Saturday, April 21, 2012

Meeting areas

Our main meeting area is off to one side of the room. We have our easel and our smartboard at our fingertips beside our calendar. Under the easel and the smartboard are our baskets of books that highlight what we are studying- books we wrote, books about emotions, books about maps, books about the zoo, books we just LOVE and can't get enough of. I like having the highlighted baskets in the meeting area because it makes it easy for me to refer to them when I am teaching, but also serves as a constant visual reminder for the students on the different sorts of books. Our classroom library is sorted (not well- one of those things I let go this year with maternity leave) but the children do not always use it thoughtfully. On the carpet I see them making choices about what basket to go to based on what they want to read or know.

The word wall is also right beside our meeting area so we can constantly use it when we are doing interactive writing. We do word wall activities daily- either singing alphabet songs (LOVE, love, love Dr Jean's 'Who let the letters out?') or word wall cheers.

Underneath our word wall are posters of what we do in our classroom. They are not our rules so much- those are posted in another area of the room and were created when I was on maternity leave. I took pictures of the students showing us how to sit quietly, put their hands in their laps, walk safely, share, and listen to the teacher. Each picture is posted on a piece of construction paper under the word wall. I am trying to be better about using these posters as reminders of how we behave every day. During morning meeting my goal everyday (and sometimes I just forget...) is to read the reminders together with the students. Then each student decides what they want to work on that day- do they want to try to sit with their hands in their lap, do they want to make a goal of sharing, of listening, or of walking safely? They put a sticky note with their name on it on their poster. At the end of the day (if I 1. remember and 2. have the time) we talk about how their goals went- did they sit quietly, did they keep their hands in their lap, etc. I like that it lets us focus on just ONE behavior a day . During the reflection time one of my kids may have had a rough day but he can at least say, "my goal was to keep my hands in my lap and I did that." It is a good reminder to me to find the positive even on our most difficult days. Sure you threw your pants in the toilet, but you know what- you did walk safely. Thank you for that.
Sometimes I ask them to identify what they did well that day from our posters as a way to get them to reflect on their behaviors. Some of them are not ready to grasp the larger intangible concept of setting a goal and trying to meet it, but the conversations allow us to repeat the language of the expected behaviors over and over again. The more we talk about those expected behaviors the more likely we are to see it.
One day after starting this one of my first grade girls yelled across the room, "HEY, Mrs. Lipstick! I'm sharing!!" yes, she was sharing, and she was meeting her goal for that day. Good thing her goal wasn't to use a quiet voice :)

Notice that above the word wall are the numbers counting the days of school. Yes, they stop right about when I came back from maternity leave. Next year I'll be a bit better about that...

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