Today I went in to observe a reading lesson in Mrs. Lambert’s class. When I arrived, the students were in pairs or small groups of 3 reading either a chapter book, if they were at a higher level, or a picture book, if at a lower level. The students were all in a place that was comfortable for them, there was some noise, but everyone seemed to have a good idea of what was going on and Mrs. Lambert was constantly walking around and reminding the students of what they needed to be doing.
Once the students were done with the completed reading, they returned to their desks and Mrs. Lambert led them in a brainstorming activity about communication using the white board. This was in preparation for the group’s nonfiction story later about the pony express, so that students have some knowledge of the subject matter coming in to the otherwise difficult-to-understand text. The students struggled to think of the vital form of communication for this text—which is letters—until the last minute, but I was impressed primarily with the way the teacher drew this idea out of them without giving too many clues. She was patient and allowed the students to think in silence for a while.
After this activity the students did a cloze activity as a group with the Smartboard, which went well and the students were all eager to participate and guess which word belonged based on context clues. The cloze was another introduction to the pony express text while also working on the syntactic and semantic cueing systems for reading.
After the cloze the students moved to the front of the room and sat on the floor while Mrs. Lambert introduced vocab (Spanish and English words from the text) on the Smartboard with pictures to help explain, and then read the first section of The Pony Express. After this quick introduction to a text they will be using for many days to come, the students looked at where this happened on the map of the US and then returned to their seats, read the first few pages of the text in their own textbooks, and then tried to write the two most important facts from their reading without looking back on the text. This was tricky for the students, but useful for me to see the ways that students process nonfiction. They enjoy it, but need support retelling it and focusing on the main points rather than just interesting details. Facts you need rather than facts that are nice. After this hour or so I had to return to campus, but I felt like it was good to see Mrs. Lambert and her class in action, and see the different ways she differentiates instruction while also keeping the class together, all feeling like one learning community. I think these two things must be held in careful balance to be a successful teacher.