In just a few weeks, I can see our group of grade one and two students grow as a community. Evidence is in the way they are aware of other’s likes and dislikes, recognize when someone in missing from the group, and readily offer assistance to one other. Like Samantha, I wanted to gather some information about the students to keep on file. In my first newsletter I requested email addresses to set up parents on automatic updates from the class website. I also asked parents the following:
What delights your child? What makes your child uncomfortable? What goals do you have for your child?
The responses were brief, but insightful. It not only gave me some information about my students, but the priorities and perspectives of the student’s parents/families. In addition to the information requests, I also used Aaron’s suggestion of an All About Me Bag in “The Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning” (p 45). The children were provided with a paper bag. They brought back their bags filled with five items that they felt best represented themselves. The children were thrilled to share their All About Me bags at the community circle and waited with anticipation to learn more about their classmates with each presentation. To the children’s surprise, there were many areas of common interest that were revealed, which resulted in new friendships that extended to recess and the playground.
September was full of new beginnings. At times I questioned whether we were accomplishing enough, such as the curriculum. As Tina discussed in her blog entry, I needed reminders to “go slow.” So as I planned our reading and writing, I tried to incorporate our community-building activities. Two read-alouds that the children adored and were able to easily connect to regarding self-esteem and inclusion, were: One by Kathryn Otoshi and The OK Book by Amy K Rosenthal. These books provided us with rich literature for our reading and writing program, while supporting our discussions on community.