Doggie Paddling

It’s October. Which is kind of crazy, because I’m not entirely sure where September went. This school year is very different from years past – for a variety of reasons. More days than not, Jenny and I feel like we’re just barely keeping our heads above the water. The stress level is definitely high, but knowing that what we’re doing is what is best for our students is getting us through.

One of the new things we took on this year as a district is attempting to implement Curriculum Companion, which is a scope and sequence for teaching the Common Core Standards. We’re finding that the timing we originally planned was way off, which is due to us also taking on the workshop model. There are routines and expectations that need to be taught and practiced, which is what filled the majority of September. We needed our seventh graders to be on the MorningsideDuo train – and that is taking some time.

Now that we have those routines, procedures, and expectations down (well, for the most part anyway), we were able to dive in to some of our planned content. We’re starting our year with a focus on dystopian literature – a huge passion for both Jenny and I. This week, we worked on objective summaries with the short stories “The Lottery” and “Harrison Bergeron.” Kids are begging us for some stories with sunshine and unicorns that poop butterflies (their words, not ours!). 🙂 They are starting to make the connections to characteristics of dystopian societies, which is awesome! We can’t wait to launch our book club unit on them.

The book club unit is going to be awesome, and it’s what our kids need. Our students this year are largely reluctant readers, and seeing the results of the unit last year has us hoping that dystopia will help light their reading fires.

While we wait for that unit launch, we are continuing to work on Fisher-izing our classrooms, conference with students about their reading, work with Curriculum Companion, and keep our own heads on straight.



The Boys (and girls) are Back in Town

Football is back! And with that, school is back in session as well. After a summer that passed in what seemed like the blink of an eye, it’s back to the schedule and routine of the school year. Students came back to us this past Tuesday, and we hit the ground running. 

This first week back didn’t involve much in the way of diving into our workshop model. Our schedule was a bit wonky due to PBIS presentations, drills (fire, tornado, lockdown, evacuation), and the end-of-the-first-week PBIS celebration. We saw our kids 3 times, which gave us the time to talk expectations, familiarize students with our learning space (pictures coming soon!), and begin building our classroom communities. 

Friday hit and Jenny and I sat down to plan the upcoming week. When we looked at the document we created that outlined a general schedule for this workshop model, we realized we need to keep that schedule fluid and flexible. We may not hit each item each day, and that’s okay. What we want to make sure we are doing each day is including all four pieces of the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model. After an AMAZING professional development conference with Doug Fisher, this has become a big focus for us. We are also working on incorporating the activities from The First 20 Days from Fisher as well. 

The downside to this? We’re not sure how this will affect our tempo/pacing, or what we’ll get through in one day. We planned out Monday and Tuesday, and figured that before we plan our entire week, we need to get a feel for what our students need as far as time is concerned. Slowly, we are beginning to wade into the workshop pool this next week. There are a few goals we have for the week: getting a formal writing sample, set up reader’s and writer’s notebooks, History of a Reader writing mini-project, introduce the elements of a short story, and start dabbling in identifying a theme by using poetry. Then, we’ll begin welcoming students into our lovely dystopian world through short stories before we launch our book club unit. 

It’s definitely easy to feel overwhelmed at this point. I think I said to Jenny on Friday, “My head is going to explode.” And that is a feeling I don’t anticipate going away completely. Not only are we going on this workshop journey, we have some new expectations from our school district, along with getting used to the Teacher Effectiveness Project for teacher evaluation and all the documentation that goes along with that. The good news is we’re not alone in our endeavors, we have amazingly supportive administration, and our literacy coach is phenomenal. Without the support we have, this would be a much scarier undertaking.

Our kids are great, the year is off to a wonderful start, and football is back. What more could you ask for? 


PS – Go Pack Go!!