Class Pet Petitions

I don’t know how long you’ve been reading, or how far back you’ve gone through the post archives, so I’m wondering if I’ve told you about class meetings yet?  I wrote about the big idea behind them here, and the story was pretty great.  This class is doing an amazing job with class meetings, too.  Each week, though, when we sit down together to reflect upon the week and talk over things we want to improve upon, there aren’t really any problems to solve.  Oh, come on.  No way, right?  No really–we had to change the last question on our meeting protocol to “What do you want to talk about?” rather than “What do we need to improve upon?” because of how well these kids work together, learn together and just generally follow the rules and procedures of our school.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect.  We do work things out together.  This week was an example of two kinds of issues to discuss.

Like class pet petitions, for instance.  Here is what the flipchart from this week’s class meeting:

So, see all those dots after “class pets petition?”  It meant that several people wanted to talk about that topic.  But again, it wasn’t because it was a problem.  They just wanted to talk about it.  They needed to decide whether or not it was a good idea for Ames to make us an origami class pet, and if so, what type of animal we’d want to have.  We decided that Ames (as the origami master of our class) would narrow the list down to four of his best creatures, and we’d vote on the one we liked best out of those four.  Then we’ll chat about it again next week.

Ok, so there did end up being a concern they did want to try to work out, and it was related to recess.  A question was posed about what to do when you try to play with people and they tell you you can’t.  We had a great conversation about strategies to try, words we could use and how it felt when someone told you you couldn’t be a part of the group.  The idea of “popular” kids was brought up, and the concern was raised that there are some people in our grade who won’t play with certain kids because they’re friends with certain other people who are considered weird or different.  It hurt my heart as I heard them talk about what was going on outside on the playground, and we decided that it might mean we needed a grander conversation.  We agreed that we would do what we could to support each other outside–like paying attention to when people are alone and inviting them to play, or standing up for our classmates if we see or hear something mean being done to them–but we agreed that this might be a topic that would be better discussed with our whole grade level.  So I have “homework” to coordinate a 5th grade recess conversation in the next few days.  This was definitely a problem worth tackling, and one that we want to see solved.


A Conversation about Homework

We had a great conversation in our class today.  I wasn’t surprised that it was great, because like I’ve told you before a hundred times, I have really amazing kids.  Here’s what happened:

In our classroom, Wednesday is homework day.  Today, however, instead of sending home the homework sheet, we had a conversation about a decision that our 5th grade team has made to not do that weekly homework sheet anymore.

What follows are some of the things my kids said in response to that announcement:

  • I think that’s great, but I’m not sure my parents will believe me when I tell them.
  • But what about next year?  I don’t think I’ll be ready for homework in middle school.
  • I think it’s a good idea because I’ll have time to play outside now.
  • Well, even if you don’t tell me to, I’ll still read and write at home anyway.
  • I think that even if you don’t send home homework to do, my parents will still give me things to work on anyway.
  • I don’t like that idea.  I’m just not sure about it.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by some of them.  Maybe naively, I figured they would all think it was a great idea.  But I love that they were honest about what they were thinking, and that they were asking questions.  I have very thoughtful friends, and so several of them asked me about how long we’ve been thinking about it and how we had decided to do this.

I was happy to share with them what this announcement meant for them, and what it did not:

  • It does mean that they will not receive a weekly homework sheet of have-tos that they are to turn in on Tuesday.
  • It does not mean that they will never have homework, though.  Just not weekly, busy-work kind of homework.
  • It does mean that I expect them to use every minute we are in the classroom together wisely.  We cram a lot of learning into a day and I expect that they remember this and work hard.
  • It does mean that some days there will be things we will have time to start–but not finish–in class.  These things may have to go home for homework to be completed because we will need it for the next day.
  • It does mean that I want them to have more time to spend being a kid.  Doing things they want to do like play outside, ride their bike or spend time with their families.
  • It does not mean that I want them to stop reading and writing at home.  I am just not telling them they have to.  I want them to want to, and continue doing so.  (Many admitted that they would do this anyway, even if it wasn’t homework)
  • It does mean we will still have spelling tests each week.  We will find times to work on this practice during the school day.
  • It does not mean that I think my kiddos should go home and sit in front of the TV or video games all night long.  I hope that now they use their time to choose to do active things with their families or friends.
  • It does mean that I want them to continue to work had and love to learn.

I can’t wait to hear about how the conversation went when they went home tonight!  🙂