Today, I sat down on the carpet for about 25 minutes as we worked on coding Dash to play the xylophone.
Talking to different students around me as we watched and listened to Dash play.
The students loved experimenting with different beats and patterns, and they were certainly engaged during their time on the carpet. (I should also note that these students chose to join me on the carpet, and were welcome to come and/or leave whenever they wanted.) When I went to stand up at the end of our time together, I felt so uncomfortable. I hadn’t moved for those 25 minutes, and my body was screaming for me to get up and go. It was then that I thought, why do we make children sit and listen on the floor (and often for long periods of time)?
Sometimes I think that sitting quietly on the carpet is seen as the ultimate classroom goal (or at least so for the primary grades).
- “My students are the best because they always remember to raise their hands.”
- “My students can listen forever!”
- “These students are never going to be ready for Grade ____ because they can’t sit still and listen.”
I share all of these sayings because at one time or another, I’ve said each of them. What if we got rid of the carpet though? What if students gathered around a table to learn? What if all full class instruction was replaced with small group instruction and conversations? Why do I need to “lecture” to a full class, and if we need to meet, is there a way to do so in a more comfortable, community atmosphere? As an adult, I struggle with a “sit and get” learning environment. Do my kids feel the same way?
I can’t help but think of our Board’s Transforming Learning Everywhere model. While the technology piece of this model is often what’s discussed, the model itself is based on more than that. I can’t help but wonder, what would happen if we got rid of carpets in classrooms, or at least used them differently? How might this transform learning? I’m starting to do some re-thinking. What about you?
When I conducted some action research through ETFO’s Reflections on Practice project (check it out), it confirmed for me that whole group instruction is not the most effective way of learning. Ultimately I would like to structure my entire day based on small group and individual conferencing with whole group meetings for sharing and community building. To this end I try very hard to keep whole class lessons to 15 minutes on the carpet. Technology certainly supports more small group and individual learning. I can get half the class using chromebooks, a group with me and another group focused on something else and then rotate. The level of engagement and quietness in the room is amazing. My penultimate goal is to have students plan their own learning day so if someone needs to do math first while another needs to finish writing it would be possible. This goal is rather lofty and I am not even sure if it would be possible. Feel free to comment on it!
I also allow gum chewing now and students are benefiting from the exercise balls too in order to support students who need more movement to focus. Quite surprisingly, I have not had one problem at all with the gum or balls. My grade fives are abiding by our class agreement.
I think you are on to something. It would be interesting to see what this looks like in FDK.
as always your posts are inspire deep thinking! thanks
Thanks for your comment, Carla! I’m very interested in reading about your action research, and I’m thrilled to hear that this small group work environment is working so well for your class. Your new goal sounds intriguing. I’d be curious to know how this would work in regards to mini-lessons. Did you have a specific plan in mind? I’d love to know if you try this out.
Your gum and exercise ball experiences I think speak to the value of self-regulation. Students need different things to self-regulate, and gum and exercise balls are great options. Through our large, uninterrupted free exploration blocks, I continue to be amazed at the different ways that our students self-regulate from their use of the tires to sensory play to pulling the therabands on the doors. What works for one student doesn’t work for all, so these options are essential!
Thanks for continuing this conversation!
Done with it long time ago for good. I am using fish bowl table set up in grade 3 , round table in the middle for presentations, discussions and learning together. During individual work time I am using it as my ” walking -in clinic ” table for an extra support and feedback.
Thanks for the comment, Zorica! This sounds wonderful. Do you find that this set-up also results in more small group versus full class instruction? I’d be curious to hear about the impact on classroom practice.
I am not sure if I can totally do away with whole-group instruction in a French Immersion FDK program, but I think we should always reflect on our practice and how it serves our students. “Why this learning for this child at this time?” I try very hard to make carpet time brief (10 minutes or less)…And I think getting students ready for any classroom that does not respect the needs of students as learners is a mistake. But it is important to recognize that this is a huge paradigm shift for many educators, and making small incremental changes is still making changes.
Thanks for your comment, Nadine! I agree with you that small changes are still great, especially if we continue to make small changes in response to our students and their needs. Asking the “why” question that you shared is something that I find myself doing often. It’s a great way to help reflect on what we do. This question is shared a lot at Kindergarten inservices. I wonder about the value of sharing it with other grade teachers as well.
Once again a great blog Aviva. This is exactly what I have been pondering. I much prefer small group instruction and am trying to incorporate it more and more. I laughed as I have the same issues when I sit on the carpet. I always groan and tell the kids I’m old!
Thanks for your comment, Andrea! I definitely think this small group instruction is essential for learning. I must say that I make the same “old” comment to my students, but when I’ve seen many of them struggle on the carpet, I wonder, is it really the best option for anyone?