At the beginning of a new school year, it is very important to learn information about the new students who enter your classroom. Teachers are provided information related to academic progress in previous school years in order to make initial instructional decisions. Yet, teachers also need to know information that can’t be determined or provided through a test score or grade mark. This type of information relates to the child’s personality, interests, comfort in school, and social relationships, which also impact classroom learning.
In years past, I have always started the year with a “getting to know you” type activity. I ask each child to bring in three items from home that can fit inside of the provided lunch size, paper bag. If the item is too large to fit, they can always bring in a photo of the item. Throughout the first week of school, I ask a few students each day to share their items in the paper bag with the class.
During this share time, I document important information that the students share such as their interests, summer activities, and comfort sharing in front of the group. This helps me throughout the year to understand the life experiences they bring to the classroom in order to capitalize on those experiences for educational purposes. The students then create a list of writing ideas related to the items in their paper bag. This provides a great working document of personal narrative ideas for students to consider during Writer’s Workshop. Additionally, it also helps their peers understand more about their friends in the classroom, which helps to create new friendships based on interests.
This year, I’m planning to expand my “getting to know you” activities the first week of school by asking my students to also bring in their favorite book that they like to read, or the book they like their parents to read to them at home. My students will also be able to log on to their Big Universe accounts to showcase their favorite book selection! This activity will begin to provide information related to my students’ literacy choices. I can make note of the genre, level of text, complexity of story, interests, who reads to them at home, as well as their overall experiences with books.
Once the students have had time to share their favorite book, we will then sort the titles into genre categories. This discussion is a great way to instruct students on how to distinguish between the various genres. I will then introduce a reading log, which requires the students to make note of the title, and genre of each book they read in the classroom. This log is kept for the first month of school, and then the students will analyze their reading choices. Next, my students will be displaying their reading selections by creating a custom graph at: http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/graphing/classic/. It is my hope to continue this activity on a monthly basis so that my students can analyze the trends of their reading once their graphs have been created!