Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's Making You Feel Excited About Starting a New School Year?

I'm starting my year with some big changes! There will be lots of little changes, because there always are when you work with children! It's the big changes that have my attention this summer. I've been thinking and planning and discussing, and now I'm starting to feel excited!

1. Technology

Finally! I will have modern, working computers right in my classroom! And because of that, things like digital cameras and videos will be much easier to integrate into lessons. I've got all kinds of things planned, beginning with how to use each tool in the classroom. The real goal is for students to learn some new ways to connect with others inside the classroom, around our school, and beyond. Twitter? Yes, it's on my list. Skype? You bet. YouTube and a class blog? Yes, yes, of course!

2. Classroom

"I had all the desks moved out."

When I said those words to a colleague, she was beyond stunned. I wish I had a picture of her expression. O.M.G.

Early in the summer, I saw my new classroom for the first time. It was very similar to my old classroom. But the orientation was just a little different. The new/old rooms weren't mirror images. A few things were the same, but other, major things were different (like the location of the door, sink, a few cupboards.) Where would I put my cubbies? There wasn't really a logical place near the door. Where would my teaching easel go? And how would I arrange all those desks?

Soon after seeing my room, I started thinking about Genius Hour and the spaces I wanted available to students. And then I realized that those awesome new iMacs would need a home, and then there was a giant furniture snowball of information in my head. And it made me dizzy. So I laid down and closed my eyes, but all I could see was a room full of desks. Thirty desks.

The thing is, when I started thinking about why my students needed desks, I couldn't really come up with any good reasons. A place to put their crayons? A place to keep a notebook? Somewhere to sit? Yes, but I was quickly able to think of alternatives for all of those uses. I thought back to last year... what did we use the desks for that was so critical? The only thing I could come up with was that they were a place to keep children contained. "Please go to your desks."  Was this just a case of continuing to do something because that's the way we've always done it? Maybe.

So I started making lists and sketches and jotting down ideas. Pro: storage, a place for everyone, work space, order. Con: makes the room crowded, difficult to change students to a new work space, kids get territorial. My students spend a good part of every day doing things that don't require that they're anchored to a desk. I use a workshop model for reading, writing and math, and students often work on the floor, in a beanbag chair or on a small rug. What if the desks weren't there at all? What would it be like, I tried to imagine. I thought of a friend's art studio and the Montessori school where I worked in college and the Exploratorium.

And then a few weeks later, I saw Alice's post. This is a high school classroom, but wow! Her room has some great collaborative spaces, it's totally set up for conversations, and it looks so warm and happy. Her video made me think of a Starbucks. And you know how much work gets done there! Alice's video nudged me over the edge.

So my room doesn't have thirty desks anymore. I'm still arranging everything and I will share pictures next week.

3. Genius Hour

Talk about a perfect fit! Genius Hour will work great in the physical classroom and with access to technology. I am eager to get started with my students! Two books I plan to read with them right away: Big Plans by Bob Shea and Lane Smith, and Swimmy by Leo Lionni. I want students to think big! They can change the world! And Swimmy is a lovely little book for discussing collaboration.



What new things are you trying this year? Any great new books you have found that you love? What's getting you excited about going back to school?

Happy Wednesday!

 

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