My brain has been all over the place lately, but something that I keep coming back to is choice time. I have so many questions!
* How can I use this more to empower students?
* What can I do to make stronger connections and tie ins to literacy? Math? Other content areas?
* What do I need? What do I already have?
* How can I add a journaling component?
* Who should be doing choice time?
This last question has been a thorn in my side these past two years as I’ve learned more about choice time. I had an opinion, BUT I think my opinion is changing. I also feel like my newest opinion may be more accurate.
Last year I strongly felt that all students through kindergarten should be participating in some sort of choice time so I added STEAM Fridays to my schedule. Fortunately I have great leadership who supported this move. After a month or so of doing it, I started having some 1st and 2nd graders beg me to come “play” with us. Since I have an inability to say no, I would allow some to come only with the permission of their teachers.
Over the summer and fall, I became a student of this and read several books. Among my favorites were: (not affiliate links)
1. Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play, PreK-2 – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E07765.aspx
2. Purposeful Play: A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep and Joyful Learning Across the Day – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E07788.aspx
3. A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time, K-2 – http://www.heinemann.com/products/E02615.aspx
When the new year started, I decided to make this a daily routine. It was an absolute joy to see and experience, but the experience did lead to the first four questions on the aforementioned list. The last question blossomed from a number of 3rd-5th graders who started asking to come down and “help” my kids specifically during this time. Again, inability to say no, I told them they had to have teacher permission. This process did have some hiccups, but the observations of our older friends led me to change my opinion once again.
I now strongly feel that 3rd-5th graders need these experiences too! I have said before that through these experiences “compassion, respect, honesty, trust, courage, resilience, creativity, self-awareness, community, a sense of wonder and inquiry, empathy….” can be nurtured and developed. It’s true for these older students too. Let them be children!
For those still on the fence, let me address my picture. These are two 3rd grade students who came down to “help” this week. (They really did part of the time reading with several students and moving through our centers with some too!) After some time I noticed them move over and start playing together with these dolls. They started pointing and talking and moving the pieces around so I had to go investigate. Pulling a chair up to their table, I just sat and observed, watching and listening as they worked. They began categorizing and sorting all the different pieces. They discussed who could wear the different outfits and why. These moved things around if they decided that their initial ideas were wrong. They spoke in multiple languages which lets me know that native tongue and English were being merged with deeper conversations since they were being given time to investigate. Everything about what they did was positive and purposeful and developmentally appropriate for what they needed at the time. I was lucky to just be a silent observer with permission to just watch. This entire experience was proof that our older students in grades 3-5 need choice time as well.