Yesterday during our Brooklyn-Queens Day professional development, my administration announced a new vocabulary initiative. Each grade had to come up with 200 words from various subjects to introduce to the kids in a 5-words-per-week breakdown. So that makes 5 vocabulary words a week, on top of their weekly Fundations words, Dolch words and word wall words...my colleagues and I figured out that it amounts to about 20 "words of the week."
The idea is that teachers will introduce these five new vocabulary words each morning before first period starts, from 8:00 to 8:10, which makes me think that my administration has never actually been in a classroom before first period starts. First of all, at our school, attendance and punctuality are mere mirages, so that kids are drifting in and unpacking all through first period anyway. Second of all, that teeny sliver of time from 8:00 to 8:10 is when kids are eagerly vying to tell you every single thing that happened to them since the last time you saw them (yesterday), and is it really fair to take that away from them just so we can cram five more words into their already overloaded brains?
Do you know what my students really, really need, more than 5 new vocabulary words clapped out to them? Because I do. What they really, really need is some direct instruction in social skills. I cannot stress this enough. The other day, I did "Game Day" with my kindergarteners, where I give each table some word games. Sometimes they surprise me with their creativity and their willingness to work together, but on this particular day there was fighting, grabbing, screaming, the whole nine yards.
I took everything away from everyone and conducted a little demonstration. I sat myself down at the blue table and proceeded to steal things from other kids and refuse to share with them. Fortuitously, I happened to sit across from our kindergarten's resident prodigy, who soon schooled me in the art of getting along. "No, Miss Brave!" she explained patiently. "Other kids want to play too. You have to share with them!"
Then I gave everyone a game card and made them practice nicely asking their partner if they could borrow theirs.
I can't even tell you how many of my students tell me that their parents tell them to hit back; it's no wonder they're confused when they're getting mixed messages. And I think that instead of learning five more vocabulary words, we should learn some life skills.