There are many, many days where at the end of the day we stop and just have to sigh because we’re so tired. We have done so much in so little time that we just did to sit and rest. Really–we are going nonstop from the very beginning of the day all the way to the end.
I love, too, that that “busy” can be so many things. It might be a group project or a math investigation, reading a great book or writing, but we are always doing something. What I love about my class is that they are so into whatever we do. They dig in deeply and give their all. They are also pretty good at managing their time and getting things done within a certain time frame.
And so on some afternoons, rather than chunk our activities into the regular “subjects,” I take a large amount of time and just give them a list of things to do, at their own pace. The only “rule” is that it all has to get done.
So there are Must Dos and Can Dos:
Now, this doesn’t happen all the time, just every few weeks. Obviously on most afternoons there is something specific I need to teach them for each subject and therefore we all follow the same schedule together. But some days, often Fridays or when we’re towards the end of a unit, I may just say “you need to get these things done.” I give the list and the time constraints and they get to work. When they have finished an assignment they initial that step. When they are done with the Must Dos, then they choose a Can Do. Ok, so I guess that’s a rule: you have to be doing something. So really the Can Dos are Must Dos, too, just not everyone will get to them. Does that make sense?
Anyhow, this class does superbly on days when I whip out charts like this. They love it actually. And I love it, too, because I think it values that we all move at different paces and we might need different things to get to the end. I take these times to have conferences, catch up on other assessments I may need to do with kids, or meet with small groups. I often will rotate around the room just checking in, too, in a more informal way as they work.
Tomorrow’s Friday again, and I’m still not sure if we’ll be doing a Must Do Can Do chart. But if we do, I know I’ll have a classroom-full of engaged 5th graders working hard, finishing their assignments to their best ability. And I know that because that’s what they always do!