The first week of school is fast approaching, and I’m already battling my usual pre-school anxiety. But this year, in addition to the typical back to school nerves, I’m even more anxious because I am completely revamping how I teach my Heritage 1 course. For as much as I have read and collaborated and prepared, I still kind of feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.
It’s not the first time I’ve made major changes to my course. In fact, last summer I completely rewrote my curriculum, and it was overall quite successful. But after I was introduced to writing workshop, I realized that it was the direction I really wanted to go in. Every year I say that I want my students to learn to be better writers. Yet every year, even when I add more writing assignments, I fail to add more writing instruction. It’s not really all that surprising; after all, I never learned how to teach writing.
So, this year is going to be different. In addition to my focus on independent reading, I am adding writing workshop. Students will write every day, and I will be teaching them specific writing skills that we will work on together throughout the year. No more wishing that they magically improve their writing. This year, I have a plan.
Part of that plan is jumping into our routines on day one. It worked for me last year with independent reading (actually, that went even better than expected), so I’m hopeful that it will work for me this year, too.
My plan for Day 1 (August 19!!!) looks like this:
- Welcome students / Warm up with some questions about how they feel about reading and writing in English and in Spanish / Go over objectives for the day
- Read aloud: 10 Cosas que quiero que sepas de esta clase
- Quick write: Students will write about the letter we read (NOT a summary of it) for 5 minutes
- Revision: Students will read their writing and revise it to make it better for 2 minutes
- Share: Students will read their writing (not summarize it) to a nearby partner of their choice (3 minutes)
When I’m honest with myself, I recognize that this will likely take the entire 50-minute period. But because I always over-plan (hello again, anxiety), I have also planned some activities to jump into our independent reading. These include doing brief book talks on a pile of high-interest books, and giving students the opportunity to browse the books and read some of them for a couple of minutes to see what they might like. Again, I’m fairly certain we won’t have time, and that’s okay. I can always start with that on Day 2.
My non-negotiables for the year are that EVERY DAY students will:
- Read something they choose
- Read something they understand
- Write about something personally meaningful
- Talk with peers about reading and writing
- Listen to a fluent adult reader read aloud
These came from a presentation by Amy Rasmussen (find her at her blog, Three Teachers Talk), and they really resonated with me. So why not start on Day 1? Students don’t want to listen to me talk about the syllabus and rules for 50 minutes anyway, and I’ve always hated spending my first minutes with them convincing them that my class will be a huge bore. My hope is that this plan teaches students what to expect in class, while at the same time introducing the routines and letting them get to know me right from the start.