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Creative Learning Spaces

Today Mrs. Kauffman, Mrs. Golas, and I presented to other teachers about creative learning spaces. We talked about how much happier our classes have been since making the switch. Some key points brought up:

1. A new space is more than new furniture, it is a shift in thinking about classroom management.

2. It is student centered and student focused.

3. It requires the teacher to be a classroom conductor of learning, not the sole source of knowledge.

 

We interviewed the kids prior to presenting to see what they wanted us to share. This is what the said:

1. “When I’m relaxed, I feel like I’m at home, and it is easier to get my thoughts out.”

2.”A person who doesn’t understand that kids don’t want to sit in one spot, has never been a kid before.”

3.”My story project is fun and actually makes me want to come to class.”

4. “There is more variety now which keeps it interesting. Like, you wouldn’t want to eat the same thing everyday because it would get boring.”

 

With no promises of a utopian classroom, I can say the kids have been more joyful, curious, and self-reliant since the “new classroom.” And apparently they aren’t the only ones. When asked by another teacher, “So how is Mrs. GW liking the new classroom space?” These were some of the responses:

1. “She seems happier.”

2. “It is a more pleasant atmosphere.”

3. “I like how the room just feels cheerful.”

(Yes, I am okay laughing at myself with these statements. I asked for feedback… right?)

Watching a student produce a play she wrote herself, hearing the giggles of two kids hard at work co-writing a creative story, talking with a student who worked for two hours at home on a project because he didn’t want to stop… NOT because I assigned homework, what teacher wouldn’t feel joy!?

 

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8th Grade AVID Mentors

It literally felt like the calvary had arrived! The 8th grade AVID class came to the rescue. With the creation of student web-sites, blogs, and creative story telling projects in the works, the 6th grade class was busy and in need of extra hands. The AVID kids at Walton took their roles as leaders seriously. They came down to room 21 and jumped right into work helping out sixth graders. As always with giving, it seemed small on the part of the givers but huge on the receiving end. Our kids got help posting work on their web-sites, creating blog pages, and rough drafts of projects started. It felt so nice to be part of such a helpful learning community! When we all come together, the work gets done and we have fun. The best sound to a teacher’s ears have been ringing in my room this week, “Class is over already!?”

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Student Comfort

Over the break, I went out and bought a few things for my classroom to make students more comfortable. The kids have choice seating with a few “cozier” alternatives to the hard, little desk chairs. The desks I kept, were arranged in clusters, and I added a large conference type table to the mix. The kids were excited and reported some of the following to me:
1. I actually felt comfortable.
2. I could focus more on learning.
(and my favorite….)
3. This doesn’t even feel like school.
(I guess school is supposed to feel uncomfortable.)

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If I Had a Story to Tell

Why do we teach English? Accessing information and relaying information are at the heart of what we teach. In many ways, we are teaching kids how to think (not to be mistaken with what to think). As we study various ways of story telling, students will have the opportunity to tell a story of their own choosing. We are going to talk about the many ways to access stories (not just reading) and to tell stories (not just writing). We want kids to feel free enough in this unit to explore, discover, and take risks without the fear of failure.
Today in class we looked at various forms of storytelling. We watched pieces of the New York Ballet, Niki Minaj’s video, Tom and Jerry Cartoon, and Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The students discussed in partners if each piece was or was not a story. They were given the directions that there were “no right answers.” As a class they discovered some powerful pieces of information: stories can be orally or visually told. Stories can be visually seen through pictures or symbols (letters / words). Oral stories can be spoken or sung. They also debated which stories were easier to understand and WHY. The conclusion was come to that stories were better understood with prior background knowledge. It was neat to watch the kids discover on their own.

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