How 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?
The year has started. Things are starting to settle and it’s time to count your blessings in the classroom. We call the start of year through Thanksgiving (well, Canadian Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October) the beta period. It’s the time of year to try things out, get to know the students, build relationships and set up the year for success.
The beta period is not the time of year we spend getting deep into content. We review. We read. We talk about what is coming next. We check out our skills and show what we can or can’t do.
It’s the perfect time to take a look at what’s working, what’s starting to work and what needs to be scrapped. It’s time to count our blessings and make a list of all the things we are thankful for in our classroom. So, here is a little checklist we use to decide how are things working so far. Continue Reading
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.
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
For seven years we have been part of a proud tradition in our community. We make cards and deliver them to the houses and business all around our school community. We mail them to agencies and businesses involved with our school community.
Students collect all kinds of goodies like stickers, glitter, paper and old Christmas cards to upcycle them into new cards. Each student makes 2-3 cards so we have about 1500 cards to deliver during the month of December. Continue Reading