I looked up and over the heads of the four children near me. Joey was whisper reading from his stack. David was putting a post it in his book. Isla was on her way over to the round table to work with Susan. And Jen, was at the corner of her kidney table watching two kids work. I turned my attention back the group before me and listened in as they practiced flexing their vowel sounds. The next thirty five minutes flew by. After some targeted phonics work, I sent my first group off with a new book and called a second group over. Waiting for the kids to join me, I soaked in more of the scene. Susan finished with Jane and called another friend. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jen the two kids she started with settle back to independent reading while two different kids made their way to the table with Jen. “13 kids in 35 minutes.” I whispered to no one as I walked out smiling, proud.
This was how my week started. Every week, I have the privilege of working in all four first grade classrooms twice a week for Reader’s Workshop. Over the years, our collective goal, has been to maximize teaching and learning by meeting with small groups. Typically, we plan for these groups each week. However, this year, due to the unexpected “happenings”, our planning time hasn’t been as consistent as we’d like. But what has been consistent is our conversations and questions. Whether we are talking at a grade level meeting, an RTI meeting, in the halls, or early in the morning before the chaos of the day sets in, we talk. We share our questions, our wonderings. We talk to gain clarity and confidence to be better. Through all this talk, we strive to be better, to make the vision of our collective goal reality.
Last Friday morning, Jen and I actually had the time to plan and fill out her planning document. (you can read about this document in Jess Carey’s, Planning for Small Groups) When we were done plugging in all the names, Jen looked at her week, counted the kids to be sure each child would be met with at least twice. “What do you think?” I asked, curious about how she felt about executing the plan. “This is great. This is what will help me keep it all together, keep me focused.” “Your workshop is calm and settled, now onto small groups.”
This morning, I walked into the tail end of morning meeting in Jen’s first grade room. Her morning meeting seamlessly flowed into the mini-lesson for Reader’s Workshop. Before I knew it, the kids were off and settled in their reading spots, Susan whispered, “Can I take Jane, or will you be meeting with her?” “No, you can meet with her first, I’ll pull the other group.” In no time, the room was full of teaching and reading. The planning we had done was coming to life.
The orchestration of what happened this morning didn’t happen by accident, nor did it happen over night. It happened thanks to the shared vision for what our first grade workshops can look look. It happened thanks to the collaboration and trust that we have in each other (teachers, specialists, paraprofessionals, coaches). It happened thanks to ongoing conversations all over school. It happened because the classroom teacher believed it could happen, and it did.