Responsibility is HUGE both in the classroom and out. I know many adults that have not mastered this skill still so focusing on it in the classroom should definitely be on the agenda.
Solarz begins the chapter discussing classroom jobs. He assigns some jobs, but leaves many available for anyone to take the initiative to do. This way anyone can step up and lead. I like this to a point in kindergarten. I might assign a table (or have table groups apply for the job) to take care of certain things and have them divide the responsibilities on their own. Such as table 1 is responsible for setting up the calendar for the next day, table 2 is responsible for feeding the class pet and watering the plants, table 3 sets the trashcans and recycling bins outside the door, etc. That way 5 different kids don't all head to the calendar and change the numbers the same day, or all water the plant in succession.
Solarz also talks about Silent Days. This is a day when the TEACHER is not allowed to talk at all. In order for this to happen, the class has to have proven that they are responsible and can run the class without any support from an adult. Of course, he doesn't actually leave the classroom. He just sits back and observes while the students lead the day. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a dream! I would be over the moon if my kinders could manage that, but I'm sure that wouldn't happen until the end of the school year, if at all. There is just such a huge difference from 5th grade (Solarz's grade) to kindergarten.
Now, I know what you're thinking. I can just see my one special friend taking over and running the show all by him/herself. No one else will get to lead. Solarz responds to this predicament by encouraging his over-achiever-leader to be the encourager of others, to support other students in their journeys into leadership. "Teach students that a sign of leadership and maturity is encouraging others to become more active leaders. Instead of getting 'credit' for being a leader, great leaders give credit to someone else." If that gentle encouragement doesn't work, Solarz temporarily removes that child's "powers" until they are ready to share the responsibility again, usually 3-4 weeks.
In his class, students even lead the daily rituals, including morning and closing routines. These are things I feel my kindergarteners could lead without support. He also has his students in charge of watching the clock and leading transitions. Since most of our littles can't tell time yet, that may be a stretch, but there could surely be kiddos that could lead the transition as long as they get help with timing.
I love his use of literature circles as well. In his 5th grade class, they go into great detail and talk in-depth about their books. They post in a Google doc about the day's reading and he checks them often, leaving compliments and critiques. As I read and thought no way can kindergarten do that, the gears started turning in my head and I got an Ah-ha! What about kindergarten lit circles? They obviously wouldn't be reading chapter books or spending days at a time on the same book. But what if we had a set of 5-6 books the kids could read together (like our guided reading books, but more for fun) and gave them time to read to each other in small groups?
So, I'm thinking the Biscuit series or the I Can Read books with 5-6 copies of each text. The kids pick a book they want to read, sit together in a group, and take turns reading a page at a time. Instead of recording the day's reading in a Google doc, they could give a small book talk about why the rest of the class should read that book the next time. Now this probably wouldn't be a daily thing, unless there's some awkward spot in the schedule that allows for just the right amount of time for it. But it could most definitely fit into a fun Friday routine. If this was a daily event, you'd need an excessive amount of books for students to be in a group of 5-6 reading the same picture books. But if it's a once a week deal, 18-24 books could last a month. (Scholastic book clubs would get all my money!)
Whew, that's a lot to chew on! Kids leading the class without a teacher, jobs anyone can lead or encourage friends to lead,
Swing by the Primary Gal and see what other great teachers have to say about it, and tune in next week for chapter 6: Active Learning.