiling them as if they were precious gems that you cannot believe you've finally located! Review point by point, getting the students excited about all the brilliant craft moves they already know and can apply. 

 

I might even forgo a minilesson on this day in order to really drive home the new (old...) powerful techniques. As the students go off to write independently, call out those who are applying the reviewed strategies. Make a big fuss of it and it's sure to spread like wildfire!

 

2) Get ahold of last year's work samples

 

Whether your colleagues have saved student work digitally, in a tidy portfolio, or in a massive mess of a filing cabinet, it's worth asking them to dig it out. Bring the work to the students. Additionally, ask students to bring in Writing Notesbooks and Folders or Reading Response Journals they have at home. Ask them to sift through it and discuss what they feel they did well last year. Be sure they're explicit about it. Encourage comments like:

 

         "I think my response to There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom really showed how Bradley changed                throughout the story. I backed it up with evidence here and here."

 

and

 

         "I put a vowel in each of my words in this story!"

 

Have older students draft a list of reading and writing strategies they were successful with last year based on their work. Paste this into their Writing Notebook or Reading Response Journal and let them know that they're accountable for continuing (and building on) that work. 

 

3) Who doesn't love a visit from last year's teacher?

 

Do you feel a bit like a rock star when you see your former students in the hallway? "MS. CURA!" They'll shriek as they barrell towards you nearly knocking you over with a full body squeeze. 

 

Well imagine if your students had the opportunity to spend another 10 minutes with their previous teacher. Invite him or her to come into your classroom sometime. The teacher could gather work samples, charts, lesson plans, etc. and discuss all of the wonderful techniques that the students learned in the past. The teacher could even say how excited he would be to review some of the students' current work to see how much they've grown. (Talk about motivating!)

 

--

 

Try out the strategies and try them with love, not frustration, even though I know that's what you're feeling. Keep in mind that the students cycled through several genres last year and perhaps it's been a full year since they've worked on the genre you're currently teaching. That's a long time to retain information. And yes, if we've taught the strategies thoroughly, they should have internalized them and be able to apply them with skill. But go easy on the little guys. Perhaps they just need a little jumpstart. 

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