It’s summertime and what often comes with summer break...some REFLECTION! You might be thinking about how you can help your students build their independent work stamina as fast as possible at the beginning of next school year. Launching reading & writing workshop expectations and routines is not always easy, especially if you are a beginning teacher, because this is something that you were probably not taught in college or in your student teaching experience. There’s a whole lot of teaching and modeling going on the first few weeks of school. And yet for some reason, a few students just aren't remembering or following routines and expectations correctly and you don’t understand why. I mean...you’ve practiced these routines over and over again.
Has this crossed your mind? “How am I supposed to meet with students in a conference or small group, if they can’t work independently long enough?”
I bet you tried these things:
You’ve done all of this, and still students are not following expectations.
Let’s get your students independently working long enough so that you can do 1-1 conferences and small groups; because the work you do with students during independent time is so crucial to helping your them grow quickly as a reader or writer.
Here’s 7 strategies that will help you build independent learners in your classroom:
Strategy #1: Anticipate potential problems and decide ahead of time how you will respond such as:
- Students telling you, “I finished writing my piece.”
- Someone is bothering me and I can’t concentrate.
- Ask to use the bathroom or get a drink.
- Students will ask for supplies like Post-its, pencils.
- Students will run out of steam and start to become bored or distracted.
- Students will want to share their thinking with a friend nearby and will begin talking.
Strategy #2: Use a stamina chart to set goals and to visually see growth over time.
- First time start with only 3-5 minutes and build up from there. Celebrate each level of success.
Strategy #3: List desirable behaviors during independent time
- Instead of weaving around the room, whispering what a wonderful job they were doing as learners, praising them for staying focused, quietly applauding their on-task behavior; do the following: Create intrinsic, independent learners.
Try this instead:
-Stay in one spot, not moving (The lack of moving from the teacher allows children to focus on practicing the desired behaviors and attending to their work, rather than being distracted by us or relying on our constant reinforcement to help build stamina.
-Avoid direct eye contact.
Strategy #4: Listen and watch for the first sign of off-task behavior such as:
- Getting a drink.
- Talking to someone.
- Looking around.
- Starting to move toward the teacher to ask or report something.
Strategy #5: Be careful to not stop the class due to a child “resetting” their stamina.
Examples of “resetting” stamina are:
- Putting the book down.
- Standing up and stretching, looking around, and then settling back into their writing, never bothering another student.
Strategy #6: As soon as students have exhausted their stamina, use a quiet signal.
-Tell students to return to the carpet because independent time is done. Tip: Since the interruption of a loud voice can easily trigger an escalation of the entire room’s noise level, use the power of a calm and respectful signal and teach children how to respond quickly when they hear it. Some examples are: (chimes, quiet music, gentle tone from an instrument, rain stick).
Strategy #7: Have students self-reflect on how they followed each expectation for independent time such as:
-“Class, put your hand in front of you as you think carefully about how you did today. How did you do with “staying in one spot.”
Here’s 10 strategies to help your students build reading stamina:
Here’s 18 strategies to help your students build writing stamina:
I want to encourage you to not give up when it comes to getting your students to build independent work stamina. Keep going. You can do this! Believe that your students are going to follow these expectations from Day 1 of next school year. Believe that you will not have to give tons of reminders. Believe that the next time a student gets off task, another student will rise up and be a leader and get them back on task so you will not be interrupted.
I believe in YOU and your students!!!
Go get ‘em next school year!