As we arrived home from vacation, I needed to change our calendars to August. Whenever I do this, I know I have about two weeks left before school starts, so my thinking is directed towards those weeks and how crucial it is to begin to build community with a new group of fifth graders.
For those of us who have been teaching for awhile (probably 10 years or more) we all have our favorite units that we just can’t seem to get rid of in our classrooms. My unit was about quilting. It seemed appropriate for the beginning of the school year: building community, discussing how indicate designs create a beautiful piece of art, and how we are all unique in our own way. In addition, I had several pictures books that I collected and read aloud, several puzzles that students could put together. Also I had ALL of the students sew their own 9 piece quilt which for many of them was a brand new activity. After several years of starting the year with my quilt unit and with the changes in education, I had to stop and really think about the educational benefits of this unit. Mostly I thought about the time element that this unit consumed the first few weeks of school. How many indicators was I really teaching? Was there a better way to weave community into the start of the school year? Had times changed enough that quilting was a thing of the past? Sometimes we do need to throw the baby out with the bath water even if it is a difficult thing to do.
After much deliberation, I decided that it was time to change the opening of the school year, so last year we started totally different. We built bridges and I encouraged students to begin to wonder instantly on the first day of school. The integration of 21st Century skills drove my thinking, and we started with nonfiction reading at Wonderopolis. Instantly the students were able to choose their topic, and I learned something new about every student within the first few days of school. This year one of our first anchor charts will be entitled: What does Room 228 WONDER about?