Beep, beep, beep. The alarm sounds. I am torn from a restless sleep. It’s Monday and I still have five more weeks until spring break.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I’m a teacher and everyday is a little different from the one before which makes for some pretty interesting stories. It’s just that waking up on command, being “on” for a classroom of children, and no bathroom breaks get a bit tiresome when the days are so sunshiny and warm. Talk about spring fever! I’ve got it bad.
Or so I thought.
This morning I walked in and greeted my fellow third grade teammates. One had recently returned from a writing conference and was full of wonderful ideas to share. This same teammate has inspired me to read some blogs and books from a few notable professionals in the field of reading education. I’ve found all of what I’ve read to be the boost I’ve needed in my own reading classroom. Then, this morning she begins to talk about writing.
Here I thought I was doing such great things with reading and now she brings up how we should be doing more writing! Am I ever going to get it right? First, we’re not doing enough reading so I’ve set a standard with my students where every free second they have should be spent reading. Don’t ask me what you can do when you’re done, I say, because the answer is READ!
I am a competitive person and when someone says we’re not doing something my first reaction is to prove them wrong. So, I got to thinking. I have this entire day with my students (a luxury only afforded to me on Mondays as every other day is broken up with “specials”). I had planned to move on with our lesson on the Three Branches of the Government into the Judicial and Executive Branches but decided to scrap that and focus on some writing.
My students had participated in a discussion about how a bill becomes a law since we were studying the Legislative Branch. They had watched the classic “School House Rock” video, the same one I watched as a kid. They had also listed the steps on a post-it as their ticket out the door. So, knowing all of this I figured I would have them write an informational paragraph describing the steps a bill takes in order to become a law. I told them that they needed to “Inform, Explain, and Remind” in this paragraph. The inform was stating a topic sentence. The explain was explaining the different steps. The remind was to remind the reader what they were writing about using a concluding sentence.
They all began to write. The classroom immediately fell silent, the only sound being that of their pencils. Before they handed in the paper I asked if they had “DOL’d” them (checked for capitals and punctuation) and then I read them. What I found was a lot of restating of the list we had gone over the previous week. So, I conferenced with them individually, asking them clarifying questions. What is a veto? Why does Congress have to vote again if they already voted on the bill? Easily able to explain their thinking, I asked them to add it to their writing. In doing so these students really learned how a bill becomes a law. It wasn’t a set of steps they memorized and regurgitated for me. They can actually explain, in writing, the process a bill takes.
Now I know we read to learn but I never thought about how we also write to learn. I’ve been teaching for 11 years and today I finally got it. Today was my ah-ha moment. I love teaching for this reason alone. I love that a tired, spring-fever-feeling teacher can come to school and feel inspired. I really do have the best job in the world.