I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements in my students. The only one to go down was the student that has been out of my class since October. She returned two weeks ago - long story. Overall, the class rose 11 points. This is significant because our district goal is 10 for the entire year. Now, I am not trying to toot my horn (well maybe a little toot), but I want to think back on the things that I have done that I believe cause the biggest gains.
1. Phonics - We spend the whole beginning of the year with a huge phonics push - completing 2 pages in our phonics book as the basis of the phonics lesson for the day. I remember that I was taught with the Phonics approach while my brother, who is a few years younger, was taught with whole language. I felt that I had the skills and desire to read while he always struggled. This was always my reasoning to want to teach phonics.
2. Read Alouds - I read aloud to my students everyday. We meet on the carpet for this. It is a time for the students to get away from their seats and focus in a new environment. Many of my students have told me that this time is their favorite part of the day because their teacher never read to them last year (how sad is that?). This read aloud time exposes my students to new genres, books they would never read, and allows me time to teach a mini lesson. Reading aloud to the students also allows them to here fluent reading and new vocabulary. It helps them foster a love of reading.
3. CAFE - If you have not checked out the book by The Sisters, please do. This has been an incredible guide for me. This is what I use to teach my mini lessons on the carpet. I was first told about this book in a conference. The Sisters also write about the Daily 5. While I liked that, it wasn't doable in my schedule. CAFE is much more manageable.
4. Library - I am obsessed with getting books into my students' hands. I am always on the lookout for bargain books. Scholastic always offers great deals for teachers. I have also gotten many books through my local Freecycle program. I am proud to say that my library has close to 2,500 hundred books and is still growing. My only problem is finding room in the classroom for all the books. It is a good problem to have.
Each year, I want to take time to reflect and better myself as a teacher. Can I do better? Of course I can! There is no perfect teacher. I do want to be better so my students can get the best possible education!
Now speaking of my library, I have to start getting my February books ready for the library.