Writing about my “July dreams” yesterday, got me thinking about how valuable it was to experiment with soft starts last year, which makes me want to try to bookend our sixth grade block with a soft closing this year, too. (You can read more about soft starts by going straight where I did: Sara Ahmed’s book with Harvey Daniels – Upstanders)
Why it worked so well:
- The kids really needed it. Morning block (three periods-writing workshop,reading workshop, social studies) begins first thing in the day at 7:50, when my kiddos are still half asleep. They need some time to get into school mode. Afternoon block begins right after lunch, when my kiddos are either half comatose from all the carbs they just consumed, upset about something that happened at lunch recess, or still hyper from recess activity. They also need some time to get back into school mode. About ten minutes gives them a chance to collect themselves, so that when we begin our learning time, we really begin.
- It worked the same way every day: classical or jazz music to set the tone, and both the day’s “order of operations” and the “starting menu” posted so that everyone was always in the know about what to do, and I didn’t have to field a hundred questions first thing:
- Allowing time for issues settled kids down and eased their minds. If someone had forgotten lunch money, or just had a big melt down at lunch, it was best to address concerns before we began working, rather than have a student worried and miserable and therefore not able to pay attention.
- Be flexible about the timing. Somedays we need more time than others, most often it’s the idea that kids know they have some time, rather than sticking to a rigid timeframe. When time’s up, the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, please meet at the rug to begin our day” is all it takes – they already know what to expect and have, it’s just a matter of picking it up and moving there.
Why a soft closing and what would that look like?
Our block ends with Social Studies, which is discussion based and project oriented. I find that my kids rarely leave our classroom in a calm way – they are either still bubbling over with discussion points and ideas, or not quite done putting away their supplies. Most importantly, they don’t leave in the same frame of mind they had when we began our work day, and I’d like to change this.
I’m thinking that music could signal this time frame, too. And, perhaps a reference chart for closing that could look like this:
Who knows, maybe this soft close to our day will have as much of a positive effect on me as the soft start does!