One of my goal areas this year is to improve my classroom management and find more ways to build community. This afternoon I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop from my school district on the topic.
I was greeted right away by the facilitators and invited to have a cup of tea or coffee (I choose to refill my water instead). The room was set up to create a welcoming and confortable environment some of the things they used that made me feel very comfortable that I want to try in a classroom. These included
- Alternate Seating arrangements (chairs & tables, spots on the floor, yes I sat on the floor)
- Classical background music * I have used and loved music in my classroom to set the mood or a tone for an activity.
- Lighting from lamps instead of overhead fluorescents
- Supplies organized in baskets on tables
- Table cloths and plants on tables
During the work shop a quote was presented that relates to my inquiry project from last year and reminded me that I am a Gardner in my classroom guiding and supporting my students the way a Gardner tends plants.
Questions to think about
- What are you doing already?
- Recorder hero –> connecting with each student in every 50 min block, giving guidance and encouragement every class as well as celebrating success!
- What things could you incorporate in your classroom right away in order to create the same welcoming positive effect there?
- Grade 6 HCE use lower lighting
- What might you strive towards changing as the year progresses?
- Connecting with every student at the door, watching student’s sports outside at recess and lunch.
What if we calmed down the colors in our classroom and brought in natural colours and textures?
Ideas for the physical space if possible:
- Raised area to create a defined space
- Inviting / first impressions
- No clutter / clean & organized
- Low tables
- Soft / natural / muted colours
- Chairs flipped with pillows or soft objects
- Give choice of seating options
- Standing desks
- File folders / personal; bins
- Community tables
What about circles?
I’ve always enjoyed sitting in a circle I can see each of my students and they can see each other. I think my love for circles comes from the IDEA program at KPU where we sat on the floor or in chairs and in a circle, because in circles we are all equal and everyone is part of the same space.
The Effective Teacher
- Has positive expectations of students
- Creates a classroom climate that communicates high expectations
- Conveys positive expectations to all students
- Have high expectations from them selves.
” The effective teacher knows that the #1 problem in a classroom is not discipline: it is the lack of procedures and routines…” The First Days of School p 147
Anchor Charts – Make Thinking Visible
- Create charts as a group, teacher and student ideas.
- If they have input they have no excuses to not follow the routines.
- Make anchor charts for routines and characteristics, not just academic content
How Does Assessment Fit in to All of This?
We need to examine what and why we assess? Our assessment helps to inform our decisions about our classrooms; we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are as well as how well we are doing. Assessment tells us as much if not more about how we are doing as well as how the students are doing.
We had a chance to talk about formative assessment, where the teacher is the partner and the coach. Formative is our everyday assessment that we participate in on a daily basis, it lets both us and the students know how they are doing in the moment. On the other hand Summative assessment is the assessment that typically occurs at the end of a unit, and is often what is communicated to others to show the students learning.
Over the course of the workshop I noticed that sitting on the floor with a pillow between my back and the wall, I felt more alert than I normally do in the late afternoon. But sitting cross-legged on the floor is how I usually sit at home to do most things, I like to read and work sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace leaning back against the couch. If I work better in a more relaxed position, will this help my students? How can I create more space for them to be relaxed physically? I noticed that because my body was relaxed I wasn’t paying as much attention to how my body felt, and my mind was able to focus on the activity at hand. If it makes such a difference for me how much of a difference will this make for my students? How can I create this environment?
To build community students need us to first meet some of the layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Team builders are great when used properly; I prefer cooperative ones to ones that student to share about themselves with out embarrassing him or herself. I also like to start with more surface information (name, birthday, age, number of siblings, favourite food / colour / sport). One of the suggestions that were given was to create opportunities for students to cheer each other on. Team builders also let us observe whom works well together and where our natural leaders emerge.
We also need to create chances to get to know our students; we can do this in many ways. I always like to do this in an active way using games such as Big Wind Blows, Man Man Man from Mars, and place on the line (I love it to I Hate It). I need to take more time to do the written part of getting to know you as well as my usual physical getting to know you activities. One I would like to try is a “ no one knows this about me” and read them to the class and let them guess whose it could be.
Changing seating and groups can also help students to know each other because they are sitting with different people and the groups change on a regular basis. We also talked about many ways of forming pairs and groups in the classroom so that students work with different people regularly. One way of forming groups that I want to try is to take the class list and put in on to an inner and an outer circle on a spinner so that you spin one or both parts and the students get paired up randomly by the spinner, and you put students who should never be paired on the same part of the spinner so they can’t get randomly paired up.
This is all for now, I’ll post again later this week after the New Curriculum day on Friday and Tedx Langley Ed on Saturday. I am really excited for the Tedx event to see all of the awesome speakers. I will be trying to tweet that one as much as possible follow my twitter feed on Saturday to see what’s happening at the Tedx Langley Ed event.