Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My New Arrangement

A creature of habit, I loathe change more than anything.  In the past 8 years, I've had 4 different principals and I've been in 2 schools.  This is way more change than I like to deal with!

I'm even at a different grade level now than I was 3 years ago.

With that most recent change came a change in my classroom setup.

I was planning to be an elementary school teacher, as indicated on my diploma, so I was very well trained in the Romper Room style of the elementary classroom.  When I began teaching, I was at a middle school and the sort of classroom layout I always had in mind wasn't really going to work with teenagers.  They just wouldn't get excited about a reading nook or carpet time.

I was in the middle school for so long that when I actually changed to 4th and 5gh grade a few years ago, I forgot how to set up my room.  A friend of mine kept telling me I'd get a carpet and I was like "no way, gross, yuck, I'm not sitting with all of them on the floor!!".

And yet, here I am 3 years in and while I don't have a carpet, I do have individual mats for them to use and this year, a new layout in the classroom.  I don't have to sit with them on the floor because I found the perfect size stool for me to sit just above them but not be towering over them so as to scare them.

I'm plenty scary even when I'm sitting.

To many, it probably still looks like sterile classroom, but it's not.  Behind the bookcase that is facing you, with the lovely moving company boxes still in it, the mats mostly fit when they go to sit on them.  I sit against that colored wall by the American flag, where there's a calendar that you can't see.  A lot more learning goes on right there than in the chairs you see in front of you!  There's something about sitting on the floor and being able to turn to someone to practice a new phrase.

But, eventually the natives get restless and back to chairs we go.

My biggest concern was traffic flow.  My room is long but narrow.  I was afraid that the bookcase sticking out like that was going to cause a traffic jam from the mats back to the tables, but it all seems to flow pretty well.

I started something new this year.  As each class comes in, they have a paper they have to complete and then they usually have directions to do something on my class website.  This has  been my method since the beginning.  However, this year, I select a few students in each class every day to skip the work and choose to read from the vast selection of books and magazines that I have in French or English.  It's only 10 minutes and I rotate the students through their roster, so it's  not even once a month that each student gets to read, but they seem to like it.

For the first two years I was at this school, I had all these books out and no time for students to actually enjoy them.  When I was at the middle school, I saw them more often, so I could have a day where they did 15 minutes of DROP EVERYTHING AND READ and I felt very justified in having those books.

At the elementary school, not having the time for them to explore the books made me feel like I was just taunting them.  I'd see kids sometimes linger near a bookcase or look at a book when they thought I couldn't see them and it made me crazy.  I tried letting everyone read one day but that was just pandemonium as I sent them all to get books.  24 kids trying to get books at the same time is a very scary activity!

Dividing it up  like this works pretty well for me.  It gives kids something to look forward to if they are curious and like to read.  For those who find reading torturous and boring, it's only 10 minutes and it's only every so often and tell them I am certain they will survive.

And they get to go sit behind that bookcase on mats in the "reading area" and they love that.  They think they are hiding but I peek in to see what they are doing.  The first time they get to read, there's always someone asking for the "English books please".  I tell them there are books in English, French and both, but they are scattered all over and they will just have to get a few books and see what they think.  I have no expectation that they will actually read the books from cover to cover, whether in English or French.  But I expect that there will be pictures that catch their attention and new words they can figure out.

And some actual independent learning might go on!

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