Friday, May 15, 2015

More Student-Led Learning: a.k.a. Thanks Paul Solarz

The past two Wednesdays, I have had a one hour meeting in which I have to leave my room. When the coverage person comes in, I hand her an outline that shows times for transitions and general subjects. She is familiar with the students since she also works in the cafeteria during my students' lunch time. I hand her the very minimal plans and at the top it says the students know what to do and will lead the transitions and work. The two times, last week and this week, were a big success. The class takes great pride in this and the person providing the coverage says that it is a joy. She was impressed that students worked hard to control their volume, which can be an issue with my class. The volume is not because they are unfocused most of the time. It is usually due to the fact that they are enthusiastic about what they are learning.

Similar to what Paul Solarz has shared in his book Learn Like a Pirate, those students who do have attention/impulsivity difficulties are mostly rising to the occasion and they want to be positive members of the classroom. I wish I had started this at the beginning of the year.

These Wednesday meetings will be a regular time out of my classroom every week next year. Great built in weekly practice for the class. Luckily, the coverage person this year will be the same one coming every week next year, so she will be in the loop as to how the classroom is run. With the help of Solarz' book, I am looking forward to starting next year with this student led classroom philosophy!

Student Led Classroom: Organization

Students are enjoying analyzing what is working and not working with our classroom space. They have been brainstorming and implementing changes to make the day run more smoothly. For instance, this summer I decided that the students would not have their own desks anymore. I saw multiple teachers on Twitter singing the praises of no student or teacher desks. So where do the students put their "stuff?" For a cheap price, I bought sturdy cardboard magazine holders for each student. They have actually held up very well. I lined them all up together on the windowsill. They have three binders for 4 subjects that have to go somewhere. I did some major cleaning out of my classroom last summer and cleared shelf space for the binders in three different places in the room. As the school year started, all the students had to go to the same spot at the same time to get their materials/binders. It was not efficient. The students brainstormed and found a few areas in the room where their boxes could go so that they were spread out. Now, with students leading the classroom more than ever, they are again identifying spots in the room that are slowing their transitions and solving the problems, sometimes without even asking me...which I love.

I have an old rusting file cabinet that I covered with a cheap cloth shower curtain from Ocean State Job Lot. It holds most of my files, since I don't have the file drawer in my desk anymore. At the beginning of the year I placed organizers on the file cabinet to hold piles of work for the week, etc. This week some students were trying to find counter space for the pile of Wordly Wise books and some other materials. They came to me to ask if they could move my piles of  work for the week to the organizers hanging from the blackboard tray or in an empty desk that is along the perimeter of the room. I said, "Go for it." One of the students asked if I would like the piles organized into file folders first before being moved. I cried. Well, not really, but the students could see that I was thrilled with their initiative.

In our class meeting the other day, students reflected that there just isn't enough time to clean everything and do some of those bigger organizing jobs. They decided that they needed to do little bits daily, but also figured out that one afternoon a week, we could stop ten minutes early and organize. This is time for them to clean out their boxes and organize the materials in their binders. The students who already have their materials organized can work on some of the cleaning and organizing projects. Some students mentioned maybe having an organizing party after school one day. Seriously, these kids are so creative and enthusiastic. They are putting into place an organizational system that will help next year's class tremendously.