I stood before my class. They were assembling on the rug as instructed. They were squirming and worming around, getting ready for our lesson. It was first thing in the morning and it was supposed to be Writing Workshop.
“Are we going to do our timeline again?” one questioned. “I thought we were supposed to have writing,” another said. “No, remember?” explained a third, pointing to the big timeline on the board. “Our timeline, our timeline,” could be heard repeated by many.
This soft chatter is my class settling in on the rug. They take a while. I knew I hadn’t caught everyone’s attention yet. Yesterday afternoon we had begun a lesson on timelines. The children had worked with a partner to read an assigned page in their text book. Then they jotted the main idea of what they had learned on a big post-it. They put their post-its on the giant timeline on the board. The next step was to present and discuss, but it was time to go home. So we left all the work on the board.
I began to lace my fingers together and apart. Together and apart. The children were all beginning to turn to me and pay attention. Thinking was happening. I could tell by the looks on their faces.
“No, wait! I know, I know! We are going to talk about that word, that ‘sss’, that ‘siii’, ‘sinn’…” Many of them began trying to remember the word.
“Synthesizing?” I asked.
“That’s it!” excited bobbing heads replied. We have been working on synthesis in Reading Workshop. They have been learning to think about combining new information they are learning with old information they have in their heads. We also point out moments when we are synthesizing new information across our day. Which is where I was heading today.
“Well, yes, definitely synthesis. And something else along with it,” I began.
“Ooooh, I know, I know,” a hand was flying around and its mouth didn’t wait for the hand to be called on. “We were doing Social Studies but we were also doing math!”
“And writing, we had to write all that stuff.”
“And we were reading too, and trying to spell things.”
Pandemonium was near so I intervened. “You are right! We were using so many skills. And the reason we knew these skills…”
“Because we learn them!”
“You do learn them. And then you use them,” I agreed.
“Math isn’t just for math class!”
“It isn’t,” I was grinning from ear to ear. And they were kind of jumping all around. Pandemonium is one of this class’ dearest friends. They run to him (her?) at the drop of a hat. But you know what? Somehow, someway, they are listening too. They are processing. They are learning. They are synthesizing. Maybe their energy is their unique form of expressing themselves. Or maybe it’s their warm-up. But I did know that a little focus (rather than pandemonium) was begging to be called upon here so…
“Boys and girls,” I tinkled my little bell. “Let’s present what we learned yesterday when you and your partner read about these cool events in history. Let’s teach each other what we know. And let’s figure out why a timeline is a great way to understand history.
And that is exactly what we did! Energetically!