Time to celebrate the week with Ruth Ayers! Thank you Ruth for this great ritual. Read more and contribute your celebration here.
This week I am celebrating choice. All year we have worked to include as much choice as possible into the school day. There really isn’t much choice for kids. Teachers and parents control their lives. At school, bells signal went they play, eat and go home. . Yet at a point we want them to have “agency,” to make good choices for themselves. It’s unfair to think they can make these choices, unless we give them the opportunity to try and possibly fail. Choice that could lead to a good or a bad result. A choice they’d have to live with.
This week was the last week of school for my 5th graders, and they made some very good choices. Some of the choices were seemingly small and some were bigger. Some were personal and some were group decisions. I am proud of the choices they made,but also proud we teachers allowed choice.
One: During the last weeks of school we have a crazy schedule, so structure tended to be a little loose. My students didn’t have enough time for both reading and writing, so I let them choose: poetry, blogging, reading the just released Julian Chapter from Wonder on the iPads or reading a book of their choice. It was pure joy to watch them go to what they wanted for as long as they wanted and then if they wanted, switch to something else when they wanted. One student (a struggling reader) said if given pure choice in reading she could read all day. Interesting and worth taking her up on. I do give students choice with reading and writing, but within the genre or unit we are studying. So the choice isn’t really complete.Perhaps those strugglers we need room for more choice to build that capacity for the genre study we attempt. Perhaps next year we should do this more often.
Two: Every year at culmination we choose students to give culmination speeches. This year we let the students choose. The entire class heard speeches of students who wanted to present and then voted by secret ballot. I’ll admit I feared it would be a popularity contest. We told them to choose two speeches that they felt would represent them well. In the end, students made great selections, but more importantly they gave reasons for their choices.
It made me want to cry.
It made me laugh.
It sounded like a speech.
It was like a conversation with the audience.
Three. There was one student who was especially sad about not being chosen. Truth be told, she was writing it as she listened to others present, so her speech, which could have been good wasn’t. Interestingly, even though she was not chosen to speak, she chose to write a speech She shared it the day after culmination. We commended her on not letting the loss stop her from still writing and giving that speech she wanted to give. While she didn’t get to share it with the culminating class,she shared it on our blog.
Four: The day after culmination we always go to the park next door to play games. The first part of the time is free play. This class all chose to play games together without any instruction or refereeing by an adult. They played, made sure it was fair, listened to each other and could have gone as long as water was available. They chose to play and play well together.
Five: After free play we played team games that they’ve never experienced. “Old fashioned” completely entertaining games: shoe relays, tug of war, and sack races. No choice here except to have fun.
Six: After school on the last day of school, some students chose to stay with me. They read, went on the iPads, wrote poetry. Some helped me put books away. Some chose their favorite poem copied from books posted on the wall. One took her favorite chart. One student told me the best things about being in fifth grade were 1) genius hour, 2) read aloud, 3) the Catalina Island field trip, and 4) Colonial Fair. I asked him why and he gave me the best and most logical answer:
Because they were all really fun.
Happy weekend, and for some happy summer!