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The Great Homework Debate Comes Home


Never a fan of homework as a parent or teacher, the great debate has really hit home for me recently. As a recently retired teacher, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances still ask my opinion on issues in education. I'm grateful. It means they still view me as a teacher, even though I am not currently running my own classroom, and it reaffirms my long-held belief that everyone is always entitled to my opinion! (JK - ok, not really!) Just ask me. Ask me anything. You'll see.

At my granddaughter's cooking class this week, I found myself at the Play Doh table. Sweet Pea's cooking class involves grandparents, parents, and several nannies as assistants to the little emergent chefs. It's a favorite activity that Grandma and Papa (That's us!) share with our little sweetie each week. (Retirement is everything they say it is - and more!) Kids come in and engage in free play at first. There is music, so we dance into the room and choose an activity. There is actual free play with any toys and make-believe stuff in the room. We ALWAYS have a picnic. Always. First thing - shop for plastic food and dishes, place them in a picnic basket, and sit around the school bus pretending to eat plastic portions. We love it.


There are also two tables set up - one with a craft project built around the recipe of the day. There is also a Play Doh table, set up with thematic cookie cutters, rolling pins, and lots of fresh Play Doh. Yummy and inviting. Memories come flooding back to Play Doh tables of the past. When my girls were small, we used go to Mother Toddler classes each week. I was stay at home mom during a seven year hiatus from teaching until my daughters were ready for school themselves. I remember the Mom-Tot classes as a great social outlet and loved the interpersonal aspect of the Play Doh table in particular. Actual multi-syllabic, whole sentence adult conversation for about 20 minutes a week. I made some great forever friends at the Play Doh table also!

This week at the Play Doh table, another grandma was already busy rolling and patting and cutting when we took a seat on the tiny chairs. (Sitting down is pretty easy. Standing up again though - ugh!) "So what do you think of the no homework policy?" she asked me. Aaah... an opportunity to take a stand on an issue in education. This was a little complicated though. We are grandmothers together now, but she also was once a parent of two of my third grade students. Those were the years of the ten minutes per grade level rule of thumb. For me, thirty minutes of homework for third graders consisted of reading for fifteen minutes and writing for fifteen minutes. Leftover work from the day had to be added in, but that cancelled out some much needed reading and writing practice. With many gifted students in that class (hers included), I also had ongoing project work available, allowing some class time each week, and counting on some at-home attention to it so that one project could be completed during each report card period.

I decided to focus my answer as a grandma, not a teacher. My favorite grandson's school (PSA from him as he rolls eyes: "Grandma! I'm your ONLY grandson." A mere technicality!) has a no homework policy. The public school district that I retired from seems to be headed in that direction. My grandma friend from The Play Doh table reports that her grandchildren's district has gone totally no homework. I responded that although my grandson has no official homework, he is expected to make up missed work if he has been out of school for any reason, illness or vacation. He also grabs two or three books as soon as he gets home and reads to whichever adult is there with him. He loves reading to his little sister (aka Sweet Pea) also. He then practices his writing for about ten minutes. Math comes naturally to him, and we all make up real life problems for him as we enjoy living real life with him.

My opinion is that learning at home should be natural and part of everyday life. People in real life read. (At least they should read.) Children need to be read to, read with, and to see their parents/caregivers enjoying life as a reader. It makes a big difference in those test scores, not to mention in a life worth living. Math is a real part of our everyday life, and lots of transactions throughout the day and on weekends involve math. Kids can be involved in shopping, online ordering, and cooking. Kids love to measure stuff, and fractions can be so naturally and easily introduced by measuring and cooking together. Just ask Favorite Grandson (first grader) and Sweet Pea. We do it all the time. Play Doh play is another way to work on those fractions as well as greater/less than, adding, and subtracting.

We also do science and STEAM projects together. There is always a project in process around here, and another one going on at their house. Right now, a marathon monopoly game is taking place for about twenty minutes a day at their house! Just leave it set up. Play right before bedtime or for a few minutes in the morning or after school.

Favorite Grandson working on a fairy garden.
Subtle irony: His shirt says, "The pirates ate my homework"

Sweet Pea hard at work in cooking class.
Giant flower in hair because we read Fancy Nancy before leaving for class and needed to raise the fancy bar a little.

It appears that I've changed my usual audience here to parents, but many teachers are also parents. Teachers and parents have had the great homework debate long before I was a teacher, and I'm sure will be having the same debate long after I'm gone. It can be a testy, tricky topic, or an opportunity to discuss all the ways learning can take place. Teachers, when parents ask you for "vacation homework", just tell them to have their child write a journal entry each day of their vacation and read a little each evening. They might even include maps in their journal entries. Pictures can be added digitally if the family takes a laptop or other device along for journaling, or added later with glue when they return. It makes a wonderful keepsake for that child to own forever and to share in class, and will be so much more interesting to the teacher than a folder with undone copy pages that... "Oops! We didn't have as much time for as we thought we would!" (You know.)

As for homework to be done at home each night, how about just instilling the love of learning, and the ongoing belief that learning is an all the time thing, and a natural part of our lives? Suggest reading, journaling, working on entries in their interactive notebooks from school, and ongoing home projects.  Most parents will say, "What a great idea!" Those who don't may just need a little scaffolding. Try sending one journal prompt per night home, or assign a chapter to read. Start a project in school and assign a piece of it to be worked on at home.

For easy print and go resources to help parents with more open-ended homework, you might be interested in these from Rainbow City Learning:




With winter break approaching, this just might be the time to introduce your students and their families to taking more of a "learning in the wild" approach to homework. Less busy work for you and development of real and lasting life skills for your students! Enjoy every minute of your upcoming break!

I love reading your comments! Please know that it takes a little time for comments to be seen due to settings on this blog, and it's not necessary to submit twice. 


For more teaching and learning ideas for December, please visit these bloggers. (Only bloggers from the Teacher Talk group are invited to link up here. Please email me at: retta.london@gmail.com if you would like to join our group!)






Getting the Most out of the TpT Cyber Sale



It's Cyber Sale time again, teachers! I'm sure that your inboxes are full, as mine are, with extended Black Friday and upcoming Cyber Sale notices from every store and online business in the world!

As a little time saver, I'd like to suggest some ways that you can maximize your TpT shopping with a few suggested purchases from Rainbow City Learning. To bring out the best in your third through fifth grade students and set your course for the rest of the 2017-18 school year, here are a few resources to look at. (See my resources for littles at the end of this post!)

Classroom Community
We all know that no one learns anything until they feel secure, safe, and accepted. Every student needs to know that their voice is heard, and that their opinions matter. To build your classroom community, which we all know sets the stage for everything you are teaching and hoping will stick, I know you will love these resources!

              

Early Finishers
We always had a saying in my Rainbow City classroom: "You are never done!" Try some of these ideas to keep the learning alive from the moment your students walk through the door in the morning until they leave at the end of a successful school day!

          



Chill Out
Everyone needs a break at certain points during the day. Try these brain break ideas for a calmer, more relaxed learning environment!

        


Managing the Pop up Monster Behaviors
Monster behaviors can raise their ugly heads even among the most well-behaved students if the group mood melts into chaos. Stay a step or two ahead by trying some of these!


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Rock the Tests, Data Collection, and Your Observations
Why not try these to take the boring out of test prep and to be well prepared for your own evaluations?
       


Build Respect 
Take your students beyond a mindset that all the world and everyone around them celebrates the season in the same way they do. Add a little diversity to your lessons about celebrating the winter holidays with these!

     


Bundle Up!
Take advantage of sale  pricing on these bundled favorites!

         


Just for Littles!
Here are some resources created for K-2, based on specific teacher requests!

                



I hope you've found an idea or two here to take you through the winter and beyond! Rainbow City Learning will be on sale for 20% off everything, including bundles! To earn an extra 5% off, remember to use the code CYBER17 at checkout.

For an extra $10.00 gift card to spend at TpT during the two day sale or beyond, be sure to comment below with the best purchase you've made at Rainbow City Learning and why you love and recommend it to others!  To qualify, be sure to leave feedback on the purchase page and let me know your purchaser name. The winner will be announced here at the end of this post on Monday night at 11:00 EST.)
Never purchased anything at RCL? Well, what are you waiting for? Monday sale purchases will qualify! Free downloads will not qualify for the gift card.

Happy Shopping!








Raise Your Hand



Raising my hand over here to share another story about how my teaching past has collided once again with current events! Every time one of these collisions occurs, I get to take a sweet trip down memory lane. I hope you will enjoy going there with me today! I was a brownie scout and later a girl scout. I loved everything about scouting. Well, almost everything. Anyone who has ever known me will tell you that I am not a fan of camping out. This girl has always preferred a crackling indoor (preferably artificial) fire and a good book to a night spent under the stars. Some things like that are true for each of us. It's what makes each of us special and interesting, in my opinion. I loved working on and earning badges to wear proudly on my sash. As a grown up mom and teacher, I found time to be the leader of my daughter's brownie troop, and enjoyed working on all the badges with the girls. Even the cookie sales were fun!

A few days ago, I read a news story about Alice Tapper, a ten year old girl scout from New York (daughter of Jake Tapper of the New York Times). Alice, it seems, had gone on a field trip with her class and noticed how interactive her male classmates were in all the discussion and observations while the girls just sort of hung back and listened. (A teacher nightmare, right?) Alice thought of creating a "Raise Your Hand" badge, encouraging girls to be bold and brave in class discussions, and also to encourage at least three other girls to do the same. Raising my hand to congratulate Alice for a phenomenal idea. Her badge is now a part of what Girls Scouts do!


Also hanging my head in sadness that this is even still an issue. Seriously, teachers, I thought we had long since conquered the classroom demon of having only boys recognized for their efforts, expertise, and ideas. I remember using a grocery store clicker in my hand during my first few years as a teacher to count how many times I called on girls, a way to keep this issue in the forefront of my budding teacher's mind just about the time when the two Steves were playing around with the idea of personal computers in that long ago and far away garage. I remember reminding myself mid-career, to call on a girl and then a boy, then a girl, and then a boy, just to keep the playing field somewhat even. By the time I was nearing the end of my career, my principal accused me of calling on a little girl named Ellie sixteen times during his observation! Sixteen!!??!! Really??!! I didn't know whether to jump out of my chair with raised fist, shouting, "Yes! Girl Power! Girls Rock! Ellie Rules!" or to show him my own data, quietly collected on a spreadsheet in my lap, which proved that I was recognizing both genders equally. I chose the latter. (I know that a few of you who really know me might be surprised at my choice, but my evaluation for some now unknown reason was still super important to me.) Sigh.

As a currently retired teacher and teacher-author, news of this still needed attention to drawing girls from the silent shadows to the front of the class has given me many resource ideas to help you to encourage students to speak up in class. As I searched existing "Raise Your Hand" resources, I noticed that all so far are about being polite and waiting your turn to speak. "Raise your hand and wait to be called on." I have created something to encourage all students (boys and girls), regular ed as well as special ed to speak up in class. For many boys as well as girls, developing confidence in expressing your own opinions and knowledge base is hard and needs modeling, examples, and practice. My "Raise Your Hand" resource includes posters, a SCOOT game (task cards with directions), and a journal targeted toward encouraging kids to speak up and speak out about what is important.

Click here for your free sample poster:



Here are some additional tips you might want to try or just to validate that they are already a part of your practice.

The learning environment

Do your students feel safe, valued, and appreciated in your classroom? Kids are more likely to raise their hands to volunteer thoughts or answers when they feel that they are in a safe and accepting environment. What do your students think your position is on talking? If a stone silent classroom is what they think makes you happiest, they are less likely to want to spoil that mood by speaking out. I think you might be surprised at how many students actually think that they are pleasing the teacher by never speaking. Never. Including during discussion time.

I know because I was that student. I was rewarded for being quiet. Over and over. I thought that being quiet in school was my superpower, and I cultivated it to the tune of tuning out into my own little world, thinking about whatever book I was currently reading rather than tuning in to the lessons. I have known students like that along the way on my teaching journey. I'm only suggesting that we be careful about what and how we praise. It may not be received in the way it was intended.

Individual needs and comfort level

How well do you know your students? Some people naturally are outgoing and some are naturally more introverted. Neither is right or wrong. Just different. Consider seating position in the room, proximity to friends to increase the comfort level, and different ways of asking for responses. As a teacher with special ed inclusion, you may want to provide partial answers ahead of time to paras or to the kids themselves.

Wait time is super important in getting responses from more reluctant participants. This is one of the hardest things to do as a teacher. How exciting it is to keep the momentum going during a lesson when the hands fly up and you get many answers in rapid succession! And how seemingly endless it is to wait. Waiting was always one of the hardest things for me, but I was always amazed at who would raise their hand and say something if I would only wait just a little longer before speaking again myself or calling on someone else.

Try this: Call on a reluctant participant and wait. If the child responds, "I don't know.", just say, "What would you say if you DID know?" You will be blown away! I was, every time I tried this! Sometimes the most wonderful responses are lurking just below the surface of someone's discomfort and reluctance. Please try it and come back and tell me a story in the comments of how it went! Please!


Modes of Response  

Do your students have different ways that they can show what they know? We loved using individual white boards and erasable markers (or erasable crayons) to respond sometimes. You can make a really inexpensive version of this low tech device by just laminating a piece of white cardstock for each student. Mine kept theirs in a gallon ziplock bag with an old sock for erasing and a marker. This little answer kit was readily available in each desk to be used when we were choosing to respond that way.

For high tech response modes, try Socrative and just google "online response systems for class". There are many options out there.

Many of us use music for specific lessons and transitions, but have you ever tried to use a short musical interlude as an aspect of wait time? It makes your lesson atmosphere feel more like a game show, and some may relax when they hear the music. I recommend designating one particular sound clip as your wait time music.

Could your students whisper the answer to their seating neighbor and when you call on a student, he or she gives you his/her neighbor's response? Try this also with small groups. Let a few students talk it over and then call on one member to report out on the group's response.

Sociograms

Another technique as old as education time. Ask your children at the end of each week who they would prefer to be seated with. Make it a written and confidential response. The data that you can collect on cliques and possible isolates will be invaluable as you move closer and closer to an all inclusive, welcoming, and safe classroom.

Bag of Tricks

The Magic Mike (as in microphone!)
I used to call this my Phil Donahue lesson. (Magic Mike is more fun! Just think it to yourself!) Long before Ellen and Queen Latifah, even long before Oprah, there was a talk show led by Phil Donahue. One of Phil's favorite phrases was, "Help me out here!" and he would travel into the audience with his microphone, holding it in front of various audience members. With a mike held in front of their face, people would say something pertaining to the discussion whether they had intended to say something or not.
The first time I tried this idea, I used my chalk holder (who remembers those?) and held it in front of one child who didn't usually volunteer to answer. Wow! Got an immediate response! (Kind of like asking, "Well, what would you say if you DID know the answer?"  Promise you'll love what you hear!) Try passing the mike among your kids. Let them pass the mike after answering. People love microphones. Why do you think Karaoke is so popular? Not just for extroverts!



The Koosh Ball
Put me in, coach! I've got somethin' to say!
Toss one into the crowd, and watch kids reach for it whether they are ready to answer or not! You can really use any soft (key word is soft) ball for this one. Toss a ball and people will naturally reach out to catch it. If they don't reach right away, you will catch them laughing when you throw it. Fumble it a little when they throw it back after answering, then make a smooth and perfect catch. Insert smiles here!

Video Inspiration

You might want to consider using one of these two song videos either to inspire your kids to raise their hands, or just for a chuckle and a little inspiration for yourself. The Sesame Street one is of course about waiting for the correct time to speak by raising your hand. The old Eddie Floyd Concert video sends an age old message: "Baby I'm here." Talk to me. Talk to me - trust me. Isn't that what we all really want our students to hear when we ask a question?

Sesame Street - Raise it Up

Eddie Floyd - Raise Your Hand

Janis Joplin's version

There are all kinds of love in this world. I hope some small part of this post helps you to spread a little teacher love, a little acceptance love among your students. And if your actions help a girl scout to earn a "Raise Your Hand" badge, all the better!









For more talk about teaching in November, be sure to visit these awesome Teacher Talk blogs:






Changing the Face of Failure


I've spent a lot of time sitting in doctors' waiting rooms recently. Either I have a rare but fatal condition or it's allergies. Or migraines. We're not sure. All of the doctors I've seen recently are in medical practice. They're practicing. As I wait to see whether the MD of the day has joined team death or team migraine, I can't help musing how a similar scenario might have played out in my classroom. As teachers, aren't we kind of in practice too? We do speak of our teaching practices. BTW, most of my doctors have joined team migraine for now. It's how I got the courage to even get out of bed and blog this morning. Good times.

As with most things I observe, read, or experience so far in life, I always wonder how that might look within a classroom practice. Welcome, parents, to our conference about your child's progress. Little Janie doesn't seem able to keep up with her reading group. Ummm..she might be dyslexic. Or not musical enough. Or just not interested in reading. Why don't you go next door and ask that teacher what she thinks? She can probably see you in a couple of months. Oh, and I don't think it's really dyslexia. But it might be. Maybe she needs glasses. Have you had her hearing checked?

OK, reinstalling the tact filter. It has a limited time span, so here goes...

Seriously, teachers, we do spend a lot of time in our classroom practice assessing, measuring, testing. Sometimes it's hard to see the instruction as we wade through all the required testing. Yet we all know that kids have so many ways to show us and themselves what they actually know and what they still need to explore. We also have many ways of finding out what they know and where to go from that point. So many more ways than standardized tests can ever measure. We are in practice. We practice constantly.

What about our kids? They should be in practice too. They are, whether we call it that or not. As we build our learning community each year, and try to offer a safe, welcoming, and risk-free place to try out new ideas, are we also offering the option of failure as a tool for growth? It's kind of a scary thing to consider. Failure isn't generally viewed as a positive in the context of classroom success.

And yet...back to my medical journey... I quite likely received a misdiagnosis (fingers still crossed on that!), was heavily medicated for it, side effects and all, and further testing is showing a much less alarming condition. Did the doctor who misdiagnosed my condition admit failure? Did the experts in the diagnosis and treatment of that condition who saw me next call him a failure? Nope. A simple "Stop the medication and we will proceed from here in a new direction." All docs on board as we set sail in a new direction.

Back to our classrooms... Have you ever tried something new with your teaching partners, then decided that it wasn't really going to work for you going forward? A new behavior management system that proves unwieldy and time consuming? A cross curricular project based idea that took too much classroom time and may have produced more mess and chaos than you were willing to live with? Most of us have been there. Done! Well, we sure won't try that again next year! Whew! Glad it's over! No sense of failure or shame. It just didn't go the way we had hoped and it's time to try something else.

Why not offer that same safe, non-judgmental opportunity for growth and learning that we afford to our doctors and ourselves? Our kids deserve no less, and it will make them more confident and more successful learners going forward. I'm not by any means suggesting that you allow kids to abandon every project that they start. Now there's an invitation for chaos! I am suggesting that you make an escape route from a project that is truly worth abandoning an option. Embed it in your classroom culture. Embracing failure as another learning experience and guiding your students to the way forward to more learning and growth can't be a bad thing. I'm asking you to celebrate failure the way we celebrate success. It can lead to a lifelong relationship with a growth mindset!

Some things to try:
  • Escape cards that kids can turn in for redemption when they have carefully considered and still want to abandon a project.  Abandonment is not a "get of jail free" card with no further work necessary. This should be when the harder work begins: figuring out what went wrong, and identifying a different project to work on going forward.
  • Peer evaluation at several stopping points during project identification, project work, and at project completion. Presenting your ideas to peers is a powerful tool. Their feedback can be valuable as work continues. For the third, fourth, and fifth graders that I am most familiar with, I love the "Two stars and a wish" format. Identify two positives about the work, and then a wish for something that is missing or not addressed as completely as you would like. 
  • A journal or some other written statement of what went wrong and what learnings came from the experience. There must be accountability. This is the piece that will remind students that abandoning a project has its own responsibilities and that the expectation is that it will become its own opportunity for growth and learning. 
  • Environmental cues in the form of posters, writing pieces, and photos of failed projects. This will help to set the stage in your classroom for failure as a true and acceptable option.
  • Coloring pages with messages about failure and its relationship with growth. As kids relax and color, the messages find their way into stored thoughts and emotions.
  • Brag tags or other awards for admitting failure and moving on. Further reminder of your attitude about failure and its place in your learning plan.

I stopped writing this blog post to create a toolkit to help you to infuse this idea into your teaching practice. As I thought of ideas to make this happen in your classroom, I wanted to create some tools to make implementation easier. A sample version is available for free. I hope you will try it and let me know how it goes! There is also a full version of the resource with a journal, brag tags, (Yes! Bragging about failure! IKR!) and more posters and more coloring pages. If you love the sample, and would like to truly make failure an option in your year-long classroom practice, I hope you'll go back for the full resource.

                       

As with any new idea that you present to your class, your attitude about it is everything! Tell some personal stories about yourself and your own confrontations with failure. Tell stories about how you came to embrace that failure and move on. If you don't think you have any stories of your own (although I am positive that you do!) to share, use a story that you know about someone else and a time they faced failure. It's almost Halloween! Time to unmask failure and tell it we are not afraid!









For more ideas to try on in October, visit some of these great Teacher Talk bloggers!



The Magic of the Good Table


Another group of my fourth graders from the "good table" have started high school this week. I've kept in touch with many of them and their parents, so my social media feeds have been filled with the beautiful photos of happy kids off to the next great adventure that life offers. It's always hard to let them go. Year after year, I would watch them walk away in June, sobbing so hard that I couldn't catch my breath. (I'm sure many of you know the feeling!) Wise words always followed from my friend Joannie, a more seasoned and reasonable teacher. "Don't cry. They're making more. And when they're ready, they'll send them!" They always did. They kept on sending them. Most of them were even ready! But it somehow never made me miss the ones who had left any less. I still miss them.

A few weeks ago, one special mom who has become a friend, posted a nursery school picture of her child with a few friends, and then some photos along the way of this group about to enter high school.  It made me smile through the tears. I responded, "There are the kids from the good table. Still together! Love it!" Immediately, other moms chimed in with questions about the good table. Were their kids seated at the good table in fourth grade? What is the good table? Is that even a thing?

Yes, friends, the good table is definitely a thing. It's real and it's alive in your classroom even if it is still unnamed. What is the good table? Simply put, it's where the "good" kids sit. It's the table that the teacher smiles at a lot. It's a table where happy and smiling kids are always (Well - almost always. They're kids!) on task. It's your own little Lake Woebegone. (You may need to look this one up!) Kids at the good table feel super comfortable with each other and with you. They don't mind taking risks with their learning and trying out new ideas. They know their friends at the good table will be cheering them on. They exude a confidence that apparently only sitting at the good table can offer!

Through the years, I noticed aspects of the good table showing up, but never really stopped to figure it out. You know how that goes - if things are running smoothly, you don't usually question them. It's when management careens out of control that it gets your attention and desire to analyze it! The year that the good table really made itself known was when this  year's shiny new high school freshmen were in fourth grade.

I had always made it a practice to let kids choose their own seats and to stay there for the report card period unless there was an immediate and pressing need to change seats. We had arrived at the end of the first marking period, and I asked for all who wanted a change of seats to stand. My usual practice was that they would then stand behind the seat that they were hoping to move to. If the student in that seat also wanted to move, they would stand and move to another location. It always worked great. No pressure really. If the person in your desired seat didn't stand, you would simply move on to another location. There were usually enough kids seeking a change that the system worked pretty smoothly. When all movement stopped, kids would go back to their former desks and get their supplies to complete the move.

This fourth grade year was different. I should have seen it coming, but it took me by surprise! When the seat-changing movement began, the group of kids at the "good table" formed what looked for all the world like a prayer circle. They held hands and squeezed their eyes shut tightly. They were still doing this when movement stopped. Some were even shaking a little. I didn't count, but I'd say that 3/4 of the remaining students were gathered around the little prayer circle at the good table.

This was the first time I heard the term. When no one was moving, and I explained that they were not compelled to move, the complaints began. "I want to sit at the good table!" "It's not fair that they always get to sit at the good table." And worse. Time for a town meeting.

At the town meeting, it became clear that my students were seeing something very clearly in their own perception that I had failed to see at all. In their unanimous opinion, we had a very specific group of "good" kids in our class and it was their seating opportunity at the "good" table that made them that way. I asked for some clarification on why they thought that a particular furniture setting was such a desirable place to be.
  • All the good kids sit there.
  • No one bothers them.
  • They can get their work done.
  • Everyone at their table likes them.
  • The teacher likes them best. (That one really hurt, but when you ask for honesty from kids, it's best to be prepared for whatever it is. They tell you exactly how it feels to them.)
We talked a little longer, and came to a sort of agreement. We had a U shaped setup of desks arranged in three "tables", giving us a large meeting space in the center of the room for town meetings and minilessons. I was willing to change that to make all of my students (all of whom I truly believed were the "good" kids) happy. I announced that everyone who wanted to sit at the good table could join it, and all who wanted to remain there also could remain. All agreed that was fair, so we went back to standing where we wished to sit. The "good table became two full sides of the U, connected and flowing in an "L" formation. the few who really preferred to sit by themselves or in smaller groups were able to move their desks wherever they wished. The one rule agreed upon at our town meeting was that anyone who sat at the good table who interfered with the learning or well-being of anyone else would be invited by me to leave the table.

Within a week, everyone had discovered the secrets of the life-changing magic of the good table.
  • Any table can be the good table.
  • The people in any group need to agree on how to treat each other.
  • The people in any group need to agree on how they will work together.
  • When you smile at someone, they will usually smile back. 
  • When you treat someone with respect and encouragement, they will usually treat you the same way.
Changing desks was never much of an issue for the rest of that year. All three tables were the good table. Kids chose to move in and out of them for many reasons at the next two report card period changes. Each one of them took that good table magic with them wherever they went.

Wishing each of you a year filled with kids from the good table, and wishing my former students a high school experience filled with good table magic!

As you create a little good table magic of your own, you might find these resources helpful:

       










For more ideas for the beginning of the school year, be sure to check out these posts from Teacher Talk!