I have focused on two main things this week: Michael and fine-tuning the school year to make it run as smoothly as possible. We just finished up our third week of school, and it is always about this time (and several times throughout the year; let's see...there's mid-year when I start tiring of the curriculum, there's springtime when I just want school to be over...) that I begin to see with clarity what is and is not going to work for the school year.
The one thing that is still driving me crazy and that I am trying to remedy is the amount of activity that goes on while I am trying to work one-on-one with someone. I have my schedule set up so that three children are supposed to be completing independent work at different stations or centers. My stations are Spanish on the computer, Reading Corner, and Critical Thinking activities. The last station is Independent School Work. Theoretically, it is supposed to function thusly: Let's say I'm working with Michael. Alex should be in Reading Corner, and Jacob should be doing Spanish on the computer. Audrey, well, she can color or sort colored bears or practice her writing; she's usually pretty cooperative. What's happening is Jacob is finishing his Spanish in about 10 minutes (which is about how long each lesson is), and I still have an hour to go with Michael (I'll get to him in a minute). And when Jacob is done, he's climbing the walls.
While I still have lots of brainstorming, planning, and implementing to do, this weekend, I'm going to make a master list of activity choices for when each station is complete. One such activity will be "reading to Audrey." I figure I kill at least 3 birds with one stone on that one: sibling interaction for Audrey, literature for Audrey, reading practice for whoever is reading to her. If I ever get my act together, I intend to create a Box O'Fun from which the children may extract activities of one variety or another. Learning activities. Of course.
So that's still a work in progress. As is Michael. I mentioned last week that I've begun to feel some concern for Michael's progress. Upon recommendation from a friend, I have torn through the findings and suggestions of Dianne Craft for the struggling learner. Haven't spent any money yet on her products, but I likely will in the end. In the meantime--baby steps--I've implemented some of her phonics and spelling procedures. In addition, I am working more one-on-one with Michael, holding his hand, so to speak.
For the others, after I have met one-on-one with them and it is time for Independent Work, I hand them their books, their assignment sheet, and they go off to some corner of the house and complete their work. For Michael, I hand him one book with one verbal instruction to finish the one task and then report back to me. Sometimes I even break up one page into several stages and check-ins with me. In Math, for example, he tends to lose focus, and I'll get it turned in with only half of the page completed. So we break that up in to smaller chunks with check-ins after he's completed each little bit. It's working very well; in fact, after we did it this way the first time, Michael asked, "When I do independent work tomorrow, can we do it the same way?"
So it's definitely helping. This extra time with him, though, has forced me to re-evaluate the schedule and make a few tweaks here and there. The "check-ins" too take some getting used to because the added interruptions...well, they interrupt. But it's totally worth it if it will help him succeed.
I was so proud of the kids--and especially of Michael--tonight. Michael's reading assignment today included a short play which is an adaptation of a Native American tale. After we read the first half of the play together, he begged me to read the rest. Then, before I knew it, he was making paper bag puppets of the coyote, crow, and various other critters from the play. He and Jacob fashioned signs for the big puppet show and hung them throughout the house. It was then I suggested that I make copies of the play so that we could all read a part. Initially, Michael was a little put out; he assumed I would narrate the whole thing (translation: he could escape reading). But he quickly warmed up to the idea and begged to have the lead part, even after I warned that it would mean the most reading. The girls dressed up in fancy dresses for the show, and there was popcorn and assigned seating and the whole she-bang. It's rewarding to see him reading.