Believe it or not, there is an actual term called ‘seat time’. Yes – states, the national government, school boards, and the rest of ’em, refer to the amount of time a student needs to be learning as “the time they spend in their seats.” So, we create spaces where students feel safe, comfortable, and willing to risk as we maneuver around this idea of ‘seat time’ because really, who wants to be in a seat for hours upon hours a day?
We move furniture around and engage in Sky Writing (writing on the windows), we use bright colors to liven the spot up and throw rugs on the floor, we use wind chimes and zen gardens to channel our collective inner peace. I love all of this. I do. Because our classrooms are our homes away from home, we invest in them. For students, sometimes it’s their only home.
This year I’m taking the show on the road. And by show, I obviously mean the Reading Writing Workshop…because I wouldn’t stay home or head out without it.
I’m not alone in this vein of thought.
Amy has gently drenched us with her new found love for teaching poetry; inclusive of strategies, techniques, and student buy-in that emerged for her this summer at Frost Place. Shana (and her hubby) have taken us to England where we virtually toured historically majestic places where remarkable literaries once stepped foot. And, Jackie has provided us the opportunity to be audience members through Poetry Out Loud as we envision the poetic brilliance eminating from our New England youth.
Thank you, ladies. I’d like to return the favor.
We know, educating our youth is a collective effort – always. Therefore when my principal afforded our students the opportunity to purchase books of their choosing, he envisioned handing them their individual gift cards and letting them be on their way. While this is lovely and most definitely appreciated, I needed to be part of the process with our emerging and evolving readers.
This journey needed to be a collective.
The goal was to ensure that the day was full of all things literature – from the moment we left the building. So, as students and I bundled up to head out into the winter cold, we locked the door to Room 382 with metrocards in hand, Writer’s Notebooks in tow, and independent reading books tucked into our bags. While enroute to the four-story Barnes and Noble located in the heart of Union Square, the NYC subway became our independent reading haven. Students were aghast at first to know that I was serious about reading, not only on the train…but in public. Yet, once reality set in, one-by-one books started to surface. Students started to seep into their pieces and some decided to (unconsciously) ignore the fifteen minute benchmark; they found their time on the subway to be soothed by the lull of everyday noises that so typically distract them. Today is different.
Today we are readers. Public readers.
As we arrived at our destination, students were given a lay of the land and had the opportunity to go explore. I learned a lot in that moment, and in the moments to follow. I learned that while working with students for five months now, I still do not know all of their literary interests…or that some prefer to read graffitti art books because they are fueled by creativity…or that some have been intrigued by forensics since they started the course about a month ago – and so of course – they want to read up on it…or that graphic novels are still at the core of young men’s desire to read. As students traveled up and down escalators to find what they were looking for I was proud of their willingness to take on an adventure that had the potential to be wildly overwhelming.
Weeks later, back in Room 382 and in true RWW form, we took to our Writer’s Notebooks and students were asked to chronicle a vivid moment in their lives. What you are about to read took my breath away, literally.
Davon decided to chronicle this moment:
The first time I went to Barnes and Noble it shocked me a lot. I didn’t even know what Barnes and Noble was intill I got there with my teacher and classmates. When we got there and I realized it was a book store, I was shocked. I started feeling all types of bad feelings running threw my body. I was nervous and had butterflys in my stomach. Seeing all the people at different book shelf’s in there made me feel like I didn’t have no business being there.The fact that everyone looked like they knew what they were doing and looking for, made me just want to stay out of everyone way and get out of there.
Davon’s honesty is brave. And from the looks of it he managed just fine. Better than fine. He found a piece that would keep him company over the holiday break, that would fuel his imagination, and that would support him in his literacy quest. A piece he is calling his own.
Using our ‘seat time’ in the most unconventional ways proves that as educators, we know how to support the needs of our students. Sometimes we borrow strategies and ask for guidance, but innately we know what each new group of students needs. Sometimes it takes a minute to figure it out or customize differentiated plans to make it work. However, I propose that instead of always rearranging our seating chart or window decals or placement of colored pens…we need to bust out of the four walls in which we learn everyday and let the RWW guide us through the wonders just outside.
In what ways do you foster student learning through the RWW outside of your classroom walls?