This is a part of the Burning Questions blog series. At the end of each post, you will find resource links and a link to a one-page PDF with the information in the blog — including resources.
Let me start by confessing: I was the worst at remembering to take attendance. The attendance clerk at my school was amazing, and she often received her favorite candy as an apology from me.
Attendance IS important. Maybe more so today than ever. We need to know where students are (or aren’t) and in a timely manner for safety among other reasons. So I get it. I was the one who needed to change. I needed a routine.
But what might that look like? About 83 different ways (or at least that’s according to a quick Google search).
Truth: There are a ton of different cute, fun, interactive ways to start class.
Truth: Many of those ways do not reflect the values of my classroom.
I believe there should be a routine to the beginning of class – one that gets students engaged in reading, writing, or craft study immediately. After teaching the students the routine of beginning of class, I should have to say very little (if anything at all) at the beginning of class. This gives me a chance to take attendance immediately when the bell rings (or for forgetful teachers like me — have a student take attendance and let me know who is absent). This way in 60 seconds or less, I can get back to the students.
Here are some things to think about when deciding how to start class:
- Does this reflect the values I’ve established for my class?
- Does it minimize transition time?
- Is it “real” meaningful work or is it busy work?
- Is it something that can be a routine so that it adds structure to the class and gives students a sense of securty from the beginnig of class?
- Is it sustainable and manageable for me?
- Can students do it with minimum assistance from me?
One year, being the clever teacher I am, I decided to do something different each day of the week. For me, it was a disaster! Too many different things – neither I nor the students could keep up with it and I ended up abandoning it.
But I do think it can be helpful do one thing on Mondays and Fridays and something else on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays. Or do one thing during reading workshop and something different during writing workshop. Or a combination that works for you and your students.
There’s not one right answer to this question although there are some wrong ones. Often we don’t figure out the wrong ones until we’ve tried them. That’s okay, as long as we learn and change to maximize the time for learning for students.
Here are some ideas but you have to know yourself as a teacher, reflect on the practice (using the questions above), take a risk, and try one or a combination:
- Independent reading (from Penny Kittle)
- Article of the Week (from Kelly Gallagher)
- Status of the Class (from Donalyn Miller)
- Invitational Grammar Instruction (from Jeff Anderson)
- Poem a Day (from Nancie Atwell)
- Voice Lessons Craft Study (from Nancy Dean)
- Reading Minute (from Kelly Gallagher)
Nancie Atwell’s Poem a Day
Kelly Gallagher’s Reading Minute (read about it on pages 44-45 of Reading Reasons)