My ideal classroom would look comfortable and homey. It would be spacious with lots of different areas for students to learn in, such as floor seating, carpets to work on, comfy chairs and pillows to curl up in for reading or writing, and a wide selection of engaging books. It would sound productive and respectful. A quiet, busy hum would be the norm. Soft music would play in the background while collaborative talk would be the main focus. And it would feel calm, safe, and like a home away from home.
In her book, Miller describes a classroom so comfortable, respectful, and welcoming that she didn't want to leave. My ideal classroom would be like that. This year, my students didn't want to leave and several had a hard time wrapping their brains around moving up to 1st grade. They were upset to hear they weren't coming back to my room next year, or even tomorrow. That's the kind of love I strive to have in my room each day.
Students would be working collaboratively with each other or quietly on their own. They are on task and speaking respectfully to each other as they talk about their work. They read quietly to themselves or with a partner. They explore science concepts with hands on investigations, and record their findings in their science journals. Students understand the purpose for their work and do their best in everything they do.
I would be working with small groups or one-on-one, focusing on the targeted skills the student(s) need(s). Or reading a book aloud to the class. The primary focus would be on students' learning, not on paperwork, behavior issues, or administrative tasks.
My current classroom has various seating options. I use lots of neutral colors to give it a homey, comfortable feel. It sounds productive and soft music plays most of the time. I work with small groups and one-on-one most of the day. We read aloud books everyday, and my students talk about their work all the time. They are good at helping each other out when someone is stuck and they have no problem taking risks in their learning. We use interactive notebooks quite a bit, and hands on experiences every chance we get.
This year we had a hard time with using respectful words and inside voices. Our busy hum was more like a busy scream. We worked on voice level and word choice all year, but...yeah. And taking turns talking. It was a struggle all year. I'd love to add more seating options like wobble seats and comfy chairs or pillows. My ideal is a calm, soothing, low-key environment, but I always end up with a high-energy group that needs lots of preparation for changes. We try to find a happy balance, but it's been a real struggle.
Be sure to stop by next Wednesday for Chapter 2!