We’re Back in Business

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Students are scheduled to enter my school tomorrow morning.  It’s been a whole two weeks since I’ve seen my students.  Tomorrow, routines will be reestablished, backpacks will be filled, students will be chattering about their break, and students and teachers alike will get back into school mode after a brief hiatus.  As  tomorrow approaches, I’m reflecting on what my classes have accomplished and what still is on the plate ahead of us.  I spent a good amount of time yesterday planning out the next week of instruction and it confirmed my anxiousness to know that the school year is over half-way completed.  As I look over the next few months, I’m finding curriculum pacing guides, standardized testing, school performances and field trips all impact my instruction to a certain degree.  This happens every year and it has me thinking of what time I truly have left with the kids. I’m also aware that these next few months directly impact students in meaningful ways.  For some, this will be my last year with a group of fifth graders that I’ve seen since they were in second grade. I want to ensure that I make the most of that time remaining.  That doesn’t necessarily mean speeding through the curriculum.  I’m hoping to gives students opportunities during the next few months to make connections, reflect and set goals.  As we all come back tomorrow, I want to communicate the following to my kids:


1.)  The learning experiences that you’ll encounter in the next few months are intentionally designed for you to make meaningful math connections.  Perseverance will be key in helping you create these connections.  You might find that you don’t understand a particular concept when we introduce it.  That’s okay.  Learning is a process and we’re all in this together.

2.)  Group projects, individual assignments and standardized tests are on the calendar and will be approaching in the next few months.  Keep in mind that I believe you’ll will show your potential on all of these. The scores and marks will help teachers and your parents have a better understanding of your strengths and areas that might need to be bolstered.  Also keep in mind that the scores are a number and don’t represent who you are as a person.

3.)  Let’s celebrate a milestone.  We’ve worked hard and have made significant progress since September. Each student in here has made gains and I want us to reflect a bit on our success. There’s more to accomplish, of course, but reflecting on our past growth can also encourage us to move forward with additional confidence.


I’d like to communicate this to all my classes at some point tomorrow.  I won’t necessarily read off a script, but I feel like flushing it out on here is a decent starting point.

It’s time to get back into the routine of setting my alarm clock to wake up extra early.  I’ll be joining the trove of educators heading back into their schools this week.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Personalizing Classroom Design

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I believe that a positive classroom environment plays a significant role in the classroom. Students need to feel safe in order to take risks and contribute to the class. That safety can take on many different forms. During the beginning of the year teachers often use strategies aimed at constructing a classroom community.  A classroom that is built on a firm foundation gives students opportunities to express themselves and have a voice in classroom decisions. This type of classroom environment often pays dividends throughout the year as students are vested in their classroom and learning.

The environment isn’t just isolated to how students feel, but it’s also established in the physical make-up of the classroom.   How classroom space is utilized has been throughly discussed over the past few years. Students are expected to work collaboratively, research, present, and create content to showcase understanding. How are students able to engage in these types of learning activities in a traditional classroom?

I’ve seen first-hand how teachers are making an effort to “modernize” their own classrooms. Some teachers have ditched desks and moved towards tables. Other teachers have decided to use a variety of stations in their classroom designed for students to work collaboratively. More often than not, classrooms in elementary schools are generally composed of individual desks formed in table groups. This isn’t always the case, but most elementary schools that I visit have this type of model.  At my school most student desks are combined to create groups of three, four, or even five. Students are expected to work in groups in the classroom so the teachers are putting in place what works for their individual class.

One amazing teacher at my school has moved away from the whole individual desk idea and put tables in her classroom. The tables used to have chairs, but the chairs were replaced with a different type of seating.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

She found an amazing deal at the local Target and stocked up.  Students sit on the ottoman and actually store their supplies inside.  From what I see, this type of thinking has created less clutter for students and allows students the freedom to move their “seat” wherever they desire. The ottomans don’t screech against the floor and you don’t have to worry about someone accidently injuring themselves or others with the metal legs on a typical student chair.

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This type of thinking can help others move towards modernizing their own classroom. There’re so many possibilities, but teachers need to find the best fit for their students.

How are you changing your classroom to best meet the needs of your students?