Week 3 & 4: Classroom Management: Structural Layouts and Student Arrangements

What are the components of a highly functioning classroom? How does the placement of students within a classroom contribute to (or reduce) the learning of the collective? How has my understanding of classroom management changed? These are a few questions I was able to answer after readings and in class activities but before I jump into the answers let me explain how I discovered them!

For the past two weeks our focus has been on how to create a physical environment that is conducive to learning for students. The main concern is how to incorporate varying degrees of personality, academic and personal/physical struggles with the layout of a classroom. The goal is to construct an environment where students work as a cohesive unit with the least amount of interruption and the highest amount of security and safety as possible.

In Class Activity: I received a wake up call during week three when we were placed in groups of six and were told we would be modeling teachers who were meeting at the end of the year to determine how the students would be placed in the our grade level classrooms. Each of us were dealt cards that became symbolic representations of our students. We received the following sheet informing us what each card suite and number represented in terms of student demographics. Please see below:

Card Representation

Card Representation

After assessing each student and their attributes I quickly realized I would not be able to operate my classroom one dimensionally if I really wanted to be an effective educator. With so many different and sometimes competing needs of the twenty-five students I knew I would not be able to approach them all with the same practices. My classroom was pretty evenly divide by suite sets and gender. Five students had reading levels below third grade and eight were ELL but only two of those were not proficient in English. I also had three in need of strong emotional support, one with a learning disability, one with ADD/ADHD.

I heard sounds of frustration and relief as our class begun sorting through the students who made up their classroom and I sadly realized some students are poised to enter classrooms being labeled as “undesirable” or “problems” or “ideal”. That does not sit well with me as it inevitably leads to stereotypes and generalizations being made and possibly preventing the student(s) from receiving the most out of my classroom.  I will have to make a conscientious effort to avoid labeling students. I want to view students who deviate from the preferred norm as opportunities rather then struggles.

Fast-forward to week four: Our class activity was to design our physical vision of our future classroom. We were given a list of required features that had to be placed in the classroom. The picture below shows my initial vision:

Initial Classroom LAyout

As you can see, I was able to include the features that were discussed in chapter two of Elementary Classroom Management (Weinstein and Romano, 2011, page 27). “All physical settings serve six basic functions: security and shelter, social contact, symbolic identification, task instrumentality, pleasure and growth,” (Weinstein and Romano, 2011, page 27). I made sure students were placed far away from distractors like the pencil sharpener and that entryways and passageways were easily accessible to avoid unnecessary conflicts and accidents. I also choose to arrange students in pods to encourage group activities and lessons. Honestly, I felt like we nailed our layout!

While I thought of the students in my design my greatest determinant of placement was on the above mentioned functions. Then we were thrown a curveball! We were instructed to arrange the students from last weeks activity into the layout we had just designed. So the students I had described earlier now had to be factored into my layout design. We were only allowed to make three adjustments to our initial design in order to accommodate our set of students. Below is my revised vision with my students labeled by suite and number.

Revised Classroom Layout

My physical changes included moving the bookshelf to create a more cozy section of the classroom that was still accessible to my eye line but could help students “block out” the world to focus on reading. I thought this would be great for my ELL students who could be pulled back for mini lessons and reading circles. My most noticeable change was to the desk arrangements. For easier viewing, desk outlined in red indicated a red colored suite and those not outline reflect black colored suites. I tried to arrange students mixing gender evenly but placing similar academic levels near each other and ELL’s near those closest to each others academic level. I took one pod and separated them to provide students who need more attention or who prone to distracting others in the back to avoid these disturbances. However, by doing so I was technically labeling students so moving forward I will allow students to choose seats and I will rearrange on an as needed basis. My goal will be to create a safe, easily accessible environment where classroom boards and displays are equally shown to all students.

What I’ve learned overall:  There is no layout that ensures a flawless classroom but it is my responsibility to try and accommodate all students and meet their needs to the best of my abilities. All of the preparation in the world does not guarantee a perfectly functioning classroom. I must be flexible and quick to accomodate changes in my student roster or changes that can unexpectedly come up throughout the year such as a broken leg or a new student.

Weinstein, C. & Romano, M. (2015). Managing classrooms to nurture students, build self-discipline, and promote learning.  Elementary Classroom Management: Lessons from Research and Practice (Sixth ed., pp. 2-23). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Catch you next week!

Erica

Day 1: What Classroom Management Means To Me

Course: EDE 6506 – Creating & Differentiating the Learning Environments in Elementary Schools (Classroom Management)

Week 1 Recap: Prior to class we read “It Mattered that I Came” and “Morning Meeting”, two chapters out of The Morning Meeting Book (Kriete, 2002). In the reading, Kriete recalls the moment she realized the importance of student/teacher greetings and conversation. As a former student was dropping out of school, Kriete received a letter thanking her for the way she greeted the student every morning and left her feeling as if her presence in class was valued. “It touched and pained me that something which seemed so small to me…had meant so much to her,” (Kreite, 2002, pg. 1). Vowing to learn something out of the situation she would make a habit of greeting and welcoming students to class. We are then introduced to the concept of Morning Meeting. Per Kreite, approximately thirty minutes should be spent every morning (or at a specific time throughout the day) in which the whole classroom gathers together in a circle for a greeting and sharing time. Morning Meeting should include these four components to be most effectual: Greeting, sharing, group activity and news and announcements (Kriete, 2002, pg. 3). In the next chapter “Morning Meeting”, Kriete discusses the purposes of Morning Meeting, provides implementation ideas and troubleshooting advice.

After the Reading: I was definitely moved by the emotional appeals Kriete had made to encourage teachers to implement Morning Meeting into their routine. I visualized what my classroom might look like, how many students I might have and how I wanted to include Morning Meeting with my teaching style. The idea of a safe place where all students are given a platform to speak and engage with their peers and teacher(s) is important to me. When I decided to take the journey to become a teacher it was my goal to create a classroom that would not only encourage academic achievements but also to encourage personal growth and development. My experiences have led me to believe that it takes growth in multiple areas to develop the confidence needed to reach ones maximum abilities.  I feel strongly that the Morning Meeting concept will definitely be applied in my future classroom and will help to set the expectations of how we will operate as one unit.

In Class Activities: The following day I entered class and was soon directed to gather on the floor with my classmates. In my first Morning Meeting I was one of the students and my professor and TA were running the meeting. We went through the steps as suggested in “Morning Meeting,” (Kriete, 2002). I learned names, background information of my peers and professors, and received a brief snapshot of what I could expect throughout this course. We then returned to our seats and as I felt more relaxed and comfortable as we moved on to other tasks.

For the next assignment we were given five minutes to “free write” about what Classroom Management means to us. I described an environment in which students feel free to express themselves without the fear of judgement from others. I described how learning should feel comfortable even when challenging because outside factors such as a cultural, social and academic differences are not holding anyone back.  Following the free write we were then instructed to “mold” our concept of Classroom Management as we had written down. Then as a class we circled the room and checked out everyones interpretations leaving small notes to the left (see below). For the most part the message was clear to my peers.

Below, is what I came up with. A circle with the words “Safe Zone” inside. I chose as it reminded me of the setup of Morning Meeting and that during these meetings and throughout the day I wanted a place where learning would not be hinder by a lack of safe feelings.

 

My Play-Doh vision of classroom management

My Play-Doh vision of classroom management

 

Implementation Goals: The combination of reading about Morning Meeting, engaging in a Morning Meeting and creating my definition of classroom management has led me to new concepts that I look forward to embracing in the future. I imagine that many of my naive beliefs or visions I have of teaching will change throughout the MAT program and teaching experiences but my concept of classroom management will not. I will make sure that students feel safe, welcomed and feel supported enough to choose to learn. My goal is to learn creative ways of conducting and participating in Morning Meetings so that I can be a more effectual teacher.

 

Text covered:

Kriete, R. (2002). The morning meeting book. Thunder Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation, Inc.

 

 

Until next week,

Erica