For those of us the the Southern Hemisphere it is currently the fifth week of our six week summer holidays and for me that means my thoughts are gradually returning to life in the classroom. In ten days time I will once again be opening my classroom to a new group of students. They will arrived nervous, fresh-faced with clean uniforms and brand new shoes, packed pencil cases and hopefully a willingness to learn.
They wont find any posters displaying class rules. Personally I don’t believe posters or lists of class rules make any difference to a student’s behaviour. Naturally I will have expectations about how they will best learn and as a group we will discuss my expectations during the first weeks. If a student personally finds behaving difficult then I will work with them as an individual to plan how they can manage their behaviour.
They wont find the desks arranged in rows. What they will find is small clusters of desks, ideally grouped in fours but occasionally in threes or fives. I believe that a group of four is perfect for small group collaboration, for team work and for sharing of ideas. What they will also find is a large amount of floorspace kept open for larger groups work and also as an area for students to work in.
They wont find any motivational posters on the walls. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that students do not really care about, notice or reflect on such posters. What they will find is a large blank wall with one simple label. Year 5 2011 Inspiration wall. My intention is to gradually fill this space with photographs of the students, with articles they bring from home, with pictures they create, I want it to become their own space, their own wall.
They wont find they all complete the same spelling lists. My co-teacher and I work hard to offer a truly differentiated program. They will create their own spelling lists using only words they do not understand and cannot already spell. They will then use a variety of activities and programs such as Spelling city to learn to spell and also to understand the context in which their words can be used.
They wont find me standing near the front of the classroom, much. My desk is tucked away in the corner but I try not to use it much. They are most likely to find me looking over their shoulder, joining in a discussion, sitting with a group on the floor and generally poking my nose into whatever activity they are currently busy with.
They wont find we stay as one class very often. Our year 5 classroom adjoins a second year 5 classroom, connected with bifold doors. The great thing about this, is that my c0-teacher and I open these doors as much as possible. Team teaching, sharing the workload, the ups, the downs, the dramas and the tears. Two heads are definitely better than one.