The students and I know our classroom would have been a very different place without CIA this year.
- CIA determined our reading block structures (we missed it when we had breaks between).
- CIA set a social studies theme that helped us with our actual social studies big ideas.
- CIA helped me facilitate student independent work habits in a gradual release model.
- CIA filtered into our math block with structure, conversation moves, partner skills.
The students know:
- CIA gave them an a manageable way to attack chapter books and challenge themselves successfully.
- CIA led to a feeling of community and an expectation of participation/ partner problem solving.
- CIA read-aloud choices were interesting and stimulated deep thinking and connections.
- CIA enthusiasm determined what subjects they researched on their own.
- Poppy and Mr. Ocax will always be our archetype protagonists/ antagonists and who we compare future hero/ villains against.
- CIA was a lot of fun (some even wrote about it in their letters to 4th grade teachers).
We are at the “Read In” days for Glory Be. It is a nice way to end the year, just as Poppy was a nice way to start the year. I think the progression of deeper thinking and how mature 3rd graders needed to be for each read aloud worked really well. I can see their end of the year 3rd grade minds making such deep connections and yet still holding on to the earliest work we did with our Patricia Polacco study and Poppy.
After teaching several CIA units and a book club:
I have noticed that this time the word “circumstances” really meant something to the students as we discussed the idea of “the way it’s always been” in Glory Be and where we get our ideas of how the world works (and if we can change the ideas we are taught.) We used the genre poster more because I put it behind me on the white board and we used post-its to write our findings from the blurb on the poster. Having the poster behind me also encouraged me to point to it and refer to the “What Readers Think About” section whenever we needed to focus our purpose (I started referring more specifically to that section on the biography poster for MLK too.)
Next year, I plan to organize my space a bit differently by moving my screen to give me more whiteboard space and put my quadrant posters out of the way to free up some poster space. I found myself having to flip around on my easel more than I liked instead of referring to a poster. I also want to remember how I started their independent reading this year, by giving them the same objective / chart to try that we were using in our read aloud and then share at the end of the session. I think that really helped them structure their own independent reading (such as character lists, setting maps, etc.) for the rest of the school year.
I also noticed with Glory Be that my students really had a rough time understanding who was African American and who was white. The idea of power v. oppression from our MLK book was firmly rooted along race lines for the students, but in Glory Be the idea of others helping the oppressed who were not like them (such as Freedom Workers) made for a blurry visualization. Even though I like to encourage kids to make their own ‘mind movie’ while they read, I think next year I would post some character sketches for the main characters to help us understand who they were. I also might do a continuum about equal rights or segregation to show where everyone stands and maybe how they change as the story goes on. I know they were shocked that Glory thought nothing of segregation of first. It was just “the way it always had been.”
My final thought is around accommodations for students who struggled to keep up with the massive amount of student output I required with charting, discussion, and quadrant writing. I did accommodate everyone with optional quadrant writing frames to glue into notebooks, but I had a handful of students who consistently had to catch-up on charts or quadrant writing and it was exhausting for both them and myself. For some students, this was a fine motor need and I think pre-typing some charts and giving it to them at the end of the session to glue into their notebooks may be appropriate. For other students it was a general disorganization and I think I need to be more deliberate in how we set up our notebooks with tabs and sections. I still love the idea of composition books as a collection of their thoughts for the year but I also see the value in a reading binder and loose leaf paper/ dividers. I’m not exactly sure how I want to do that yet. Many students were able to create a useful tool in their notebook; again, it was the handful that needed constant support or backtracking that really needed more structures from me (perhaps the binder would be an accommodation for only a few.)
The last accommodation I need to think about is for students who needed more than peer modeling and sentence stems over the course of the year. I had a few students whose oral language needs made turn and talk very difficult. I may decide to have some groups of 3 just for those students to get that extra peer modeling and they may have the sentence stem in their own hands instead of referring to the wall. For those that really struggled to share the evidence that went with the sentence stem, I need to think of what I can do to further scaffold just for them, since most students did well with the basic structures. By the spring, only 2-3 students still have days where they look anxious, lost, or cannot form a sentence, and all for different reasons. The key all year was finding the just right partner for them: caring, patient, and willing to prompt them.