Laura Candler invited teachers at Teachers Pay Teachers to join a “link up” about a caring classroom. I wondered what I could say in relation to my theme of vocabulary development. After a short brainstorming session, I realized that without a feeling of being valued, students won’t be successful with any ideas presented in class. In other words, every topic must reflect a caring classroom.
Students need strategies for success, personal connections, a chance to be heard, and to know they are valued and loved.
Struggling readers need specific strategies for success, carefully chosen by close monitoring of their strengths and weaknesses. Those strategies are the types of things I want to talk about here on my blog. For example, lessons that teach them to recognize definitions, restatements, examples, comparisons or contrasts, descriptions, and synonyms or antonyms given with new words in the sentence or paragraph increase their ability to read independently. Everyone deserves to feel successful every day!
During read alouds I often stop and ask students to make personal connections to a story. The connections can be as simple as a thumbs up, thumbs down about a character’s choice in the story or as complex as a chance to draw and write about the choice they would’ve made. Some favorite read alouds I use at the beginning of the year include Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester (What makes you an odd bird? What makes you good to have around?), Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (What’s your favorite game? What’s your favorite meal? Have you ever felt like you weren’t wanted? What makes you wilt? What makes you bloom?), and The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown (What is something you know about an apple, a glass, a shoe … ? Tell about you, what is the most important thing about you?).
It is so important that, throughout the day, students have a chance to be heard. We talk often with shoulder partners, face partners, and teams. Cooperative learning is an excellent resource for a Caring Classroom because students have so many opportunities to say what they think. My favorites are Line Ups (in the first week of school I do birthdays, number of siblings, and number of years at our school), Think – Pair – Share (this provides a great chance for everyone to be ready and then to share), and simple Mix-Match activities.
Graphing and glyphs are fun ways to incorporate personal information about students into activities. We graph eye color, birthdays, and how we get home from school (very important graph on that first day!). We make bioglyphs to post to learn more about each other.
I’ve been considering an idea this summer, as a way to show students they are valued. It is called “The Best Gift.” My idea is to beautifully package a box with the shiniest paper and the sparkliest ribbon. Inside I would put my class list or a class picture. I would bring it into school on the second day and tell the class that yesterday I got the BEST GIFT EVER! But, I’m not ready to open it yet, I love how it looks too much. Every day I would mention it or say something about how special it must be. I would keep this going for a month or 6 weeks or longer. Then I’d start watching for the perfect time—when my class made me feel especially proud or maybe when I feel especially let down. Then I will open it and gush about how special they are and how much good and happiness they bring me. If I were to get another student before the opening I would bring another little box to join the big one, or I could secretly open the box and add him in.
This would work for me because I have this odd quirk: I enjoy unopened presents more than opened ones. I don’t have any need or desire to know what is in the wrapping. I could tantalize my class forever.
What do you think? Would they feel loved or would it make them frustrated?
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