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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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The Learning Pit

The Learning PitTeaching students to overcome challenges can be difficult when we live in a society that is all about getting things done quickly. We have technology, parents and constant distractions constantly telling students they can learn anything anytime with little or no effort. As a teacher, this is very challenging when students feel they’ve failed, get frustrated or give up right away.

This was what was happening in our classroom. Students that could manage challenges were more successful overall because they kept working until they got it. It felt like it was a lack of effort, but it was much more than that. So we started investigating and researching best practices to help us teach students to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Continue Reading

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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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Five Things You Should Do On Your Break to Be Ready for Back to School

SummerTitleTeachers are notorious for never really taking a break. We’re super teachers! We never need sleep or down time or family. Somehow we feel guilty if we don’t spend our whole summers getting ready for the new school year.

It’s true-we could spend every waking moment working on our classrooms or planning amazing lessons for our students. Should we feel guilty for not spending every weekend slaving over marking or making resources?

Absolutely not. After all these years of teaching, we’ve managed to figure out that it will still work out whether we spend a thousand hours or three. 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

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My Plan Book Isn’t Pinterest Worthy

Plan BookYou’ve seen those beautiful planners all over Pinterest and on everyone’s social media. They are masterpieces that we wish could emulate, but alas, us ninjas have a lot going on and so our plan books have been an evolution. We realized early on that our plans aren’t pretty and we needed a way to share a classroom and thus, share our plans with each other.

Finding the planning style for you takes time. Here are some of our best tips for figuring out your planning style. Continue Reading