Teaching with Intention: Chapter 3

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Welcome back for Chapter 3 of the Teaching with Intention book study, organized by the fabulous Kindergarten Smorgasbord. This week's hosts are Surfing through Second, The Learning Chambers, and Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching. I love it when I'm reading a professional development type book and I keep thinking, "Yes! Yes! Yes! That's so true!" Yeah...this is that book.

Chapter 3 focuses on classroom environment, and begins with the story of Katy. Katy was a new teacher who was overwhelmed with stuff--stuff that was left over from another teacher, the kids' stuff,  and her own stuff. All the "stuff" made it hard to focus in her room and the classroom was so cluttered that she and the kids couldn't think or even move!

She had a vision for her classroom and her teaching and she wasn't able to create the kind of learning environment she envisioned because of all the stuff and demands on her time. Her teaching demands made it tough to get the environment under control, but the environment hindered her teaching.

Raise your hand if you can relate. I won't judge, I've been there. In my first year, it wasn't "stuff" that inhibited our learning environment, but I did struggle with keeping the vision I had prior to the first day of school. My naivety coupled with district time demands and unexpected student behaviors threw that vision out the window. Year one was all about survival, as it is for many new teachers. Thank goodness it gets better!

So what do you do when your vision for your classroom and your current state don't match up? You fix it. Like, now.  

Clear your space. Start fresh. Sort, purge, give away, whatever you need to do. Clear off all the surfaces. Empty whatever you can out of the file cabinets. Move all the furniture to one spot and get ready to take stock of what you have and how you want to use it. Just as you did when you walked into your first classroom for the first time, think about every little detail and how you can use what you have.

Create your vision. What would your ideal classroom look like? Comfy pillows? A class meeting area? Partner areas? Centers? What do YOU want for your classroom and how can you get it there?

Now, take a reality check. We may not all have a spacious classroom with huge windows, a loft, and an aide. But what can we control? What do we have that we can use? Can we trade another teacher for something we want or need? Can we group desks if we don't have the tables we want? How can we make this work? Then get busy!

My favorite part of this chapter is the discussion on Passion Places. When Katy was reorganizing her room, she had a discussion with her students about her teaching beliefs and her hopes for their learning. This discussion turned into one about passion. "One child defined it as 'what it is you like, love, and cherish; what it is that makes you, you.' They wanted their classroom to reflect their passions in some way; they wanted opportunities to explore them and share them with one another." These fifth graders had some insightful ideas about passion. My favorite is:

So long story short, the class and Katy decided to organize the room into Passion Places, that is areas of the room that housed books and materials that focused on their passions: science, social studies, writing, math, music, art, etc. In the kindergarten world, these are "Centers 2.0." I absolutely love the idea of housing books and artifacts in the different center areas passion places of our room. And calling them "Passion Places" instead of centers is right up my alley. What an amazing way of highlighting our learning! (I'm seeing anchor charts and book bins in every center Passion Place.)

Now, the room doesn't have to be "finished" when the kids walk in the door on the first day of school. You should have procedures ready, places to house things, and a vision for how your classroom should look, sound, and feel. But the "stuff" on the walls should grow and change with your kids and their needs. An empty word wall and places to hang anchor charts could be ready to go, but your students' work and anchor charts created with your students will soon fill in the empty spaces. When your littles walk in the first day, the room should say, "Welcome! There is plenty of room for you here! We're going to make this place our home."

What are your thoughts on this? How do you make your classroom a warm, inviting place where you can do your best thinking?

See what others have to say about this chapter by checking in with the sponsors above, and don't forget to stop by next week for Chapter 4!


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