Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Helpful Harvest: The Elementary Darling

Hi Friends! I can not believe it is November! I feel like it is flying by already, and I am trying to enjoy the month. For me, November seems to be when the kids are really getting the hang of things, and they are learning faster. My students are starting to pick things up without me telling them or prompting them, and that is when the teacher angels start singing in my classroom! :)

This month, the authors at The Primary Peach are bringing you a Helpful Harvest! We are sharing our favorite tips and tricks for you to use in your classroom.

In September, we shared some of our spaces in our classrooms or home offices and I shared my desk area with you guys. Today I want to share with you a few more spaces in my classroom and how (and why) I make my classroom Student Centered.

Pinterest has taken over. Don't get me wrong, I love it. I scroll through it when I should be sleeping, I pin EVERYTHING. However it also drives people like myself to want to make everything perfect and pinterest worthy. A couple years ago, I sat down and told myself that the classroom can be cute, pinterest worthy, AND student centered. Enter Classroom Makeover 101.

Why I made my classroom Student Centered
I wanted my students to feel at home. I have zero windows in my classroom. (not even one in our door) so making a concrete room feel like a home wasn't an easy task, and I am still working on it every year. I wanted more space for my students to be collaborative and creative. I wanted them to take ownership of what they were learning and responsibility for keeping it organized. Those are skills that sometimes need to be taught. I wanted the kids to focus. When they are able to use the classroom as their own, it helps keep them focused on what they are learning. I wanted them to be engaged in all parts of the classroom. Standards, questions, anchor charts (see more on this at the end of this post) all can be created by students of a certain age. Even kindergartners can draw a standard.

How I made my classroom Student Centered
I started a little at a time. It was not a whole room makeover and to be honest I am still not finished. Scroll down to see where I am headed in this topic. I started with the things that I was already doing, Bucket Fillers, Standards Boards, Group Seating, etc. I taught the students what belonged to them. I never said  "you can't use that" or worked on an anchor chart for 12 hours. Even my desk has stools where the students work. My desk is not off limits. The kids work on there often! These are all areas of my classroom that belong to the students.

Table Groups- Students work collaboratively almost 90 percent of the week. Yes my class is loud, but they use their "math talk" and Bloom's Taxonomy cards so I know they are actually completing the assignment. This way I can walk and facilitate. I love facilitating :)

Organization Stations- At each group, the students have an organization station that belongs to them. I do not nag when the trash falls out. They have jobs, and they keep their own spaces clean. I love it. They CAN handle it, you just have to let them. In each station, they have their own math manipulatives to use during group work, supplies, and a place to keep journals and binders.

Bucket Fillers and Pictures-Hope King said on a periscope once to fill your classroom with pictures to make the students take ownership of the room. When Hope King tells you to do something, you just do it :) She is 100% right though, the kids LOVE seeing our favorite moments board. I switch out the pictures and send some home or keep them in an album for the kids to look at during the year. I love implementing bucket fillers. Around November the students really get the hang of it and our buckets overflow with wonderful things. It boosts morale, and the space belongs to them.

Our ABC board- This idea I got from Amy Lemons at Step into Second Grade. At the beginning of the year, students create a picture for a letter and we make the alphabet. Easy, Cheap, and it gives the students ownership of our alphabet!

Writer's Workshop Station- This belongs to the students. You may can tell because it isn't 100 percent picture ready, however it is how the kids use it. Not everything is pretty. The students have full reign of all of these materials. I taught them how to use them and the proper way to use them at the beginning of the year. They have word work materials in here as well. They can choose the paper they use, if they use sticky notes or markers. It all belongs to them.

Wonderful Writer Board- This is used to display writer's workshop writing. Students suggest when we should hang a piece of writing. I chose for about a week, and then when the kids started realizing how great their peer's writing pieces were, they wanted to vote and suggest which writing pieces we hang up. Student choice and ownership, one less task for me to do.

Brag Tags- They earn them, and wear them if they choose. One tip that I like to share is to let the students suggest brag tags for friends. Sometimes one student will say, "Wow Jan, you really did a great job in our group work today". Enter Miss Warren with a brag tag. When your class is really collaborative, sometimes you don't see ALL the amazing things that happen while they are in a discussion. This actually helps me, and it is just paper. I love positive reinforcements.

Book Bins- I give students free reign over germ-x, lotion, and tissues in the classroom. It stays in this area because the students book bins and pillows are there. Sometimes desks aren't the best learning environments for some students so we use pillows to read or work. I don't want them to feel confined to a desk all day.

Hard Worker Caddy- Believe it or not, the students have been suggesting who should receive the caddy for the following day. They never pick themselves. When you create a community instead of a classroom, students trust one another and build each other up. Again, one less thing I worry about at the end of the day.

Student Projects- One last thing, I do put student work up in my room. The spaces are empty at the beginning of the year, and like most teachers we fill them up. The kids love seeing their own work. To take that a step further, I brought in a table from home and when we create projects at home or in class, I let the students display them there. Last month, we created our character pumpkins, this month we are hiding our turkeys. It makes the kiddos so proud to see their work displayed.

The next steps for my classroom-These are the next things that I am focusing on to make my classroom more student centered.

Focus Boards- Right now, my standards, key words, and essential questions are all typed or bought from TPT. Starting January, the students will write our focus points and we will display them that way. They learn more by creating them, themselves.

In the future I would like to create a better seating arrangement for the room. I would like spaces for group work rather than desks. This is obviously something that will have to be discussed with administration, but I really feel that the students would benefit from that kind of learning environment.

Ok Friends, it is your turn, How do you make your classroom student centered? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to see more tips and tricks from our Authors!

I also want to invite you to check out my daily happenings on my Facebook, Instagram, and TPT store!