Monday, September 16, 2013

Confession: Too Much Too Soon

I'd bet this is the 5th 100th time I've sat down to write this post. This year brought some changes to my little teaching world that I underestimated. 

Over the last 4 years I've taught some combo of ELA, SS, and Science to two classes of students in a collaborative setting. This year we added a new teacher and a 3rd class into the mix, so we now have 64 students. 

It has been a while since I've had more than 45 students. The paperwork, management, kid shuffling, and makeup work situations have taken some time to get under control. Not that I'm a pro at it or anything now, but at least I don't feel like I'm drowning in paper (not daily anyway). 

My teammates and I chose to group our students in flexible ability groups. I support this method and have found, time and time again, that our students perform well in this type of situation and it helps me to tailor my teaching to their needs. 

What I was not prepared for was a class of 19 students who are reading significantly below grade level. Being in collaborative I've always had students way below grade level, but never an entire class. 

We started out with Reading Workshop rules and read to self for Daily 5. I didn't have enough books to keep them reading. My principal is very supportive immediately offered to order more books for us. We have 100 PreK-2 grade books coming, but they aren't here yet. 

In the meantime, we read Raymond and Graham Rule the School and we've worked on author's purpose, story elements, cause and effect, and a few other skills. 

It is not enough. I'm at that point where I feel like I'll never be able to do enough. There are so many things these kiddos need and, honestly, I've been overwhelmed and lost and more stressed than I've ever been during the first 5 weeks of school. 

The students are great to work with. We have a lot of fun together and they want to learn, so that does make things much easier. I've just been putting a lot of pressure on myself to already have it all together!! 

It feels both good and bad to finally put this out there. I started this blog as a way to share my ideas with other bloggers and teachers out there. I love all the ideas I get from reading other blogs, but I also have a tendency to compare myself and my class to what others are doing. 

I jumped in way too fast this year. I didn't have the resources I needed in my classroom library to start out with Daily 5 the way I wanted, so we've just bounced around with different skills and routines. I needed to go back to more of the basics, but the pull of the pacing guide and testing got the better of me this time around! I just felt pressured to push them right into the curriculum and we should've eased our way in a little more. 

It has been a struggle to establish a homework routine, but we are certainly much closer on that. We have established a great word of the day routine and I feel like we are making progress with vocabulary through that. Writing is really a struggle. Even a complete sentence is difficult for us right now and capitalization and punctuation are just all over the place! 

This will be a year when I have to constantly remind myself that I must do what is best for my children to advance them as far as I can. We will get this down and we will begin to see progress, it is just going to be slower with this class than with the others. 

Since we are departmentalized we only have 90 minutes per class. That is not a lot of time considering how much help my kiddos need. 

Now, the pity party/whiny portion of this post is over. I always believe in having a plan, even if I don't follow it or it doesn't turn out right! Here is the plan: 

1. As soon as our 100 new books get here I will start each child a book bag. This bag will stay in my classroom and will be used for Read to Self. Each child will get a shopping day one time a week. 

2. We will begin working on our stamina for read to self. 

3. I will introduce read to someone. We will model, model, model and I will reread the Daily 5, daily if I must to get this down pat!! 

4. I'm going to try this for a schedule at least 4 days a week: 
15 min. Mini Lesson
20 min. Daily 5 rotation 
15 min. Mini Lesson
20 min. Mini Lesson 
20 min. Vocabulary/listen to reading 

5. I will repeat: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can 10 times each day! LOL 

Any suggestions?! Anyone have experience with restarting Daily 5? 

Friends, thank you so much for listening while I spill it all! You are wonderful! I am thankful for the inspiration I get from each of you! 


  1. Hang in there. We all have years that are more frustrating than others. I don't use Daily Five so I'm not really much help...but I know that you will make it work once you get the books you need. I'm glad to hear your principal is supportive.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

  2. My year is similar in ways. We are departmentalized too, 55 minute sections. I'm forever behind this year, a grade level full of talkers, and several students who don't want to try. I had one student just today who when given the opportunity to redo an assignment, looked me in the eye and said, "No I don't want to, I don't care." A month in, I still spend 10-12 hours at the school everyday. I feel like my wheels are spinning, that I'm not making progress with the students, and the level of enjoyment is not there (lack of sleep probably doesn't help.)

    No the most encouraging response... but I feel for ya. We'll make it through the trenches this year and come out on top. Just wait and see! :)

    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road

  3. One day at a time!! We have so much pressure to jump right into the curriculum....don't blame yourself. You will move mountains.....just keep doing what you're doing :)

  4. The best advice I can give is...take each day one day at a time. It's easy to get worked up thinking about how much you have to cover and such a short amount of time, but you have to get them through the basics in order to move forward. Take it back to where they are and go from there. You know in your heart, that's the best thing. Keep your expectations, but not so high that the kids and yourself are set up to fail. Use lots of positive motivators and give them breaks to be fourth hard and play hard. One of the best things that I found last year was getting rid of meaningless homework. It took so much pressure off of the kids as well as myself. All they were required to do was READ for at least 20-30 minutes a day. There is a ton of research to support that homework in elementary school does not help with achievement. I believe it! It's easy to read what everyone else is doing and feel pressure also. Don't do that...step back and realize that what you are doing for your kids is what is best for YOUR kids. You've got this, Courtney!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  5. I would recommend that you replace one of your mini-lessons with one-to-one conference time with students. Those 19 readers need more guidance and encouragement and talking with them individually can influence their reading habits and skills more than a mini-lesson.


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