One Word

Friday, June 24, 2016
Let's face it, teachers can't always unplug their teacher brains. I know that I have a hard time disconnecting and relaxing over breaks. Summer break is especially difficult for me, because of all of the time I have to myself. Since my boyfriend works all day, I have a lot of time to think. Even with TV show binging, I have a lot of thoughts going through my mind. On the plus side, it gives me a lot of time to read! I pleasure read, but I also like to read and reread professional books. I recently read Matt Miller's "Ditch That Textbook". I went through and made notes of things that I want to remember. One thing that stuck out to me was coming up with one word that I want to focus on for the school year. In the past, I have written several goals, and while I achieve the goals (or most of them), I want to focus on one word that I can keep coming back to throughout the year. The word I want to keep reminding myself of this year is...


Okay, I guess that is technically 2 words.  It seems like everything I read about education and PD sessions that I have attended are about making the classroom about students.  That may seem like a DUH moment, but have you really thought about what that means?  We know that education is about the students, but how much of the school day is designed for the students to make choices and learn what they care about?  When I think about that in my classroom, I have to think long and hard about the choices they get to make.  Here is what I came up with from the past school year:
  • Recess games (sometimes not due to behavior issues)
  • STEM projects (with some guidelines)
  • Seating (end-of-the-year)
Sigh!  When I really sit down and think about it, they don't have much choice at all!  So how can I change this to make it more student-centered?  Am I going to be able to go in on Day 1 and give up control and let the students decide?  No.  I don't think that is going to be feasible for any teacher, and it is not going to help the students learn.  However, I do have some ideas that I want to implement this year to help give the students more choice in the classroom.

Alternative Seating
  • It seems like alternative seating is all the rage right now.  I think social media has made things we have done for years more global.  I have offered other seating options for years, but it has been great to see other options that teachers provide.  I have always had pillows for students to use.  They love to choose a pillow and find a comfortable spot to read.  So I thought, why not let them have more choices?  This year I added Kore Wobble Chairs and stability balls.  I started with 2 Kore Wobble Chairs that I received through Donors Choose funding.  Two chairs and 27 I chose 2 students each day to sit on the chairs.  Luckily, out PTO gave me some grant money to purchase 2 more chairs and 4 stability balls.  I decided to let the students choose their seats for where the wanted to sit for the whole day.  I was able to handle that for a few weeks, before we went back to assigned seats.  Next school year I will be keeping my traditional assigned seats, but I will be giving the students more choice on where they want to complete work and sit/stand.  I think this will be a good compromise and I hope that it works out well.
Genius Hour
  • I wanted to implement genius hour last year, but I just couldn't find the time in the schedule.  I now realize that I need to make the time.  I have been doing some research and looking for others that have implemented genius hour into their classrooms and I think the students will enjoy having some choice in what they learn and being able to share it with others.
Book Clubs
  • I want my students to have more choice in their classroom novels.  I have read a lot about book clubs (literature circles) and I want to implement those into the classroom as well.  I did it once last year, but I think I need to work on my approach to it and how the students will read and respond.  I still want to do whole class novels, as well.
  • I didn't do any centers last year!  I am ashamed of myself.  Teaching a split class left me exhausted and I had to spend some time thinking about how to make it work.  I have an idea of how I can implement mini-lessons and centers, so that I can work with small groups.
  • The last thing I want to try is a classroom makerspace.  I currently have a Donors Choose project to help fund this idea.  I want the students to be able to explore and learn and create on their own, so I thought this would be a good way for them to do just that.
Well, those are some of my thoughts on how to make my classroom more student-centered.  If you have to choose one word to describe how you want your year to go, what would it be?

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