Thursday, March 6, 2008

Working on the Work

2nd Grade WOW (Working on the Work) Wednesday was a huge success! The ELA team began their day in Mrs. Mallon’s Kindergarten classroom where they observed the 30-minute fast paced morning Skills Block.

Children were gathered on the carpet in their meeting area as Maria began with her Morning song, Children's Name song, and swiftly moved into the children reviewing their letter combination charts and initial blends.

Next, came the morning message. Morning message is a short message written by the teacher that lacks some form of punctuation including capitalization, quotation marks, commas, and even missing letters. The teacher called a student to the board to spend a few seconds correcting the message. That student then quickly called on another child who eagerly bounced to the board to begin correcting the message. Frequently, Mrs. Mallon asked, "Why did you put a comma there?" Or, "How did you know to put quotation marks?" Students not only corrected mistakes within the message but they also circled letter combinations and beginning blends. In addition, there was a vocabulary magnet that a student placed in the sentence next to a vocabulary word--delighted. This fast paced activity was seamless and the teacher keep an eye on the time. Not all the mistakes were corrected in time, so Mrs. Mallon finished making the corrections. Then, the students did a shared reading of the message.

Before you knew it, another song was playing, students were jumping up and beginning to dance. When the song ended students quickly calmed, and quietly sunk back to the floor. Mrs. Mallon guided the lesson into word families as she called on students to help her fill in words for the ide family--slide, stride, tide.

After that, students worked on a new skill--compound words. They matched words from the left side of a pocket chart to the right side and made the new compound word. To conclude, students returned to their seats to do an independent compound word sort activity and the teacher facilitated by moving table to table, checking student's understanding of compound words. We enjoyed every minute of our Skills Block observation.

After the lesson, 2nd Grade teachers gathered in the conference room to debrief. They noted Maria's firmly established rituals and routines, the quick transition between skills/activities, the integration of movement and music with learning, and the depth and consistency of the skills being taught. In addition, they loved the total integration of so many skills covered at one time.

They immediately began drawing parallels to their own work. They verbalized that they wanted to incorporate morning message, vowel combination charts, and music in their own skills block time. They reflected on what part of their Skills Block they thought was effective and what they desired to change. Without delay, they used conversation to spring board into new ideas like including a shared reading activity using a poem into their morning routine. They couldn't wait to get started!

Next, the teachers reviewed the Skills Block portion of the Kindergarten and First Grade pacing guides, so they could compare it to their Second Grade pacing guide. This vertical alignment discussion proved important because we made the decision to rearrange and change the Second Grade pacing guide for next year based off their conversation. We also noted that we did not have enough vocabulary development at 2nd Grade after reviewing the standards. To correct that issue, we turned to Text Talks, and will incorporate this read aloud / vocabulary routine into our instruction.

Unlike Kindergarten and 1st Grade, at Chets, 2nd Grade classes are departmentalized. That means to ensure a 30-minute Skills Block, we must look at the overall schedule. We have to ensure that 60 minutes is set aside for both Readers' Workshop and Writers' Workshop, too. Therefore, we spent the remainder of the day asking ourselves questions:
  • Do we have 2 hours and 30 minutes set aside for our morning class?
  • Do we have 2 hours and 30 minutes set aside for our afternoon class?
  • Could we break Skills Block into two 10 minute sessions? Would that be effective?
  • Could we change our lunch and resource time to make sure we have these two blocks of time?
  • Should all classes be co-teach instead of departmentalized to allow for a more flexible schedule in the day?
  • What are the most age appropriate and critical skills Second Graders need to master?
  • Could we do a better job of planning with our Math and Science teachers to assure skill alignment in the subject areas?

The day was focused on one task analyzing Skills Block to create vertical alignment and accountability, and I can't think of a more productive professional development session!

1 comment:

dayle said...

I have long been an admirer of Maria Mallon's Skills Block because it moves quickly, integrates music so seemlessly with a depth that is remarkable for her young learners. What a wonderful place for 2nd grade to start a discussion! Looks like you have begun to solve a problem with time that has plagued 2nd grade for a long time. Kudos to you! dayle