We returned from break today, a little bit tired, a little bit remorseful, and a lot overjoyed to have traded our winter coats for jackets and sunglasses while we were off.
It was a day filled with meetings and catching up. I dusted off my to do list and tried to get my head back in the game.
Late in the morning, I left my office to fulfill a commitment I made before break: the first in a series of grammar lessons in a second grade classroom.
We’re exploring options for grammar instruction right now in my district (none doesn’t seem to be working out very well). Several weeks ago, I acquired a copy of Patterns of Power after it was recommended by literacy leaders in some neighboring districts. One of our second grade teachers, seeing my excitement about this new resource and wanting to see the lessons in action, graciously invited me in for a week-long series of lessons to model the instruction. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this work since before break.
As I walked in, four rows of still-subdued, ready-for-lunch-the-day-after-break children were waiting for me on the classroom carpet. Taking the deep breath of “I’m about to try something new,” I dove right in, putting up the mentor sentence and reading it aloud. Then I asked the pivotal question: What do you notice?
I gave them a few moments to think, then extended the invitation for them to talk to a partner. I circled the perimeter of the rug, subtly listening in as I’ve been coached to do. They noticed vocabulary, punctuation, and capitalization. As they shared, the focus quickly came up: we are going to learn about punctuating dialogue with quotation marks this week.
I pushed them even further, feeling the energy in the room beginning to rise. “Look at the quotation marks! Now what do you notice?” Once again, they turned, talked, and shared out with the group.
I quickly shared our focus for the week, then left them to think: “Hmmmm…I’m starting to wonder if any of you will notice this same type of pattern with dialogue in the books you’re reading…or maybe even try it out in your writing? I can’t wait to take a closer look with you tomorrow!”
And with that, I left. The entire lesson took only six minutes, but in that small amount of time we were able to do the incredible work of evaluating, looking for patterns, connecting prior knowledge, collaborating, discussing, and setting the stage for transfer.
Six minutes is all it took.
Sometimes less really is more.
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