My Shifting Perspective

4 10 2013

This year, I have moved from teaching Grade 3 to teaching Grade 6. That changes everything! These kids have strong opinions.. and they’re not afraid to let me know. The other day, we were taking a little “brain break” during a particularly challenging math class, so I plugged my phone into the speakers and pulled up my music play-list just to break up the tension with an impromptu dance party. Within a few minutes, a group of girls approached me to ask if I had any “good music”. Yes, indeed, these kids know what they like… and don’t.
The same is true when it comes to instruction. In the first few weeks, I was intentionally building my literacy routines.. establishing times for independent reading and writing; and creating intentional blocks of time for reading and writing instruction. One morning, I said “Today we’re going to start guided reading”. My kids audibly groaned. It was as if someone had sucked the air right out of our classroom. “What?” I asked, “You don’t like guided reading?”
“No” they replied, “It’s always the same”, “I don’t want to read in front of others”, “It’s boring!” they shared.
Oh no!!! How am I going to teach a group of kids – who are turned off of guided reading? The words of my favourite mentor David Booth returned to haunt me… I was in a similar position a few years ago, and he told me: “You’re doing it wrong! You need to stop teaching reading! These kids already know how to read, they need to learn how to use reading.”  The next day, as I pondered my guided reading lesson, it did seem rather flat, rather boring, rather monotonous.  Was it just me?  The more I looked at the text, the more mono-dimensional and flat it seemed.  Where was the student’s voice? Where was their choice? How can I use their knowledge and curiosity in order to engage them?  It seemed the perfect place to ‘play in the inquiry sandbox’.

The next day, I took a risk.  As I sat at the guided reading table with my group of kids – all slumped in their chairs – probably dreading our time together like I would a root canal, I removed my iPhone from my pocket and placed it on the table.  We started to read the text together.  We were learning about space, and I had selected a non-fiction piece.  After reading a small passage, about the moon (there is no wind on the moon therefore Neil Armstrong’s footprints will be there for a million years), I said, “I want to show you something”.  Now, I’m not pretending that I’m the first to pose the lunar-landing-conspiracy-theory, but at that moment, my kids thought I was a genius!  My students looked on with curiosity as I handed each of them my phone in order to examine the image of the flag (apparently) flying on the lunar surface. Neil%20Armstrong%20on%20the%20moon[1] “What does this mean?” they asked. “I don’t know”, I replied, “But sometimes it’s fun to ask questions that we don’t know the answers to”.

“Lets see if there’s a video” someone suggested.  “Good idea”.. and the inquiry began.  As we explored more and more, we found this video of Neil Armstrong hopping on the moon.  Did you catch it?  Did you catch the camera angle at 2:06 in the video?  I didn’t…. not until one of my kids asked the question “How is it possible that the camera panned up as the rocket took off of the moon?”

Huh!?! Let the questions begin… let the adventures begin!

In the next few days, I met with group after group for guided reading.  Always starting with a similar nonfiction text and then letting the kids questions lead the way.  I have learned more about space in the past week than I could begin to tell you!  We have watched the Challenger disaster, the trailer for the blockbuster movie Gravity.  They have asked, and we have searched.  We have learned that the heat shield on the space shuttle is strong enough to protect it from temperatures hotter than lava! We have seen the Endeavour dock with the  International Space Station.  And we have explored the role of the Cold War in the Space Race.guided reading

Every lesson was profoundly different – led by the kids interests, inquiries and findings.  It wasn’t so hard to make the shift – all it took was a willingness to let the kids lead the way.  Yesterday, students on the other side of the room were literally standing on their chairs trying to see what we were doing at the guided reading table.  Today, despite my best efforts to get them to stay focused on their own work, they continued to crowd around us – insisting that the “guiding reading table was the coolest place to be!”guided reading 2

Today, I asked the kids their opinion – yup, my Grade 6’s with strong opinions.  “What do you think about guided reading now?  It’s not too bad is it?”.

I was met with an “It’s AWESOME Miss!!!”

– well, I’ll take that… even if they think my music is not cool!




3 responses

5 10 2013

Hi Lisa,
I’m SO excited that you are teaching Grade Six! I taught grade six for several years, but last year was THE BEST! I have read all of your books and used virtually all of your strategies with my students. You are so right about Grade Sixes having very strong opinions about what they like and don’t like. I learned quickly to pay attention to the groaning if I wanted to get them to buy into their learning. I found teasing out exactly what they didn’t like about Guided Reading, Math, and Writing were the keys to be successful with them. “Tell me how it should be” became my mantra. Last year I decided to blog my experiences – successes and failures with my students. I would be so honoured if you checked it out. You might even find some ideas that you would like to incorporate into your own class! It’s called “Making Shift Happen”.
Make sure you check out “Tomatosphere” with your students!

9 10 2013

Goosebumps here!! Wow way to transform guided reading to make it awesome! You have inspired me to do this with me grade 3’s!!

12 10 2013
Photographs And Information About Class And School Activities |

[…] also worked with guided reading groups during AWARD Time. After reading this wonderful blog post by Lisa Donohue on how she’s used inquiry during guided reading, I made some changes to my […]

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