By Gary Pankiewicz
Last Saturday, my family and I ate buttermilk biscuits with salted butter and raw honey for breakfast: tender yet flaky morsels of golden-brown goodness, each crowned with a generous pad of salty churned cream and a thick drizzle of viscous sugar-sweet. We devoured our bakery-fragrant deliciousness by the mouthful.
On a regular day, I’m an organic oatmeal kind of guy with some organic spices and a handful of blueberries. It’s a practical, nutritious, and healthy way to sustain me while contributing to my morning productivity toward a well-paced run or a jolt into my daily To-Do list.
So, what does my more decadent, high-calorie breakfast have to do with my goals in the literacy classroom this year? …Sort of everything–if you agree with the premise that one must contrive a vibrant rapport with students before catalyzing robust literacy skill development in weighty ELA content. And, shouldn’t the most ambitious mountain climbing in the classroom include some space to catch one’s breath and to enjoy a splendid view? I propose that an unexpected flavor-texture bomb might better position our readiness to engage and learn.
Returning to the upcoming school year, I envision my students obtaining sustenance mostly from oatmeal, peanut butter, and blueberries. In that, I mean we will do the amazing things that an English classroom should do: read and discuss rich literature, draft and revise processed writing, explore and create multimodal texts, hypothesize and research meaningful contexts, create and present manifold expressions… I look forward to getting to know my students, collaborating with reflective practice, developing data-driven target skill lessons, and facilitating strong feedback loops. It seems there is never enough time in the literacy class period to finish one’s bowl of nutritious oatmeal, before engaging in the routine of rigorous standards-based work.
But every lesson can’t be devised through strenuous oatmeal-consumption. Why not sweeten our work with reasonable touches of doughy butter and honey? This isn’t fun verses no fun or delicious verses bland. It’s more of a commitment to sustained healthy eating to better position some class sessions for a community-building treat, even if it’s just the first or last minutes of class one day each week.
Here are some of my ideas:
- Quick freewrite or open-ended journal to a song mentioned in a student journal
- Create a comical meme that relates to a text explored in class
- Handwrite a letter to a friend in cursive
- Debate the best sentence on the page and possible revisions
- Read aloud an intriguing excerpt from my own choice independent reading
- Hold a writing marathon outside the classroom
- Group literacy-based games to explore vocabulary or writing skills
In short, I’m going to give myself permission to take small moments to indulge in scrumptious acts of classroom literacy, to share those Mmmmm smiles that stand to enhance our overall academic stamina in the long run. If nothing else, I’ll be refreshed by each indulgence to personalize our experiences and to fuel a more zealous approach to teaching English.
What might biscuits with butter and honey look like in your classroom this school year?