I have spent the final days of summer going over how I will start the year as we all normally do during those last sunny days. This year will be a different experience for me as I start planning September. I ended last year with the CIA training and completed one unit of study (Shiloh). This year I will be starting the year with CIA and I plan on completing 3 units of study (Shiloh, Castle in the Attic, and Streams to the River…). For the most part, my previous planning for my first couple of weeks of school has stayed the same. I use this time to try and build as much of a class community as possible. This is crucial for building trust with my students. I make sure I have time planned for students to share their stories from the summer, play team building games, and complete several “getting to know you” activities. This is very important for our class chemistry and it provides the foundation of our partner work and Turn and Talks. This year I have made it a focus to start the year teaching about Turn and Talks knowing how much I will be using them in future CIA lessons. During the first few days I assigned students with Turn and Talk buddies. When we need to work with a partner, have a question, or share our ideas, I have been using Turn and Talks. We came up with some “guidelines” of our expected behaviors during this activity. My students have fun acting out the “right way” and “wrong way” to do this. This also reinforces what the expected behaviors should look and sound like during a Turn and Talk.
The next thing I want to introduce is how to use a sentence stem. The great part about CIA is the use of stems and how they can guide a student into communicating effectively with a partner. This has always been a challenge when you ask students to share their thoughts with a partner. Now they know what the structure and roles are in the Turn and Talk and the sentence stems guide them in effective communication. I have introduced the stems to them in our science and math lessons. This gives them the practice of responding with a stem and they are ready to go once we start CIA.
Purpose Statement and Code of Conduct
Another activity that sets the tone for the year which we do as a whole school is the class creation of a Purpose Statement and Code of Conduct. By completing these documents as a class the students are part of the process and they are agreeing to expectations that they feel are important and most importantly that they can achieve. I routinely remind my students about our expectations once they are posted and have them self-assess on their behavior. These routines are also important for when we get started in CIA.
Now that my routines and expectations are introduced and practiced I try to casually mention CIA and reference the Quadrant Posters in my room (a must have!). Last year the 3rd graders at my school all completed a unit of study in CIA and they are very excited and have the background already set in place! I have a few new students who keep asking, “What is this CIA stuff all about?” The students that have experience with this from last year get all excited and reply “CIA is so COOL!” So this year it will be a lot easier working with students as we enter into our first unit and they are anxious to get the story started.
The week before I launch my unit I prep our notebooks as a class. I have received some different ideas from other teachers in my building about how to set up notebooks (We have 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades using CIA in my building!). I let the students pick a Secret Agent name and we glue our CIA badges into our notebooks and I give them a copy of the book cover as a title page for their notebook.
Now we are ready to get started on our first unit! I can’t wait to share some of the project ideas that we have for CIA!