Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Gorgeousness

When you walk into Leslie’s classroom, you know that the classroom is set up for gorgeous learning! She shared some of the small things that make a big difference, that allow the teacher to focus on the children because everything is organized, and enable the children to be independent in a caring space alive with learning sparks.

In grade one, of course, lots and lots of reading is paramount.  Leslie’s home reading program  has children able to quickly and independently choose “just right books” and take them home in their book bag each week.

They can also take home a “theme bag” of books every two weeks on topics that excite them.

And they also have their reading workshop books (the groups and bins organized and ready for the parent volunteers).

The bell rang before I’d even finished dashing around the classroom trying to soak up everything!  The students clearly knew the routine, taking off boots and coats, putting books in place, checking the agenda (I love the visual dayplan!) and sitting at their desks with their Bee Books open.

In a room full of favourite things, the BEE book, I think, is my favourite:  Bring Everything Everyday.  Students take the BEE book home nightly and return it each morning.  In it is their sharing book, a zippered bag for forms and money,  planner sheets, newsletters and a word work pouch.   While the students listened to the announcements, Leslie checked their planners and then, announcements done, students put the BEE books in a bin and sat at the carpet.  Another favourite thing:  using male Velcro, she wrote each child’s name so they know where they should sit at the carpet.

After a few minutes of welcome and questions with thumbs up/thumbs down answering about their Halloween evening (they were amazingly quiet and respectful despite a no doubt sugary and late evening), they organized into reading groups.  One of the groups was an independent group and they quickly (and very happily) recited all the things they could do for their workshop – reading on their own, reading together - what they could read (so many options!) -  where they could read – at the carpet and on the soft couch! Two girls immediately began reading a classroom poem from a chart stand – complete with actions.  

Another meeting to attend and a reluctant goodbye.  Of course, no one noticed me leave.  Everyone was so thoroughly engaged and the quiet hum of reading and thinking and learning played back to me like music all day.  Another gorgeous teaching and learning environment in our neighbourhood.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gorgeous Teaching in our Neighbourhood

I slipped into the classroom uninvited, a little uncertain that it was all right.  Tricia paused in the mid-lesson to welcome me generously, wholeheartedly, and to introduce me to her students and then continued, completely and deeply attentive once again to the small children clustered around her on the carpet.  They, too, forgot about me as soon as her soft voice began to tell them about the exciting work they were about to begin.  The instructions (so clear, so inviting, so interactive) for creating a picture of themselves buried in leaves like the book they’d just read were followed by students moving (in an orderly fashion – they knew the routine) to the demonstration table to watch the painting.  Once again the instructions were clear and modeled step by step.  My favourite part was when she made a mistake, covering one of her sentence strips with paint.  “Don’t worry,” one the children said, “everyone makes mistakes.”  The small heads nodded heartily, encouragingly.  It was so obvious that the classroom lived this message.

When she finished the demonstration, she said, “I know I don’t have to tell you about gorgeous printing.”  Heads shook vigorously in unison, their bodies starting to vibrate with excitement to get started on their own.  “And I don’t have to tell you about gorgeous cutting.”  More vigorous head-shaking.
She released them then to go do their own no doubt gorgeous work. I left reluctantly to attend a meeting, but all I could think was how very very mad it is to go anywhere or read anything about teacher and learning when we have, right in our own neighbourhood, so many gorgeous examples at our fingertips!