Friday, February 25, 2011

Inspiring Stamina During the Workshop

Last year, I felt like my job as a first grade teacher was to take kiddies who were needy kindergartners and turn them into independent students, ready to work hard in second grade.  The jump between the kindergarten and first grade standards alone...enough said.  And the curriculum is demanding:  I certainly don't remember writing a how-to book or an all about book on an "expert" topic for 20 to 30 minutes each day.  I remember practicing my spelling words on ice cream paper and the Superkids.

So how do we get these five, six, and seven year-olds to work so hard for an extended period of time?  I think that's a question that we will forever be answering, but I know my colleagues and I would try some nifty tricks to motivate students to remain focused for an extended period of time.

Courtesy of

1.  Stuffed animals 
During readers and sometimes writers workshop, I would hand out stuffed animals to quiet, hard-working, super (you know what I mean) readers and writers to keep them company.  As the year progressed, I would give all or most students a stuffed animal to read with and then if they couldn't be responsible enough to have a stuffed animal, they would lose that privilege.  Believe it or not, even the boys were not happy to lose the opportunity to cuddle with a stuffed animal while reading.

Notice the kitty cat keeping her company during writers workshop!

2.  Reader, Writer, or Partnership of the Day
I started handing out tickets at the end of each subject, crowning somebody/somebodies reader of the day, writer of the day, or partners of the day.  And we would reflect on why those individuals would receive this honor (they worked the whole time, they were focused, they took turns with their partners, etc).  I would give them a ticket to take home to show their parents; it was a quick way of sending home a positive note and provide positive reinforcement to the student.  Students would write their name after Love, as if they wrote the note to their parents.

I would write out Partnership of Day slips using this handy pad from Scholastic; this was a very popular ticket in math because we had so many partner activities, and both friends would receive a ticket.

The writers workshop slip is in my Writers Workshop Resource.  Unfortunately, the reading detective slip is not for sale yet.  I have been slowwwwwly working on my Readers Workshop Resource, but that whole learning a new grade level seems to be getting in the way of putting it together.  Someday it will be up on TpT.

3.  Class Goal Poster
Most of the readers workshop gurus (Calkins, Miller, etc) have taught us, we need build stamina slowly, with the younger grades reading for five minutes and then building up.  Well I saw my amazing second grade colleague and friend create a little poster keeping track of the number of minutes her students would read.  And she would motivate them by saying, "So let's shoot for 18 minutes today!"  And the students responded so well to that little poster:  by the end of the year, they were reading for 25 minutes independently...which is sooooo impressive!  So I tried it last year, and it worked pretty well, when I was consistently using it.  I would forget to update it sometimes.  The next time I'm in a classroom, I'll definitely be more mindful of it.  Check it out on TpT!

I would love to know how you keep your students angelic during reading, writing, and math workshops.

1 comment:

  1. I love the stuffed animals idea. Now I can tell my mom what to do with my sister's old Beanie Babies! ;) I don't always fall back to candy but from time to time my students will do ANYTHING for a "Quiet Pill"...1 jellybean, M&M or mini-marshmallow. If I can't get participation, if the kids are talking, if they're not doing their work, Quiet Pill handed out (and I don't even have to say anything!) and the next thing you know...everyone's falling in line. :)

    Thanks for sharing!