Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weekend Words: Recognizing Strengths

Working with children reading 1-2+ years below grade level, I find this to be a mindful quote.  In a time where data drives all, we are constantly looking at data on our students.  
Too often I think we just note what they know, but focus on what they don't.  What do I need to teach?  What do I need to reteach?  Why aren't they getting this skill? 

Sometimes we need to step back and celebrate what they can do.  I find my students are often very well aware of what they can't do.  They know reading is hard for them.  They know writing is difficult.  They know they have difficulty decoding.  They know they can't understand what they read sometimes.  They know they can't always answer the questions teachers ask.  

What they don't often know is that there is a lot they can do really well.  There are things they can do better than other students.  Maybe they can't decode and have poor fluency, but maybe when you read with them and discuss the book they are awesome at inferencing. Maybe they can't spell, but maybe they are really pretty good at writing good sentences.  Maybe they struggle with higher order thinking questions, but have no difficulty with literal questions.

Yes, we want them to be better in those areas of need and of course we will continue to work on them.  But, we also need to take time to celebrate what our friends can do.  

Two of the ways I try to recognize my students' strengths include refrigerator papers and high-five postcards.  I had these postcards specially made via Vistaprint.  I thought I had posted about them, but in looking back for the post I realized I hadn't.  I'm on spring break now, but will write about them when I get back to school and can take a couple of pictures.  Essentially, they are postcards to send home when a student has done something to deserve a high-five from everyone at home.  

There are lots of ways to recognize student achievement, but this post is more about recognizing what what our friends do well but may take for granted or simply not realize.  While it is important for all children to realize what they are capable of, I feel it is even more important for my friends who struggle. 

To bring my friends' strengths to their attention, I want to take a day out and simply let them know exactly what it is they are rocking.  Just one day not focused on what they need to learn or do better.  One day to say, "Hey! Do you know you are awesome at ___________ in reading class?!"

I'm thinking of having a circus "Strong Man" celebration. I see a different group of children each period of the day, so it would have to be something small but powerful that I can do in 40 minutes. 
I'm still sketching it all out, but it involves creating a strong man themed printable that I can list all the literacy strengths that child has.  Something colorful that I can print on card stock and give to them to take home. It will be a way to build confidence and help my friends realize they are more capable than they know.  I thought this would be a great end of the year celebration, but if I can get myself moving on this, it would be awesome to do the week before our state testing begins in May. I won't go in to all the details now, but will post about it when it happens.  I have some fun ideas!

The point of today's Weekend Words is simply to say, don't forget to recognize all your friends CAN do when focusing on what they still need to learn to do.

Weekend Words is a new post I would like to do each weekend. 
It would be a quote or saying that I find interesting, powerful, or just funny. It may or may not be followed by my thoughts.  


  1. I loved reading this post Nancy and couldn't agree with you more. Your students are so lucky to have such an incredible teacher!!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Kristen! I'm really looking forward to doing this with my friends. Can you believe I'm having trouble finding clip art for a circus strong man? The few that I have been able to find are a bit creepy! I thought for sure I could find a fun, cartoon strong man. Oh well, I will figure something out! It isn't going to stop me from having that "You Can Do So Much!" day with my friends!