Dealing with work time has always been a big problem for me. Kids don’t always take full advantage of the time they have when they are working independently, and it leaves me l feeling like the time was wasted. This year I’ve tried doing a lot of ‘launching’ the work time. When class starts I’ll give everyone their folders and then I’ll give a speech detailing what a productive period would consist of. “Hey guys. The project is due next Friday, that means today would be a good day to work on the missing assignments, plan presentations or writing up the project. Missing assignments are over here, and let me just clarify a couple things about the project before you get started…” These ‘launches’ would end with my promising to do a little mini-lesson late in the class, so look through your folders and let me know what it is I should do a mini lesson on. After I say all this I then run around the room like an old man with a broom trying to get all the little birdie off of his own and flying through the sky. This usually results in checking in with kids about particular issues, and after all the running and the checking, there’s only 15 minutes if work time before I have to stop and do the mini lesson.
Today was a little different. Four students finished their drafts early(!) and I needed to give them feedback so I tried to grade them quickly before class. I set up the files and the missing assignments and just sat in the front of the room grading papers as class started. Kids trickled in, and eventually got to work, so I decided not to do the typical ‘launch’. Instead, I called over the 4 kids whose papers I wrote on and told them what they needed to do. Well wouldn’t you know it, the class didn’t devolve into bedlam. Some of the kids who don’t start without some old-man-Carl-broom-shaking actually came over to me to figure out what they needed to get done!
Eventually I got out of my seat and touched base with all the kids I usually do, but in a few of the cases, it felt like I was not igniting their work, but more like interrupting their work. I was really shocked to look at the clock and see more than half an hour of class left, I honestly didn’t know what to do with the time!
By being in front and working on my own I think I modeled the independent work that students were supposed to be doing. I will try to do a more deliberate ‘un-launch’on Friday and see how it goes.