Wednesday, December 17, 2014

You Can't Catch Me! Following student motivation in kindergarten

Last Friday I sat down with my kindergarten remediation author group. My plan was to re-read our Mrs. Wishy Washy at the beach book and then move on to reading an actually published book. (What was I thinking?) As I gathered the group I quickly realized that my plans were not the right course of action. The kindergarten classes had just finished reading different gingerbread man stories and had baked their own men, only to have them escape. They'd made wanted posters for their men and hunted them down. This was so exciting that they couldn't stop talking about it. I hadn't been at school that Thursday so they couldn't wait to fill me in on everything I'd missed. Listening to their excitement of retelling what happened to the gingerbread men I threw away my lesson plans for the day and decided that instead we'd write another story like our Mrs. Wishy Washy book, but this time about the gingerbread men. 

That day I grabbed some construction paper and together we hand wrote the words to our story (and read, and re-read the words while they each took turns pointing). The next time we met I had pre-printed pages for us to include in our book. Each student could dictate what the gingerbread men ran away from. I gave out the page to the first student, scribed where her tasty convict escaped from, and went on to the next student. When I turned back I saw that she was furiously writing. She wasn't just writing strings of letters either, she was saying her words slowly and trying to record the exact sounds she heard. I hadn't told the group to write, I'd only told them to draw. Keep in mind this is considered a remediation group. This is a group of students identified as being below the expected benchmark in concepts of print, so much so that they are in need of daily intervention. And yet, without being prompted this student was applying everything she'd been taught. Happily. With purpose. When the others realized what she was doing they added words to their pages as well. Suddenly my quick activity designed to merely to create a text we could use the next day to practice reading together turned into a writing lesson.

When they were finished and we read the story together they spontaneously high-fived each other out of excitement and pride. Another reminder to me of how powerful it can be to follow the students' lead. My previous plans would have worked just fine, but our fast twenty minutes would not have been packed with nearly as much literacy practice if I'd stuck with my original plan.

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