Day 4: The First Fifteen

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my day every day in chronological order,11454297503_e27946e4ff_h sequentially.

I start my day twice. With two classes, the nature of my school life is a “do over.”

The first fifteen minutes of both classes are choice literacy. Students get to choose their literary desire. A graphic novel, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Scholastic Magazine, blog, read a picture book, write a bit of poetry, refine a story, shop for books, request books, talk about books. And sometimes just talk.

Fifth graders love to talk, and if the opportunity presents, all will partake. I understand. I tolerate it for a while. Then, some days sooner than others, I remind students:

“Readers! Writers! Choice literacy means choosing to read or write. What are you reading or writing?”

The noise dies down. Books, notebooks, Chromebooks open.

Reading clubs come to the carpet to shop. I book talk The Watson’s Go to Birmingham as a follow up to the club’s last read, One Crazy Summer. The group of conscientious boy readers is attentive.  They listen and then read. I watch. Two of the four are intently reading. The other two have set the book down and gaze at titles on the bookshelf. Next, they check out a James Patterson book, one of the I Funny series. As much as I want them to read the Watsons, it’s their choice. The group is split. Negotiations begin. They agree to read I Funny first. The Watsons second. The deal is done.

Choice time has eight minutes left.

Chatter and whispers follow the boys to their seats.  Then finally, students settle. Into an intense quiet. This quiet is personal. Self-directed. Students are together but alone. I cherish these minutes. This place of self-sustained absorption.

I plan to take this time to confer with a student. And I do. But sometimes I stop and watch. Heads down buried in words. This is their time, and I hesitate to break the spell for any student who has found a sweet spot.

But, there are lessons to learn and ideas to share.

“Readers. Writers. Finish the sentence you are on, and join me on the carpet.”

The quiet vanishes and our day of chatter, clatter, rustling papers, and the occasional thud of a flipped water bottle begins.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life March Challenge. Read more slices here.

17 thoughts on “Day 4: The First Fifteen

  1. What a good idea to name this morning time choice literacy. I can relate to the moment when you know you should confer yet just watching gives an immense emotion. Have a lovely weekend!

  2. “Choice literacy” is an absolutely awesome term! Also loved the phrase, “Students are together but alone.” Your work to grow engaged readers and writers sounds spot on. Great slice. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. I love the images of this very active classroom. “The occasional flipped water bottle” You accept these things as part of who they are as 5th graders.

  4. I, too, start with a soft opening and I love it. I can totally relate to this, “I tolerate it for a while. Then, some days sooner than others…” Some days my patience lasts so much longer than others and I feel so guilty about that. Glad I’m not the only one.

  5. What a lovely window on your mornings. Lucky kids. Your words pieced together paint a poignant picture of the beginning of each class. The nature of your school life “a do over”. “hate to break the spell”. Love the feeling in that room. The flipped bottle made me laugh, too.

  6. What a way to start your learning each day! I love the “choice literacy” term. I had to laugh at the “do over” because many times my first period is nothing like the ones that follow because of “do overs!” Your students are so lucky to have you!

  7. This is a perfect example of teaching independence through offering choice. Your students are able to learn so much more than just literacy through all you allow them to do in 15 minutes every day. Thanks for the detailed glimpse.

  8. There at the end you mentioned the reluctance to interrupt and I connected to that. When everyone was writing and/or reading so intently, it was hard to call students out of “the zone” to talk. Love imagining this ebb and flow of your day’s beginnings.

  9. Once again, this beginning routine shows what a master teacher you are. Your details allow the reader to be the fly on the wall. What a writer you are!

  10. First, I loved peeking into your Reading Writing classroom. Then, I celebrated that the annoying flipped water bottle habit happens every where. Can we have a collective AHHHHH! But back to your room – wish I could be a fly on the wall for days at a time.

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