Do what we can, summer will have its flies.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Earlier this summer I was fortunate to participate in a writing institute. What could be better for teachers than learning together, sharing, and having lots of time to write? I have to say that although I learned a lot, I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Sure, the institute indeed was filled with wonderful, intelligent, and passionate people. A common bond was developed between us, not just because we wrote together, but also because we all suffered together. The class was great, but the heat was unbearable!
There was a heat wave during our time together that seemed never-ending. The temperature was in the nineties with unbelievable humidity. I live in Maine where heat waves only happen a couple of times each summer so most universities do not have air conditioning. To make matters worse, we were on the second floor in a room without windows (not that we would have opened them anyway) that got direct sun for most of the day. One day we got to do a writing activity outside. This should have been fun, but in the heat it was like moving from the fireplace into the frying pan (pun intended).
By the afternoon my hair was damp and unruly from sweat and the humidity and the outfit I wore was a sticky mess. I know this heat affected my learning and my motivation during the session. I wanted to be there, but my brain just couldn’t focus and absorb everything the way it should have because I was so hot. I was lethargic and downright cranky.
In the weeks since, I have been thinking about my experience as a student. Because one of my basic human needs was compromised, I had trouble concentrating in class and I am an adult who was excited and motivated to learn. How can we expect students to learn if their basic needs are not met in the classroom?
Some things in our classrooms are beyond our control. However, if we are aware of our students’ needs, we can make small changes that can make a big difference in their readiness to learn. When it’s too hot, we can bring fans into the classroom and give lots of water breaks. Do students get headaches? Maybe it’s too bright in the classroom. We can try dimming the fluorescent lights or turning them off. When students come to school hungry we can offer school breakfast and keep extra snacks on hand. If students do not arrive to school with the proper clothing, we can keep a “clothing closet” at school or get in touch with organizations to help with donations.
As we start to think about heading back to school we are busy planning our units, lessons and our classroom design. However, if we want our students to benefit from our preparations, we need to attend to their needs so they are ready to learn.
This week we consider many types of transitions. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Gigi McAllister has been a teacher for 20 years in Gorham, Maine. She currently teaches 4th grade, and has also taught special education. Gigi blogs at The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Here are two features from the archives on transitions big and small in schools.
Gretchen Taylor develops a yearlong program to help students (and their families) prepare for the transition from elementary to middle school:
Sean Moore and Heather Rader share their favorite music for transitions and more in elementary classrooms:
Get kids moving with these book suggestions from Annie Orsini and Kendra Limback at the Nerdy Book Club:
This Pinterest board is chock-full of wonderful YouTube videos and ideas for transitions:
For Members Only
Help students transition back to school with minilessons that give children a strong sense of the purpose of literacy workshops. Deb Gaby shares a booklist with lesson suggestions and guiding questions to focus discussions in A Strong Foundation:
Mandy Robek compiles a list of her favorite books for brain breaks with young learners:
In this week’s video, Beth Lawson uses an LCD, white board and magnetic clips in a clever way during the transition from minilessons to independent writing in writer’s workshop. Students tag whether they will be working on drafts or conferring with peers as Beth completes her status of the class on the board:
Students transition between home and school with the Community Board in Andrea Smith’s classroom. It’s a lively bulletin board which is updated and discussed daily in her fourth-grade classroom:
In a bonus video, Sean Moore demonstrates two different quick kinesthetic movements to help his second-grade students focus and transition between whole-class instruction segments:
That’s all for this week!