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Simplify, Simplify: An Invitation

We’re six days deep into the school year here in West Virginia, and I am so happy, fulfilled, and content.  The start of this year has been the smoothest of my seven years, and our readers and writers workshop is coming together more quickly than it ever has.  I think it’s because of all of the invitations and welcomes that have been flying around our classroom, rather than the commands and directives of years past.

Amy’s post on inviting students to just talk helped me simplify the structure of my first week of lessons.  I strove to make our first days together as inviting as possible–as laid back, relaxed, and caring as I could.  Students were drawn to our classroom library with an invitation to check out whatever book they’d likethoreau-simplify.  They were intrigued by an invitation to write daily–nulla dia sine linea, in the words of the inimitable Donald Murray–as we set up our writer’s notebooks.  I invited students to just read for pleasure, to just listen to a poem to enjoy it, and to just write for fun.

My invitations all centered around simplicity.

I want to slow down my thinking this year.  It seems my brain is always flying at a hundred miles a minute, and I bet my students’ minds are too.  I will invite my students to simplify their thinking–to streamline their thought processes, open their minds, and just write.  Just read.  Just talk.

This year, I’m inviting everyone in our classroom–adults and students–to put away their phones.  We read this article to understand why that may be necessary, as our devices can distract us without our consent.  Part of this conviction came after I read M.T. Anderson’s Feed, an award-winning YA novel about the mindlessness technology can fill our lives with.

I’m inviting learners to resist letting their lives be frittered away by detail, to simplify, simplify.  We will do more with less, and we will do all of our reading, writing, and thinking more deliberately.  These first six days have been marked by that simplicity, and I hope to continue that trend all school year long.

What are your goals this school year?  What do you hope to achieve with your learners?

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6 thoughts on “Simplify, Simplify: An Invitation

  1. […] and as a result, my own early teaching experience.  I’ve been interested in the idea of simplifying my instruction for a while, and of course, Penny helped me see more clearly how to do it–with […]

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  2. […] we keep our classrooms simple, doing more with less and simplifying our instruction to include mostly reading, writing, and talk about reading and writing, we are […]

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  3. […] stimuli that burdens our plugged-in students.  I was reminded of my vow to help my kids simplify their lives, slow down their minds, and […]

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  4. […] to reading, writing, talking, revising, thinking, and pondering.  So, I invited my students to simplify their lives this year by putting away all smartphones, but wondered if I was being a hypocrite when […]

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  5. Amy August 25, 2015 at 4:32 pm Reply

    We started school yesterday, and for the first time since I’ve been teaching AP Lang, I did not pound the hammer on the first day of school. I listened to the feedback students gave me last year: “We thought you were scary,” “We were afraid to approach you.” And I changed.

    Yesterday, like you, I did a lot of inviting. I had stacks of books sitting on all the tables, and I invited students to choose one they thought would interest them. We talked about the importance of literacy — and how those who are highly literate have the power in our society. Today, we began setting up our writer’s notebooks. And we listened to a beautiful poem called “Life While You Wait” for no other reason but that I think it is beautiful. We wrote responses. Of course we did — we had to write something in our newly organized notebooks.

    A sign that says “Simplicity” hang on the wall behind my desk. I see it a million times a day. If only I can remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shanakarnes August 25, 2015 at 4:48 pm Reply

      I hope to remember, too. Let’s remind each other.

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