Many times throughout the year, the 3rd graders will be split into groups to tackle a piece of literature together. We call this process "Literature Circles." The process usually goes something like this: each group gets a different piece of literature, which has been chosen based on the students' ability level or area of common interest. All groups are reading a piece under the umbrella of a certain theme. In this case, one group read an article from Studies Weekly about being a good citizen, and another read an article about the relationship between freedom and responsibility from a different issue of Studies Weekly.
First, the groups read their article together.
Then, each member was assigned a certain job.
After learning what their job entails, the students read the piece again, this time looking through the lens of that job.
Then, the students got to work. In this case, some groups had two students doing the same job. When this occurs, we get to see more than one interpretation of the task and of the piece of writing. We went through the writing process: planning, rough draft, editing, revising, and final draft. The final draft came in the form of a poster, to which each member of the group contributed.
The final step of the literature groups process is to share the article with the other group. This time around, we did our sharing through a group presentation. Each group got time to rehearse. We focused on speaking clearly, holding the poster so the audience can see, and also being respectful when it was our turn to be in the audience.
If you'd like a closer look at the final products, check out our bulletin board in the hallway!
Yesterday marked the beginning of our first conceptual unit of the school year! Each unit this year will combine language arts and social studies to create a blended subject called "humanities." Our first humanities unit is called "Building A Community," and it aims to deeply cover the 3rd grade Civics and Government standards alongside the reading and writing standards. We will examine the dynamics and levels of power that help our classroom community to function harmoniously, then use that understanding to learn about our local, state, and national government systems.
To start things off, we spent yesterday dissecting the concept of "rights." After all, our country was founded to secure and protect certain rights, and those rights are the reason why we have laws, elections, and governments in the first place! To begin, we read aloud a beautiful picture book called I Have the Right to Be a Child.
This powerful and beautifully illustrated book points out rights that children (and adults) often take for granted, such as the right to have enough to eat and to be free from violence. I wanted the children to hear the word "right" used over and over in context so that they would develop an intuitive sense of the meaning of the word.
Next, I wrote 4 sentence starters on 4 pieces of paper. "A right is kind of like..." "A right reminds me of..." "A right is not..." and "A right looks like..." The groups had one minute to jot down their thoughts on the page before rotating to the next page. In the end, the papers were covered in responses to the sentence starters.
Finally, after talking around the meaning of "right," we worked together to come up with our own definition:
A right is a rule or law that you fight for about what you are able to do.
Well, we're 5 days in and I can already tell that this is going to be a GREAT year.
How can I tell so early on? What makes a year "great," anyway?
The answer is simple: chemistry. As a teacher, I can only control so much. I can prepare exciting lessons and choose exciting topics, but my vision will fall apart if the students and I don't spend time at the beginning of the year developing a strong chemistry.
So important is this development that the first few weeks of school center around the non-academic. We take time to meet every morning as a group. We all greet each one another with eye-contact and intention. We take time to share something about ourselves and listen as others share. We practice listening, waiting, and paying attention through team-building exercises. The children fill empty bulletin boards and spaces with hand-made labels, schedules, and calendars. We take the time to pause and re-center anytime things start to go awry, because we want this calm, kind, and cooperative feeling to become a habit.
Without chemistry, collaboration becomes chaos. Challenge becomes frustration. Success is felt by individuals, not by the group.
So, here we are 5 days in, and I can confidently say that this group of 3rd graders is laying the foundation for a GREAT year.
Little people, big minds.