Our first days in first grade

After some getting to know you activities, we started to talk about how we act in first grade. We based this on our school motto of being the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. The students drew pictures of how we should act in our classroom and at our school, and as they finished, they posted them on the chalkboard under each section. They chatted about what they drew and what the rules should be that we should follow, so we created a tree map listing their rules for our classroom.

 how we act in our classroom

We also learned about how we will work together, or more formally, collaboration in our classroom. We learned about collaboration and creativity through the Box Project.

 

we worked on collaboration and creativity this week.

we worked on collaboration and creativity this week.

We talked about the questions “What can you do with a box?” To gather information and ideas, we watched the visual representation of This is not a Box by Antoinette Portis, and read the book A Box Can be Many Things by Dana Meachen Rau. Then we brainstormed ideas together, created our teams and got to work making our boxes into something else. We talked about collaboration, and teamwork, and what it looks like, and feels like. They said its about working together, listening to each other, sharing ideas, and having fun .We created an anchor chart so that we have our expectations for collaboration written down and posted for the year. We did the same for Creativity, focusing on making things, sharing ideas , and being innovative – trying something new. My students are good at that! The best part was listening to them as they shared their thinking about their projects.

So, my lesson for the week: We can do this together! Even though we are learning to read, write, and do math in our classroom, more importantly, we are learning to work together and learn from each other.

I want to “hack my space!”

Where do I begin with creating a classroom environment that is student-directed? I thought this sums it up!

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I have to first look at what I’ve got in my learning space and think about how many people need to use this space. This year, I have 27 students, (plus me,  the teacher). Also, I really liked David Thornburgs’ theory of learning communities from this article: Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century.  This is where I began to think about how to set up my learning community. I needed a campfire – a place for us to meet as a whole group to share stories and a place to talk about our learning community. And I needed several watering holes – places for groups of students to share information. These would be our tables for collaboration. We would also need a cave – a place for individuals to have a quiet spot to go to work by themselves.  And a mountain top – a place to celebrate our learning. With this in mind, I began to think about my space.

More inspiration came from Edutopia: Classroom Makeovers to Engage Learners. in which they talk about flexible learning environments. So , using the furniture I have in my room, I created this student centered learning environment.

Guided reading space

Guided reading space

A campfire space: In addition to having a meeting area for shared reading, I have a guided reading space for smaller campfires. I used file folder crates with covers and pillows on top for my seating around an old kitchen table with the legs cut to a height suitable for first graders.  Behind the table, I put plexiglass on the wall for the students to write down their thinking as we meet in groups. You can use glass markers or dry erase markers on the board and it wipes clean.

quiet reading area

quiet reading area

The Cave -independent work space: students need a place to go sometimes to work by themselves, so I set up an area with bean bags, pillows, and  a low bench for them to sit by themselves. They are mobile, so the kids can move them around the room to find their personal space.

reading centers

reading centers

This is how I set up my reading centers – leveled books on the left and tubs for Word Work from Daily 5 ideas by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. The Daily 5 is a framework for structuring literacy time so students develop lifelong habits of reading, writing, and working independently. There is also a collaborative wall in this space with small tables and large pillows for the students to use independently or with a partner.

tables for learning

tables for learning

The Watering hole: a place for smaller groups to gather and talk about their learning. My tables, or desks, are not assigned, so the students choose their own seat each day. They can choose Hokki stools or chairs, or even an exercise ball to sit on, as long as they are doing their best learning. Community supplies go in baskets on the table for the table to share.

Green Screen

Green Screen

We will we doing photography and recording the students’ stories this year, so i set up a green screen on the wall. It is a piece of neon green fleece that works well as a background. You can use it with iMovie, and put a different setting behind the speaker.  It can be taken down easily as well.

Maker's Space

Maker’s Space

I put my Maker’s Space by the window and sink area so I could use the window sill for a shelf . In the white bins are paper, plastic, and cardboard, and there are smaller supplies in the other tubs : Stickers, Yarn, string, ribbon, tools, tape, small stuff, and a Make-Do kit with connectors to make ordinary things, like boxes, into something else. (They can be reused). We will add to this space as we continue through the year.

maker's space tables

maker’s space tables

I used tables from Ikea along with Hokki stools for students to work in this space. Here is the Lego WeDo kit that kids can use to build different things and make them move.

Now I’m ready for the students to give me their input. I want them to share their thoughts about what would make our classroom a better learning environment for them. School starts in a week, so in my next post, you will hear from them. Here is another great article called 8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom. There are a lot of great ideas to help get started!

I’d love to hear from you as well! How are you redesigning your space?