Innovations – Teacher Talk

The title of this post is innovations. This is my disclaimer: innovation is relative. Most of the techniques I will talk about have been used for decades in quality classrooms throughout the world (including some schools here in the Philippines). I call them innovative only in that many teachers at my school have not heard of them, seen them, and/or actually implemented them. Imagine what we could do if we had a computer lab!

Literacy Work Stations:

Highlights:

  • Students had never seen tactile (or hands on) lesson materials. 
  • Being able to tailor independent practice to the needs of each child. 

I have implemented literacy work stations with my grade 6 class. It has been amazing to watch it develop, and I am constantly amazed at the versatility it provides. There are ten stations: pocket chart, newspaper, buddy reading, library, writing, listening, grammar, drama, spelling, and word study. Now that the students have become familiar with them, I have the flexibility to use them however I want. Some units we use only 6 stations, while I work with the other half in a small group. I am able to analyze the students’ performance on particular objectives and give them extra time at the stations that include practice for those competencies. I love how many of the activities are “risk-free,” or self-correcting and non-graded; it helps students who are terrified of failure, and even the ones who “cheat” at first eventually start using the materials correctly.

Small Group Reading Intervention:

Highlights:

  • Watching my grade 4 non-reader read his first book!
  • Hearing some of my grade 3 students begin to converse with me in English!

I love my new appointment at the school! I now spend most of my day working with 6 to 12 struggling readers in each grade. It’s a bit hectic, as I have 8 different groups, plus my grade 6 EFL class. I have been using a free reading program from the website www.free-reading.net. The activities are a bit complicated to explain, but they range from phonemic awareness, to letter sounds, to sight words, and of course practice sounding out words. After each prescribed lesson, the students either read independently while I observe and note progress, or I read aloud to them.

Small Group Reading Comprehension: 

Highlights: 

  • Enthusiasm abounds!

As much as I love the reading intervention groups, we know how long it takes to see results. The amount of energy required to maintain patience is taxing.

My small group reading comprehension classes are the remedy. These students are struggling readers in their ability to understand what they read, but it has been invigorating to watch them become accustomed to and excel at this “new” style of learning. We spend time talking about the book before, during, and after reading. We practice different skills with different books – fluency, character traits, elements of fiction, etc. We work on extension activities that they have never seen before including graphic organizers, creative responses, and writing poetry. I actually want to increase the size of my groups, as they are so attentive and excited to learn this way, there are very few behavior problems.

Library:

Highlights:

  • Students reading during recess and after school! 
  • Students can bring books home!

Many students stay after school to read!

Ok. Maybe this should not be considered innovative, relatively speaking or not. But I wanted to share with you the excitement of establishing a library check-out system (consisting of a notebook) and its success in our school. Students come to the library to read during recess and after school (insert: elated teacher sigh), and they can check out books to take home. I am thrilled with the enthusiasm. The “notice” from the library comes in the form of an embarrassing sticky note on their homeroom classroom that says “WANTED: name, name, name. Where are your books!?” I have it open for grade 5 and 6 right now, but if we get more books, I will include the lower grades. I’m worried about sending home books with the less mature students, as we cannot afford to lose any!

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