I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!
I walked down the hall today with my teacup in my hand. I had been invited to join a special 6th grade reading celebration: “Toast and Tea and Time to Read.” It was the perfect middle to my Friday.
As I walked into the class, students were settling at their desks, books facing out, ready for instructions. Their teacher reminded them that the purpose was to read, and everyone got organized around the room in various comfy spaces. I was stationed at the tea, the teacher managed the toasters. As students started coming by for tea, I grabbed a copy of John Green’s Paper Towns that was calling to me from the shelf next to the counter.
It was a mostly calm job. I pushed the lever down to fill the mugs with hot water, with only the occasional close call when students got distracted by the sugar packets and started to move their mugs out of the stream of water. Some students seemed to be tea-making experts. I also heard many a whisper of, “I’ve never had tea” and watched students fumble to get their tea bag ready and into their mug. I found myself explaining the skill of making a cup of tea. Suddenly I heard myself teaching tea strategies: “Put the tea bag in, with the tag hanging out. We’ll pour the hot water on top of that. Now keep the tea bag in there for awhile so it can steep for a few minutes before you drink it. You can take the tea bag out, or just leave it in.”
I laughed at myself, as I realized I was conferring about tea strategies. A tea workshop!
The goal of course, was for everyone to have a relaxed time to read. One of the skills for this “Toast and Tea and Time to Read” was to be able to make that cup of tea. There were a few strategies for making tea: Tea bag in first or after the water? Adding sugar, unwrapping different kinds of tea bags. Each time a new group of students came to the tea line, I quickly assessed. Do they know how to make tea? If not, what kind of help do they need? Most of the time I was conferring with one student at a time in a Research-Decide-Teach type of conference. However occasionally, I noticed that a few students needed the same strategy and we had a strategy group. I might not have my own classroom right now, but I’m putting these workshop skills to immediate use! Thank you, Jennifer Serravallo! 🙂
Of course, I looked over at the toast table across the room. I heard the toasting conferences a bit as well. “Decide which kind of bread. Do you want it toasted? Oh no – you can’t put the bread in the toaster after you bite it. We don’t want to have your mouth in our toaster!”
Luckily I already know how to make tea, and toast. So after my groups were done, I did just that, sat down, and read Paper Towns. Modeling, of course, the main goal of the day.