January 4, 2022
I had a list in my head if not in my basket as I hurried into that first grade class yesterday. I had a entire plan of reading/writing workshop worked out to introduce those returning first graders to nonfiction chapter books or ‘all-abouts’. The universe didn’t deter me right away… it took a few minutes.
The teacher, out today, had texted me asking for a read-aloud during reading workshop. I had volunteered to take on the workshop, ‘getting the kids off to a good start’. I thought about it on Sunday night and as I prepared for school on Monday. The plan started to gel on my commute, the dark, cold winter sky and the quiet car giving me space to consider a ‘soft-start’.
By the time I reached the literacy center, silent as most of the building, after a short winter’s sleep, I had the idea fairly formed. I quickly organized the All About Books in a variety of reading levels, momentarily disappointed that they were mostly about animals. I found my copy of Max Explains Everything, Puppy Expert. I quickly drew an ‘expertise’ organizer. I found some ‘book pages’ and copied enough for all the writers to have plenty. At 7:15, I thought I was ready.
Busying around, I checked in with the principal, met with my Monday collaborative teacher, did my car duty. Even though this was Monday after the holiday, everything seemed to be mostly smooth. At 9:50, I headed down to the first grade.
A substitute teacher I hadn’t met was there as the children were putting away their morning buckets. Good Morning, I said. I’m here to teach reading and writing. Oh, she said, taken aback. It says that we will have reading at 9:15, first we are having morning meeting. Recovering, she said, we’ll just go ahead with reading/writing and do this later, setting the paper aside.
I paused. I glanced through the typed plans. Greeting… Game…. hmmm.
The students gathered on their own in a circle. I brought a chair over and sat down in the circle with them. I paused again. I looked at them. I took a breath. I slowed down. Good Morning, I said. Let’s greet each other and tell news from our week away from each other. I turned to the student closest to me. Good Morning, George. I played some games with my family, but I didn’t win any of them…Around the circle we went, greeting each other and dropping some knowledge. I learned a lot about those students as they circled the room. This one likes Nintendo Switch, as does this one. This one built legos. This one spent some time with grandma and cousins. This one say a movie. This one went to the Discovery Museum. This one went to a football game in New Orleans. This one went to Hawaii… on and on. I learned a lot… a whole lot.
Ok, I said… let’s get started! I reached into my basket for my read aloud. Not there. I pause. In the process, the first graders are saying, NO! We play a game first! Ok, universe, I get the message. Slow down. Ok, I say, I’ll go down and get the book from the literacy center. You all play the game, then we will have reading when I come back.
I went to retrieve the book. Returning, I watched them play their Pop! game. At 9:15 as scheduled, we started reading. I knew a lot more about what they might be experts on for our writing workshop later, the substitute kept in her routine, the students got a softer start… Just as it should be. I took me a couple of minutes to get that message from the universe. Thank goodness I was listening.