Terry Thompson is our guest blogger today with this great post that invites teachers to slow down the scaffolding process, to allow students the time and space they need as they learn new skills. It’s easy to feel rushed — especially because it’s already November! — but what if we all stopped to enjoy our students?
“I can’t believe it’s already November!”
If you haven’t said this out loud yet, you’ve probably been thinking it. The transition from October to November can be one of the most exhausting times for teachers. We’re well into the school year, the newness has worn off, and everything’s up and rolling. But sometimes it feels like things are rolling just a little too fast and we’re on a gerbil wheel that never seems to stop.
This morning was pretty typical. I jumped out of bed at 5:30, stumbled to the kitchen to start the coffee, got myself ready, walked the dogs, threw some clothes in the wash, and made a beeline to the car before making a hectic drive through rush hour traffic, skidding into the parking lot, throwing my bags on my desk and darting to breakfast duty, arriving – whew! – just in time.
And that was all before 7:00 AM!
If you’re anything like me (and every other teacher I know), you probably feel this same, constant state of hurriedness. We’re in such a rush! We dash to recess. We bolt to lunch. We hustle to that last minute assembly everyone else seemed to have on their calendar but us.
And, if we aren’t mindful, this culture of constant of haste can permeate the best part of our work – our face to face instructional time with children. We rush to get assessments done. We rush to get to the next lesson. We rush to get readers to the next level. We rush and we rush and we rush.
But, what if we didn’t?
As I continue to contemplate the concepts about instructional scaffolding I explored in The Construction Zone, I keep returning to the many things that a more knowing other knows. And, one of those things that a more knowing other knows is that the scaffolding process can’t be rushed. We may try to rush it – but scaffolding takes its time.
Think about the classic scaffolding examples from outside the classroom like teaching children to walk or ride a bike. No one has to remind parents to take their time with these processes. There’s no rush. They follow the needs of the child, supporting when needed and pulling back when it’s time. It all unfurls naturally.
These same qualities apply to the scaffolds we build in our classrooms. As more knowing others in the scaffolding process, we know that there is a difference between a sense of urgency and a flurry of haste. We know it takes time to get to know learners. It takes time to reflect. And we make room for this.
We take time for assessments as we get to know our learners and their needs. We take time for observations and conferences that tell us more. And, we take time for the important things like read-alouds and community building. We take time to be present and enjoy the learners in front of us. We take time to relax with our kids and a good book. We take Time to reflect.
Yes, it’s November. The holidays are already upon us and the mid year mark is coming fast. And, yes, everything seems to be pulling on our schedule all at once. But what if we hit pause for a moment and took a deep breath? What if we resisted the urge to rush? What if – instead of rushing students through the next assessment, the next conference, the next lesson, the next guided reading level – we slowed things down and lingered in the wonder of the incredible work we get to do every day?
So, as you skid into the holiday season (and then directly into the following semester), give yourself permission to slow down. Breathe. Trust yourself. Enjoy your students. And, enjoy the scaffolding process.
November 6th, 2015
In case you missed our live Twitter chat with Terry Thompson, author of the new book The Construction Zone, here is your chance to catch up. The chat was hosted by Franki Sibberson and covered everything you need to know about scaffolding. Preview some of the Tweets below, or you can read the full chat on Storify.
September 15th, 2015
Larry Ferlazzo is an award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif. In his popular EdWeek blog Classroom Q&A, he addresses readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers.
Recently a couple of Stenhouse authors made an appearance to give advice on a wide range of topics from motivating students to parent-teacher relationships. Check back often for more advice!
Question: How can I deal with unmotivated students? I’m a little bit frustrated when I know my students don’t do their homework and sometimes they talk during my lessons.
Response from Cris Tovani: For me, engaging students at the emotional level is the easiest. This means I need to work to build personal relationships–to know and care about students. When that relationship is developed kids will often “work” harder just because they like me. However, just engaging them at the gut level isn’t enough. I also need to set up rituals and routines and model how they work in the classroom if I want behavioral engagement. However, just being behaviorally engaged isn’t enough either.”
Read the rest of Cris’ response on Classroom Q&A
Cris’ latest title is the DVD Talk to Me: Conferring to Engage, Differentiate, and Assess, 6-12
Question: How do we educate families about the ways in which they can support their children, without insulting their trust in us to do what’s best, and while not placing blame?
Response from Jane Baskwill: In order to operate from a position of trust rather than blame, schools–and teachers in particular–need to establish a positive relationship with families. Teachers need to create a supportive environment in which they demonstrate, through their words and actions, that they value parents’ knowledge as their children’s first teacher. By keeping the child at the center, all parties can feel they have a role to play and something valuable to contribute to the child’s learning.
Read the rest of Jane’s response on Classroom Q&A
Jane’s latest book is Attention-Grabbing Tools: Involving Parents in Their Children’s Learning
Questions: What do you do when you’re having a bad day in the classroom? How do you get over feelings of frustration?
Response from Terry Thompson: Let’s face it–no day in the classroom is perfect. Our energies are pulled in so many different directions that things are bound to get hectic from time to time. Considering how we merge time crunches, curriculum crunches, and even personality crunches, it’s easy to see how the occasional off day could derail us.
Read the rest of Terry response
Terry is the author of Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6
January 15th, 2014
Do you feel a bit giddy when you go through your stack of books, trying to decide what to read next? If you do, Terry Thompson shares that feeling. In this installment of Questions & Authors, the author of Adventures in Graphica shares his ritual for “Choosing Day,” and wonders how he could instill the same excitement about choosing a book in his students.
Today is Choosing Day.
I’ve been looking forward to this all day. I’ve cleared my evening and carefully organized a comfortable spot on the sofa.
I rushed straight home from work (no tutoring or after school meetings!), picked up a light dinner on the way (Chicken la Madeleine!), walked the dog, and silenced my phone.
I’ve taken care of everything.
My pile of books waits patiently. It always does.
Last night, I finally finished Edward Rutherfurd’s New York, and I’m ready to pick my next book. I relax into my spot and turn my attention to the stack that’s been gathering on my night stand for some time. Today is Choosing Day. Today I pick a new friend.
My professional book club is reading one of Richard Allington’s books next, but I figure that can wait. A book I want to study for church calls to me, but I’m going to hold off on that one a bit longer.
I decide that I’m in the mood for something historical (no surprise there, it’s my favorite!), so with that, I move on to several, more specific options. A recent trip to Illinois landed Devil and the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America in my stack, and that same trip prompted an interest in an Abraham Lincoln book, Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse. My editor recommended Year of Wonders and Dissolution, but both seem a bit heavy for my mood right now. And – even though I’m dying to – I’m hesitant to start Ken Follett’s new book, Fall of Giants, because his work is such a rare treat and I don’t want to use it up too quickly.
I revisit each title, remembering what originally drew me to them, and reread the jacket flap summaries. I shuffle through the stack several times. Deliberating. I take my time here. This is an important decision for me, and I don’t want to rush it. I finally settle on Devil in the White City. It’s a lightweight paperback making it a perfect choice for all the poolside reading I’ll be doing on my upcoming three day weekend.
I put the leftover books back in the stack on my night stand (until next time) and get ready to spend the rest of the evening immersed in a true crime historical murder mystery. I’m pleased and content. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I’m not sure when Choosing Day became such a big deal to me, where it began, or even how it got its name. But, it’s been a constant ritual in my life for years. Although not as childlike and giddy as it may seem, I really do get a boost of excitement from the thrill of deciding which book I’ll read next.
I often wonder, though: how many of our students feel this way? Certainly, it might seem unreasonable to expect every student we work with to gush with excitement for their next book, but what are their practices when they go to choose their next independent reading selection? Are their choices purposeful? Haphazard? Nonexistent?
Come to that, what are our practices that help promote an eager anticipation around book selection? I want my young readers to know this feeling. Granted, some of our learners will cultivate a similar type of choosing day for themselves, but just as many won’t. What conditions can we put in place that can promote an excitement for book selection in our students?
When teachers share their own excitement and process about book selection (and encourage students to do the same) they promote a classroom culture of enthusiasm for choosing texts. In a classroom that supports book selection, you’re likely to see students who are encouraged to share out about their selections and teachers that share favorite titles with the entire class or individual students who would take to them. Hearing trusted adults and peers share their reasoning for choosing particular texts lets students in on this valuable part of what it means to be a reader.
I get my best reading choices through recommendations from friends who know me well and know what I like to read. I bet you do, too. Offering a variety of recommendation options is a great way to get students interested in their next book. Whether you schedule time for readers to share their favorites out loud, have them use a classroom chart with sticky notes, or let them use a private note passing system for sharing books, making recommendations to friends – just like real readers do – can go a long way to foster enthusiasm for choosing that next read.
Keeping a Stack
Most readers don’t wait to finish their current book before considering their next one, preferring instead to keep a physical or mental stack of titles ready to pick from. For some, it’s a stack on their nightstand. Others keep a running list on their cell phone. In classrooms where there are enough books and space, readers could collect titles in their book boxes for later. If this seems difficult logistically (think: space and number of books available), students could easily keep a list of books they’d like to read next in their journals.
Real readers know what they like. They know themselves as readers. They have favorite titles, series, subjects, and genres. They can talk about them and justify what makes them personally important. When they go to choose their next read, they do so in tune with their interests and their mood. They consider which titles they’re willing to commit to and pass on the others. Teachers who model, push for, and encourage this type of self-reflection help foster excitement about book choice.
Book choice in many of our classrooms is a hurried afterthought. We tell students they have five minutes to get to the library and back or we relegate independent reading book choice time to that space between attendance and announcements. But, when we set aside unrushed time for it, young readers come to learn that book selection is premeditated, thoughtful, and intentional. Classrooms that honor and celebrate book selection, allow students the contemplative time they need to get excited and give them permission to celebrate that excitement with others.
September 12th, 2011