1. Why is a gathering place important?
Many of the younger students on my caseload have fairly significant sensory challenges. The idea of a gathering place on the floor even through intermediate years holds a lot of appeal in regards to fitting sensory breaks right into the learning that goes on in the classroom. The gathering place also eliminates other distractions that would come with sitting spread out in desks. I have seldom seen gathering spaces for students beyond first grade so really liked the explanation in regards to this space being an indicator of changes in routines, a space that allows for more focus and a way to ensure that students are getting up and moving on a regular basis.
I do not have my own classroom so am unable to set up a gathering space but I can see how this approach would lend itself nicely to the visual schedule and choice board work that I do with several of my students in their classrooms.
2. How did your students progress with picking appropriate books? What went well? What had to be changed?
I love the idea of teaching students to pick good fit books rather than testing them out and telling them their reading level and then having them pick books with that particular label. Again - I do not have a classroom so really can't answer this question other than to say that I really enjoyed reading the section "good fit books" and the lesson with the bag of shoes. I'm hoping that we might be able to do the shoe lesson in at least one of the classrooms (or more) where my students will be this fall as I think it is a great way to explain diversity as well as explain good fit books.
3. What rituals and routines do you need to teach for this structure to be successful?
As I read through this book I am finding myself making links to the supports that we often put in place for students with special needs and seeing how they can be done on a much more universal level. We often do visual reminders, visual or written task breakdowns, social stories, rehearsals (verbal, visual or written) with students. At first, we make them for students but over time we engage students in the process of making these or talking about these. We work through prompt fading and hand over more and more of the control for these. I think the idea of "anchor charts" really mirrors a lot of the work we do with students that I work with. I also think the idea of keeping anchor charts up after they are made is a great idea. I would love to see a classroom with walls full of records of the knowledge about learning that students have constructed throughout the school year. This is an exciting idea to me :).
I like the thoughts related to "muscle memory" and the need to actually physically do the things that we are learning. We have been focusing a lot lately on "sensory tools" and "sensory regulation" at a universal level in schools in my area. Although I am a big fan of addressing sensory needs, there is something that doesn't sit right with me around some of the ideas that are being presented because they do not seem to be linked to learning. The approach outlined in this chapter around practicing for the length of time that a student is able to sit still and then building stamina over time sits much better with me as the final goal in this approach is about learning. It is evident that this might be a slow process for some classes but once through the process it seems it would make a world of difference for the rest of the year.
I think it is great that all of the ideas outlined in this chapter are related to increasing student awareness of themselves and their learning and that all of the techniques will ultimately increase student independence and ownership. The framework is given but the details are co-created with the students as they move along. Anchor charts are not already up but rather students contribute to them both in the beginning and as they check-in to see how they are doing they will add more to them if needed. I really like the idea of never giving a thumbs-down for check in as being indicative that all students do the best they can and also sending the message that learning is a process and it is okay to be on the path.
4. What is one statement that stood out above everything in this chapter?
"Whatever we teach, weather learning to walk down the hall correctly or learning to read independently, we were mistaken when we assumed that once shown how to do something children would do it successfully ever after. If we provided practice time, we often made the first few practices too long or did not repeat the sessions often enough to ensure success for all." (page 36)