Monday, September 26, 2011

I Thought I Was Prepared!

We have been preparing for this day since day 1 and we were ready… or so I thought! At approximately 10:00 am on Monday, the wheels came off! It was time to implement the guided reading groups that I had planned for. Detail, by detail… I was ready. I had created the flexible groups with much attention being paid to the zones of proximal development. I pulled engaging books while thinking about the interest level of the students. I created lesson plans with these specific children in mind. The children were prepared. The Reader’s Workshop is up and running. We practiced the guided reading routines last week. This wasn’t my first time at this rodeo, I was prepared! The students knew their jobs! So what happened?

This year, I have a revolving door. I have 5 kiddos who are leaving during Reader’s Workshop, at rotating times to get the much needed help from our Reading Recovery teachers. (Did you hear the angels sing when I said ‘Reading Recovery’? You should have because the Reading Recovery teachers hold the keys that help struggling readers unlock their reading success.) So imagine this: We begin our workshop, kids are off and doing their job beautifully. I head to the Guided Reading table with my first group awaiting my arrival and ready to go! We begin. While introducing the book, I scan the room, on the sly, to see if the children are engaged and, YES, everyone is on task. So far, so good. Then the door opens, 2 Reading Recovery kids return, tap the shoulders of the two who are to go next (the ones who are in my group at the time…) and out the door they go…. No disruptions. Everyone is doing their job. This routine continues, but as we continue… I am quickly unraveling… I hadn’t accounted for so many leaving at awkward times. Not one group had been completed without someone leaving. The flow of the workshop is fine at a glance, however, my instruction feels disjointed. This is driving me nuts and I watch for the kids to become distracted during group. That doesn’t seem to be happening. The children are reading their little hearts out. Why am I feeling so frazzled? I tell myself, “Be patient.” I know the first day or two can be tricky, but the kids are doing what has been asked. The last group I notice is having a particular difficult time with the book that has been selected. Oh my Goodness… how could I have misjudged this. I was way off.  The children continued to plug away and give it their best shot using their reading strategies.

The morning finally ended. I reflected during my 10 minute lunch and realized, in my frazzled state, I had given the struggling group the wrong book! Bless their little reading hearts. So, I went in for a visit with the reading teachers during my planning time. I expressed my huge flop of a morning. I needed to talk this thing out. I took a closer look at my groups and the order of the groups. I did some slight adjusting and thanked them for their flexibility and helpfulness. (These experts are quick to listen, willing to assist in any way and most importantly, wonderful sounding boards.)

Following our day, ( and by the way, the kids seemed great the whole way!) I headed into the classroom, to make some adjustments. 1. Hone the order of the groups to ensure there are no interruptions of the guided reading group at hand. 2. Create one additional group. Yes, it’s more work but it is what is best for kids. No more than 4 in a group if possible. This sets the stage for better instruction and better learning! 3. (This one is essential, but incredibly difficult.) Start our Reader’s Workshop earlier to minimize distractions. That means read the 1st Read Aloud (our community builder) the best I possibly can to get their attention and get everyone into the current of learning. After that, we need to make hay. Get moving through calendar and lunch count. Take a bit more time with the Morning Message, as it sets so many important notes for the day. (We range from quick community builders to introducing new concepts.) We already have our morning bathroom break under 3:30 minutes so I can’t ask for more there. When we re-enter the classroom, following the break, we need to slip right into our Reader’s Workshop.

So after I changed the material tubs and prepared for the next day, the frustration was still there, but rewarded by the thinking and planning to make tomorrow a better day. I have never had a first day of Guided Reading with this type of result. If I need to rehash it tomorrow, so be it. Frustration or not, I do know it is essential these children have the best possible introduction to reading. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.


  1. I am glad that you were able to feel better by the end of the day, taking the time to stop to process, reflect, and problem-solve. If I was going to have any type of pull-out - reading recovery is the one that would make me least frustrated though knowing that it is so well-respected for the positive impact it can make on kids!

  2. What a day! The beginning is always tough, getting that muscle memory back into group mode. You will get it going and head down the track and arrive at the station with a class of readers. This I know will happen.

  3. The voice you shared in this is so real. It seemed like you were gushing the words and holding your breath-just wanting to get the whole story told. I loved how you did it-not sure how, but enjoyed the frustration very much, wanting to move onto the next part to see how it all came out. I'm sorry it was a miserable day, and know it will be better (also from the story), but I really liked how you wrote.

  4. I agree with teacherdance that the story sounded so real! I felt like I was living it right there in the classroom with you! (And believe me, I've had lessons that go just that way too -- you think it's going to be this amazing great lesson and then something crazy happens or it just doesn't work like you thought it would!) It's great to see your reflection -- I can tell your students are in for a treat this year because you want so much to do whatever it takes to meet their needs! Way to keep at it! :-) (And by the way, I'm glad I'm not the only one who does something dumb every once in a while, like giving the wrong book to that group! Sometimes your brain is just trying to do too many things at once while teaching!)

  5. This was so great to read! I loved hearing about your process of problem-solving, always putting the kids first. The thought and effort that you put into your teaching was so evident. Your students are so very lucky to have you for their teacher. :)

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