Saturday, August 13, 2016

Student Designed: Just Right

Our first week of school was 3 days long. There was a little bit of the "usual" first day things, but in the looping year you can get started pretty fast. By day two they were in small groups and problem solving during the math hour.

However, there was change in the air! This year they were going to have more say in this learning space that belongs to them. Not many had even noticed the blank walls, and there were many surprised looks when I told them they could sit anywhere since there were no name tags identifying "their" space. That is because it is "our" space, this classroom belongs to us.

To get us started with this idea, I read an old time favorite, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They seemed to enjoy hearing the old time classic, and I began to pause each time and hear them say "it was just right."

As the story completed, I asked them about those words, "just right". I asked what did it mean to them. They understood it meant: comfortable, right, the way you like it, etc. That's when I asked them to look around the room. I explained that this was THEIR learning space, and I wanted their help in making it "just right". I wanted it to be comfortable, right and the way they like it. I explained I wanted them to help me create a space that they would look forward to coming to, one where it will be the best fit for them to think, learn and grow.

We then broke into the discussion of what they wanted. I recorded their thinking. At first the answers came slow, unsure. It was clear they really didn't know. They had learned and been conditioned to accepting what was, and never having a voice for what could be. So, I asked questions...and probed. I am certain this will be a process. It won't come quick and easy. They will have to experiment, try and revise their thinking.

We broke their thinking up into wants and needs. The following day we discussed the word empathy. I had them look at the charts and think about the answers. I asked if we are all alike, and do we want the same things? I shared the word empathy and defined it with them. I explained sometimes we have to think about the needs of others, and we may have to compromise. I asked which would be easier to compromise, needs or wants? They knew it would be the wants and knew it was priority we tried to meet our needs.

From there they worked alone, in pairs or groups....their choice. They had large pieces of chart paper, and made a sketch of the room they wanted. When sharing I was able to add more to our charts. we are. Kind of stuck in the middle of ideas and figuring out what to do. We have started with experimenting with seating, finding what they like. We tried different lights and music. What is the greatest thing? You can see they feel valued and important. They know this space is theirs and they have a say. So....the journey continues. I will have to add photos to this post on Monday...having trouble moving my photos from my iPad to the blog.

Here are some of their ideas

Needs: Bright lights/dim lights, quiet, quiet music, choice of sitting together and alone, some need to be isolated at times,  different choices in seating, name tags with helpful tools,  cursive alphabet, a reflection center to go to cool down, reflect, computers/iPads, Individual supply boxes not community, mats, big tables, lots of space, teacher table, (some wanted no windows) Beanie baby tools from last yr (struggling readers asked for this), their work on the walls, but they want to choose, not me, charts on the wall to chart their goals

Wants: Ability to choose the books we add to our classroom, snacks as needed, more pets or animals to observe, positive quotes and signs, student created anchor charts, plants/flowers, hooks from ceiling to hang things, decorations (many differences with what that will be), play area

I will continue to document our journey. I love when they lead me into a place I know we will learn and grow in.