Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I did not prepare my classroom & maybe you shouldn't either!

Inspired by this post "Less is More? What do your classroom walls look like?" by Craig Kemp and a twitter conversation with Tim Kaegi . I thought I would share something I did many years ago with my 1st graders at the beginning of the year.

It was way back in 1992 when I was teaching at Nora Elementary in Indianapolis. It was my first teaching position, but my 3rd year at that school.  I loved teaching there. I had great leadership and wonderful colleagues.  A few of us in the building had given up the basal readers, and were exploring having "inquiry based" classrooms. We had strong administrative support, it was a great place to be a beginning teacher.

I was really exploring deeply giving those 1st graders ownership of their own learning and was studying Reggio Emilia  due to my years at the Butler University College of Education and the now current Dean of Education, Ena Shelley .

So....I did not prepare my classroom!

  • No bulletin boards
  • No taped down names on the desk
  • Nothing purchased from the teacher store
  • No books on the bookshelves
  • No little bins for folders
When my students arrived, it looked pretty much how the custodians left it.  You should have seen their faces!  They didn't know what to do, they were already "experts" at what school looked like at 6 and 7 years old!

I greeted them, said hi and....watched...it wasn't too long before one of the students "took charge".  She said, " When are we having a class meeting?"  
I asked "Do you guys want a class meeting?"  
They said yes and immediately say down in a group in front of the easel and white board.

 I asked what we should talk about...
"Why isn't our room ready?"
"Where should we put our backpacks?"
"How do I know which table to sit at?"  ( I had ditched desks for tables, too)
"Where are the bathroom passes?"
"Where is the jobs list?"
"Where is the calendar?"

So I told them this was OUR learning space and that we were going to create it together.  They made a list of what they thought we needed and they divided themselves up and got to work.

They arranged tables, chairs, made bulletin boards ( WAY better than anything I had ever done and it was THEIR work), set up reading areas, the calendar, stations, made job charts....I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but if they thought it was needed, they created it!


They felt ownership, they made changes as the space worked or didn't work for their learning.  They brought in a few things from home . ( Lamps, posters, rugs...)

We had a wonderful year.  For the rest of my years at Nora I began the year with the furniture shoved in a corner and nothing on the walls and we created our learning space from scratch, together.
I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Okay..So Maybe I AM a Bit Motivated by Awards

So I KNOW “they” say we aren’t motivated by awards , but I have to admit….I sometimes am !

When I woke up and checked my Twitter Feed the day after the Educator’s Voice Awards were announced and saw all of the congratulatory tweets, I did a little happy dance!

#PBLChat began over 4 years ago as a way to create community and conversation around project-based learning. I gathered together several colleagues who really valued our Twitter PLNs put our heads together and come up with this chat.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with so many people via this chat and my knowledge base has grown tremendously because of them.  I’ve gotten to meet some of my “edu-crushes” both virtually and in person. 

When I first began diving deeply into PBL it was as a Technology Coordinator for Rochester Community Schools as they began their partnership with New Tech Network.  I dog-eared this book by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss to death.  Now there is even a 2nd edition of it available to you.

Imagine my delight when I held a PBLchat at ISTE in person with Suzie & Jane after they had joined in on our chat several times.  That is one of my favorite personal “twitter wins” as a direct result of this chat.

Many of the wins are the little things:
  • ·      When students join the chat ( especially when the adults think they are teachers because they are so profound in the points they make!)
  • ·      When teachers tweet out sharing they implemented something learned during the chat.
  • ·      When teachers who are out their doing great PBL work on their own without the support of a local network find validation in this chat.
  • ·      When I find a new tool or project idea I can share widely

After chatting almost every single Tuesday night for 4 years, I will admit, it can give a girl a bit of burn out!  A big shout out to Jeff Spencer, Principal at Washington Discovery Academy in Plymouth Indiana for taking one of the Tuesdays each month and adding a little elementary flavor !

Some of my favorite chats have been our “Mash-Up Chats” where we partner with folks like SteelCase, Project Lead the Way and StemPremiere .  We love adding new voices and ideas to our chat and want to focus on that this year.  If you are interested in partnering with us for a chat…add your information here and we will be in touch!

A big big thank you to the Education Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Bammy Awards for drawing attention to “All That is Good in Education”  !