Today really got me thinking about what I think a classroom should look like. During one of the Language periods today, the students were working on a reading comprehension/summary writing activity that they began yesterday. Here is the outline of the activity:
Today, all group members were on Task #3 or #4, so during our independent reading/writing time, the students grouped themselves around the room to work on their summaries. A few minutes into the activity, I looked around the classroom and thought, this is what I always want to see in the classroom.
I grabbed the iPad and created this very short video highlighting what was happening in the classroom:
I love that the students can find the space to work that works best for them and choose the tools they need to be successful. It’s great to see students helping each other and it’s great to hear students talking on task.
While all of the students may have been working on the same basic activity, they were choosing ways to write their ideas so that all of them could be successful. Since students were supporting each other, I also had lots of opportunities to conference with small groups and individual students. Below is a video clip of one of my conferences:
I think it’s fantastic that conferencing can happen anywhere in the room. I sat down on the floor to meet with this student, who not just shared what he was doing but where he was going next. It’s amazing how just a few minutes talking to students can even make an impact on what they produce.
Thinking back on today, here is my classroom vision that I have tried to make a reality:
1) Students have a flexible learning environment. They can find different areas to work where they feel comfortable, and they can choose what area works best given the assigned task. From desks, to tables, to chairs, to the floor — students work everywhere!
2) I have regular opportunities to work individually and in small groups with ALL students. Small group instruction allows me to tailor the learning to the specific needs of my students at the time. This is powerful!
3) Students can access the information in the way that works best for them. I had students listening to the Nelson text on CD, reading it independently, or reading it aloud with a peer. All students chose the method that allowed them to get the most information from the text. We don’t all learn in the same way, and that’s okay.
4) I talk less and support more. This year, more than any other year, I have really cut down on my “teacher talk.” I try to not spend more than 5-10 minutes a period speaking to the full class, and sometimes I spend no time doing so. Depending on what I observe during the working time, sometimes I’ll stop the class, reconvene, and elaborate on my initial explanation. Sometimes I just do so with a small group of students. This new approach has given me more time to work with groups of students, while also allowing students to be more involved in their own learning, and even support their peers more during the learning process. We have a true “community of learners,” and I love this!
What’s your vision of what a classroom should be like? How do you structure your classroom to align with this vision? I would love to know more!
I love your classroom. I am always striving for that perfect “hum” of learning. I am going to keep track of what you are doing because it is so close to my style of teaching and I think that I can get great ideas from you. Thank you for sharing. Good job students!
Thanks for that, Mrs. Esswein! I hope that you’ll share what you’re doing and how it’s going. It’s taken a while to get a structure that makes me happy, and some days are better than others. I see improvements though, and I love that!