Last summer I came across the book I Wish My Teacher Knew. After reading it, I knew this was something that I wanted to implement in my classroom that fall. School started and within a week I showed my students a short video of the author, Kyle Schwartz, being interviewed on NBC news about her book. It was a two minute clip that helped my students understand the concept behind what would become a weekly ritual in the classroom.
I had my students write in their writer's notebook a list of five things they wanted to tell me. It could be about anything but had to start with the words I wish my teacher knew...I then had them choose one of those things and write it out on an index card with or without their name. The index card has been our routine ever since.
I have not missed a week yet but mostly because my students remind me if we haven't done it by Friday. At first, many students would tell me facts such as what their favorite color was or what sport they liked to play. But as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, they began to really open up. Many times, for fifth graders, it is easier to write something than talk about it.
Each week I categorize the cards as green, yellow and red. Green being random bits of information that don't have an effect on the student. Usually these are what students had for breakfast, whether they like someone or not, or about a sport outing over the weekend. The yellow ones are the ones that I hold onto at my desk. I keep an eye on the student and usually ask questions regarding what was written. These are the students who are reaching out to me for help but don't know how to ask for it. These are ones where a conversation needs to happen. Then, there are the red ones. These ones are serious. Usually with the red ones, I need to contact the school social worker and home to let the parent know what is happening. Sometimes a series of yellows in a row will turn into a red because each week they follow the same pattern. I have only had a few reds this whole year and a handful of yellows.
Today I received a green that used to be a red and before that a yellow. I call these...a breakthrough.