Monday, February 12, 2018

Reflecting and reaching


What did you just think of when you heard that word? Sluggishness? Reluctance? Trying to shake yourself out of a fog? Yeah, me too. Until I get to class.

Mondays in my classes, more than any other day, run like a well-oiled machine. Smooth, simple, with gears turning purposefully. Going somewhere.

Every Monday, our warm-up is the "idiom of the week". Idioms are everywhere (Seriously. Have you noticed? Tomorrow, pay attention to all the idiomatic phrases you hear and read, and then imagine not having grown up with them!), they're hard to figure out if you don't just know them, and they can be pretty silly and fun! (Today's was "to sling mud", and an astute student pointed out that it's a lot like "throwing shade" -- they might not know traditional idioms, but ELLs sure don't struggle to pick up slang!) It's a light, non-threatening way to start the week... and I always smile to see one of our past idioms find its way into a student's writing months later!

Every Monday, we also check in about our academic goals. For the past several years, we've used the WOOP framework to set a goal that we want to work on for about a month. Teaching students to proactively realize what obstacles are standing in their way and plan how to overcome those obstacles has been incredibly powerful. Now that we're also using R-factor concepts, the language of default actions vs. disciplined actions has fit in perfectly with this structure.
This student's current goal is about reading, but it just has to be some academic skill. We fill out the top half when setting a new goal, then one row on the bottom every Monday to check in over the next month.
I used to have students share their progress with a partner, but now that I've shifted my class to a "squad" unit format (posts on that coming soon, I promise!), they share with their whole squads, and the conversations are much more powerful. These check-ins only take a few minutes, but their impact is incredible. Students are leaning forward, nodding, reflecting, and encouraging each other as they honestly share about why they are struggling to meet their goals or how they were successful.

And every Monday, we time ourselves reading for exactly 15 minutes, noting our starting and ending page numbers. When the timer goes off, we enter those pages into our reading goals spreadsheets (template 1 / template 2) to set our page goals for the week (based on Penny Kittle's idea from Book Love) and do a little thinking about our reading. I do my own as a model, and it's fascinating to see how my reading speed changes between and even within books and how much more purposeful I am about my reading when I know I have a specific goal.
thinking boxes
page goal (light green & yellow boxes calculate automatically)

Fingers fly on clicking keys and flip gently through book pages in a settled, nearly-silent hum: purposeful, thoughtful, spinning the foundation for a new week of reading. I could sneak out of the classroom and I'm pretty sure almost everyone would just keep typing. On Thursday, we'll check back in to see what progress we've made, but for now, the invitation to push ourselves forward as readers stands open.

Too much routine can be boring, but on Mondays, our routines anchor us and drive us, using reflection, goals, and community to focus on what matters most: reaching toward our best selves, one week at a time.


  1. What a great way to make your students realize they can make a difference in their education! I often wonder what are the idioms in other languages. I know it's hard to figure them out when words don't mean what it says.

  2. Great way to start the week, with a well known routine.


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