The Unifying Force of Literature


We are having a great summer camp at school this year. The mornings have an academic focus working on reading, writing, and math. The afternoons have a wide range of activities from coding to farming and a lot in between. 
This week I had the opportunity to spend a little time in my daughters class and was able to see how powerful children’s literature can be. My kids do not go to the school where I teach, but I am able to bring them to our summer program. Bringing them to a new place can bring some nervousness though. How will my kids do? Will they be accepted? Will they have fun? Will they make new friends?

I was able to answer all those questions with this one short visit. 

One of the things I love about my school is their acceptance of new friends. Taking my kids to summer camp is a privilege because I love where I work and the kids that go there. I trust that my kids will be taken care of by the adults there and will be befriended by its students. 

Seeing my M with her new friends there today was a complete blessing and it reminded me of how books can bring people together. These two laughed together, took turns reading aloud, talked about the pictures, and talked about the book together. 


Isn’t is great that we have such wonderful books and stories to bring us together! 

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Anchor Charts

I’m always a little funny about anchor charts. I find that many of them become “art work” and aren’t necessarily utilized by students. I think anchor charts should be a reflection of what is happening and needed in class and should be referenced by students throughout the day/week to answer questions about they need to be successful, stay on task, and productive. Some might say, they aid the students. 


This week, my reading groups forced me to make some anchor charts… and I loved it. It reminded me of the true purpose of them. My students wanted to be reminded of what tasks we were doing without me having to go over the directions each time. Once I had these up, my small groups were more efficient and productive. Anchor charts can be wonderful tools, but if they aren’t being created because of, by, or with the students, they may best be left on Pinterest. 

¡Mi casa es grande!

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I have been rereading A Quick Guide to Boosting English Acquisition in Choice Time the past day or so, and I was reminded of something I had seen in class a few weeks ago while observing some students during choice time.

While they were working, I heard a group working in one of my building centers with some Brackitz. One of the boys had just finished building a home with the planks and he announced to his group, “¡Mi casa es grande!”

It caught my attention because it was said in Spanish and he, and his group, had been speaking rather excitedly about all they had been building in English. While it was said in a language that was foreign and not understandable to most of his group, they didn’t miss a beat. They all got it. They all understood. And I thought that was one of the coolest things I had seen all day.

One of the things I’ve started allowing the past couple of years, is opportunities for my English Language Learners to speak in their native tongue. While I may not understand, if they are in the midst of play, does it really matter? I teach kindergarten. At this age children, regardless of what language they speak, are still developing and growing in their vocabulary. It’s my understanding that a lack of schema, which is “relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience,” can hinder comprehension in reading. I think it also applies to language development. If we deny our English Language Learners the opportunities to develop language in their native tongue, it will have an adverse effect on their learning of English.

I think the English will come naturally for my students. Most of my population speaks English. I conduct the majority of my day in English. When in choice time, it’s a good chance that they will be playing and talking with native English speakers. They will get it. A coworker of mine was telling me recently that it takes 3-5 years for English Language Learners to develop social language and 4-7 years to develop academic language. This shows, quite plainly, that it takes time. I am working with kindergarteners. This is not going to be “their year” to master it. My native English speakers are probably not going to master it either! What they need to be given is the opportunities to grow and develop their schema.

Now, back to the book. Why is imperative that we give all of our students ample amounts of choice time? Why is it so important? According to the book, choice time is powerful for many reasons. Some of the ones they listed are:

  • “It is safe.”
  • “It is visual and hands-on.”
  • “It occurs within a sea of language.”
  • “It is accessible to everyone.”
  • “It connects to other parts of the day.”

Choice time is a vital part of my day. It is my belief that some version of choice time should be happening in every classroom from PK all the way through elementary/primary/intermediate school. It’s important for all of our students and their language development.

Worthy


“Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.”‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭GNB‬‬

I know this isn’t a normal start for a post of mine, but I read this the other morning and something about this verse struck me, and, whether you are a person of faith or not, I ask you to please stick with me. 

“He placed his hands on each of them..”

Let me give some backstory as to why. This was a story of Jesus. It was the end of the day. He and his disciples had been traveling and teaching all day, and, at the end of the day, up walk a group of parents who wanted to bring their kids to see and meet Jesus. The story goes on to tell of the frustration of the disciples, but not Jesus. He took time for each and every one of them. 

What struck me from this was the importance of each and every child. As a teacher, it’s so important for us to see the value of each and every student, child, person we come into contact with. 

Someone told me once that each child we get in our class is the very best version of what we are being given. What does this mean? I think it means that each student we get is the very best version of themselves at the moment they come to us. So many times we, as teachers, can look at our class as “that class” or maybe a student as “that student” and we shouldn’t…. as tempting as that may be sometimes. 

In the verse and story, each child was seen as worthy of His time. Each child was seen worthy of His touch. Each child was seen as worthy of His words. 

We need to always remember just how vitally special and unique each and every student we every come into contact with is. They are all worth our time and words. No matter how tired or how frustrated we may be. They are all worth our very best and we are so fortunate and lucky to be able to call them our students, and, sometimes, our kids.