Friday, July 7, 2017

It's More Than Free Time

I, like many other teachers, begin the first week of school with sharing my favorites:  favorite color, book, activity, movie, etc.  I invite my students to do the same over the week.  I keep notes for each student as they share.  I want to take note of what motivates each child and how to connect with everyone. Each year there is at least one child that says recess is his or her favorite subject in school.  Recess?  Is that a subject?  When I ask why, I am usually met with the same answer:  “…because you get to do whatever you want”.  Think about that…they like to have a choice in their activities.  This isn’t a new notion (people typically like to choose their own activities).  So what do we do? 

In my past & current district, we had (have) a block of time for intervention.  All interventional support should be done during this time.  This includes any pullout programs (Tier 3) and any Tier 2 groups (done in the classroom).  I’ll be honest, this 45-minute block was a pretty bland time in my room.  Some kids went out, some kids worked on reteach or retest items at my small groups, and the other kiddos read or worked on math stations.  Once I began rethinking how my teaching could be more beneficial to my students, I began to rethink this time in my classroom.  For me, this meant teaching to my student’s passions. 

I began by renaming this intervention time to “PAL” time:  Passionate About Learning.  By simply changing the name, I began to change my mindset along with my student’s mindset.  The first week of school I took this time to introduce what PAL time would be for the students.  This would be a time to explore their passions, what they wanted to learn more about, and how they wanted to learn.  We began by creating a list of passions.  Each child was given a journal.  The first page was entitled, “My Passions”.  We made a list of things we wanted to learn more about, research, or know how it works.  We shared out lists the next day.  While “Logan” (any student) was sharing his list, the class was listening for commonalities.  If they heard something in common, they would write “Logan’s” name next to the passion listed in their journal.  This was for future reference in case the students wanted to partner in their learning later on in the year.  In the first week we had a list of further learning (and excitement for learning by the students) and possible partnerships for learning in the future!  How exciting!

The second week of PAL time we discussed how to write down open-ended questions.  We discussed how to use online resources for research.  We discussed how to write complete sentences when answering the questions (and how to paraphrase instead of copying work).  And guess what?!!??!  The students were excited to do this…excited to learn…excited to share what they were working on!

Once we got in a routine, the students were completely self-motivated and self-driven.  I still pulled my small groups, but instead of me driving the groups, the student’s passions drove the groups.  We still read, still worked on basic math, and still worked on our writing….but it was all passion driven.  Students and I would read books together on their topic, work on refining complete sentences, and work on math problems associated with the research/learning.   They saw it as me helping them, not teaching them.  They saw me as a partner in the learning, not just a teacher teaching. 

At the end of each nine weeks (that’s how our grading period worked), each student shared what he/she worked on during PAL time.  Some students had multiple projects, but they chose one that they were most proud of to share…some students only had one to share.  But everyone shared something.  They loved it!  Some had actual small dioramas, some had Google Presentations, and some had written books on their topic…but all were proud.  By the end of the year, I had multiple students write in their memory books that PAL time was their favorite time of the year! 

Think about it...what will your intervention time look like this coming school year?  How might you rethink this time in your classroom?  How can a simple mind shift help you better plan for intervention time?  Share your ideas with comments below!


vking said...

Thanks for this great explanation of PAL time. I like this idea for how to give choice and voice to students.

Chloe Cole said...

I love how you introduced this in the beginning of the year! Such a fabulous idea!