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Creating a Culture of Community in Your Multi-Grade Classroom

Create Classroom CultureHow do we create a classroom community where all students feel they are equal and belong? It turns out we’ve had more combined grade classes that straight grade classes since we began teaching, so we can’t imagine teaching any other way. First of all, we call it a combined class rather than a split class. It’s the first thing we do with parents because our combined classes are not like the old ‘split’ classes.

When students come into our classroom on the first day of school they immediately collect into two different groups-the lower grade and the upper grade.  They don’t know each other well and like to sit with their friends.  We don’t give students a seating plan right away (or sometimes at all) so we can see which relationships form or are already in place, but then we slowly start changing their mindset about the combined class.

So, what are our secrets?

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Creating a Sense of Agency

Creating a Sense of Agency Imagine a classroom where the students monitored themselves-and not in that “hall pass police officer” type of way. Imagine a classroom where students encouraged each other to keep the room tidy, put things way and treat each other with respect.

It’s possible, because each year we turn out a classroom full of polite and respectful students, but it takes work. Creating a sense of agency is just as important as all the math and reading skills.

What is a sense of agency? It is a student-centered approach to classroom management.

Here are some ways we create a sense of agency.

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Save Your Sanity- Five Courtesies to Teach

Five Courtesies to Teach Your Students At the beginning of the school year we work hard to teach students some basic courtesies to make everyone happier and keep students responsible for their learning space. these are five basic things we teach repeatedly during the first month of school to our upper elementary students. We also want to stress that just because this is how we do things, doesn’t mean these procedures will work ‘as is’ in your classroom. Feel free to solve the issues in your own way. Continue Reading

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Building Relationships With Students

Building Relationships With StudentsWithout building relationships with students first, you will never get them to learn. We often think about students based on their academic gain over their year with us, but we need to also think about their social emotional health and how that has grown.

It is impossible to teach students if they don’t know you.

It is impossible for students to take risks when they don’t trust you.

It is impossible for students to grow as learners if they don’t want to work hard for you.

You are their cheerleader. You are their mentor. You are the push they need or the hand to hold.

We know they are more than a test score. Think about all the things you have taught students that aren’t reflected in numbers.

No one grows ever grows up to get a tattoo of their test scores. Continue Reading

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Flexible Seating: What Do I Do With the Stuff?

Flexible SeatingFlexible seating is all the rage these days. Finding information on different seating arrangements and types of furniture is easy.  But how do you keep students and their many belongings organized?

We’ve used flexible seating in upper elementary classes for the past six years. Our students are taught from the first day how to properly choose a seat, work where it suits them best and how to stay organized so their stuff isn’t all up in our stuff.

Read a previous post about the types of furniture we use in our classroom.  Here’s what we do with all the stuff. Continue Reading