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At recess yesterday I began sketching my classroom layout for next year. Crazy, I know.
I am the teacher who likes to do trial runs on pretty much everything. Owning my own school gives me the ability to do that. I use the beginning of each quarter to lay out goals and expectations for my students that are a bit more challenging than the average classroom has. Each quarter I reassess and tweak my ideas until I have a smooth running machine. So when I came across the many ideas leaning toward a cooperative learning classroom, I began figuring out how to make that work with my multi-level students.
When my students saw what I was working on they began to ask questions. Some students would remain next year while others are moving on. I took this opportunity to run the idea by them and get their feedback. I love that I can take a sampling group and hear their perspective. Once I explained what I was looking at doing for next year, the questions started flowing.
One of my students asked if there would be assigned seats. When I responded that the only ones who would have assigned seats would be the first graders and any other students who could not demonstrate the maturity of handling decision making and staying on task, I could tell the interest was piqued. So another student asked what the reasoning was behind not having assigned seats. I asked them if they felt the same way each day they came to school. Most of them said no, that sometimes they wanted to be quiet and work alone while other times they wanted to be working in a group. I told them that a cooperative learning classroom would cater to both of those situations. If students wanted to work alone they could choose what work environment would suit them for that morning, whether it be an isolated working area with no interruptions or a group setting at a larger table. More questions began coming at a rapid rate. What about supplies? What about behavior problems? How would lessons be taught? I loved that I could run my ideas through the best soundboards, since the students would be the ones experiencing the newness of the classroom. Some questions I was ready to answer. Others allowed me to think through the procedures a bit more. All of the questions reinforced the idea that this type of classroom just might work for my students.
So now the plan is to do a trial run the final quarter. I will take my sketch, gut my classroom and set it up the way I have it envisioned and will see if it works. I’ll be able to tweak it as needed and lay down procedures and expectations, knowing that some of my students will be back with me next year and can help model the routine for next year.
My main goal for this type of setting is self-regulation. I encourage independence and taking responsibility for learning through all my age levels. I want my students to be able to set goals and prioritize from a younger age when they are developmentally ready. Once these habits are established it makes each level of learning a little bit easier to adjust to. A cooperative learning classroom allows students to train themselves on what best works for them when it comes to their learning. I am very excited to see how this pans out for my students.
How do you arrange your classroom to be conducive to the learning differences your students demonstrate?