When I walk into second-grade, I’m happy to see that the guest teacher is not only one I know and love, but one I used to request when I was a classroom teacher. I had hoped it would be her!
“My dream has come true! It’s you!” I tell her.
“Ms. Gabriel! You’re here!” A girl says with a big smile, and I feel loved. Then she adds, “I knew it would be close to recess when you got here!”
The students clean up from reading and join me on the carpet for some phonics routines.
I’m not lying when I remind the class that I am just learning phonics, and the routines too. I mean, you should see how many times I have to text one of the other Instructional Coaches about this stuff.
Is gi_ the same as gi without the line after it? Sounds like Jump?
How do I know what the spelling focus is for each word in the spelling focus routine?
I make sticky notes to myself at the bottom of pages to remind myself of the sounds for the sound spelling review, because my brain has just never worked this way.
When I started teaching, decades ago, I used to have to ask my lovely para to remind me about long vowels vs. short.
So basically the fact that I can now do any of this is a miracle.
Why does the spelling card for ring say that “ng” can be spelled with _n_? The substitute teacher and I quickly discuss. Isn’t it always a short vowel, n, then a g or k?
Stamp is an interesting word to blend. You really have to dig into vowel sounds with that one.
The second-graders are wonderful though. Great critics. I’ve asked them to rate me at the end of each routine: Thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down.
They give me way more thumbs up than I deserve. But, I’ll take it
Before we started I told them I found stickers while I cleaned out my basement this weekend. I wasn’t sure they’d care. But, wow. Second-graders really love stickers. I don’t know why I had forgotten that. . .
“What do you think you need to do to earn a sticker?” I asked them, knowing full well there was no way I wasn’t going to give them all a sticker.
“Be good?” One of them said.
“Well, you are all good!” I said
“Pay attention!” Someone offered
“Participate!” Another student said.
“Those are all great ideas,” I told them. “But really there’s one big thing. You are going to have to have to help me practice these phonics routines!”
They were all in for that, especially the one student sitting right in front. Last week when I came in to do these routines for the first time, he said to me, “I’m going to be a phonics teacher one day.”
This time he sneaks it in again. In between a routine, after a thumbs up check, I tell them they are the ones that really deserved the double thumbs up for such amazing reading. I hear him, very quietly say, “Yea. I’m ready to be a phonics professor.”
At some point I ask the students how they got so good at this.
“We’ve been doing it for three years!” They say, like they are some sort of commercial for a vertical articulated curriculum.
We finish the routines, (something I always feel like I deserve a sticker for, to be honest!) so it’s sticker time!
They chose without argument, taking turns.
They sweetly ask if they can put their stickers on their hand, their backpack, their lunchbox, their chrome book, their water bottle.
I advise them that paper would be the best place, or on a notebook – because they might fall off otherwise.
The guest teacher says, “Ms. Gabriel’s been doing this a long time. I’d take her advice.”
One of the last kids to choose a sticker asks if he can take the little sticker on the side of sticker sheet – a tiny rectangle with, I don’t know, the item number printed on it.
“Sure…” I say.
“Does this count as a sticker?” He asks.
“If you want it to,” I say.
“Okay!” He says and walks away with that teeny tiny rectangle.
The class is outside, and if you walked by the classroom you would hear me and the guest teacher sounding out words, discussing why it’s so hard to sound out anything that has an an or am.
Caaaannnnn, Mannnnnn, Raaaaannn . . .
Stamp -StAPPLE, STAP, STAAAAmP. . .
“Great to see you!” I tell her as I leave.
“You too,” she says “Thanks for coming to teach the phonics. I always learn more by watching it.”
“Thanks for not laughing at me while I was doing it!” I say
“Oh I was,” she smiles, “I was laughing WITH you though.”