Physical aspects of a student-centered classroom
Sometimes what seems like a little change can make a big difference. That’s what two Proctor Elementary School teachers recently confirmed when they decided to incorporate flexible seating into their classrooms.
It’s been such a success that now every classroom in their school features some sort of flexible seating options for students.
The Developmental Designs remix
Ever notice how for some kids Mondays are a lot tougher than Wednesdays? Any time there’s a break in the school routine, some kids are likely to fall out of sync. Similarly, after the long December break, crisp classroom routines can seem like a foggy memory.
After any break, students and teachers are often eager to dive back into learning. But in the heady rush of a new calendar year, it can be easy to breeze over re-establishing clear and explicit classroom routines and expectations.
Cornwall students think global, build local, share both
Last year the most amazing thing happened: my students at the Cornwall School designed and built a playground. They dreamed, planned, proposed, revised, fundraised — deep breath — organized, built and managed.
But then they taught themselves how to share their story: with social media, and with a whole world of educators, so that other students might have the same experience.
Goal global, act local
The United Nations has kicked off a movement for the future. They’ve identified 17 goals for sustainability world-wide, and they’ve given those goals to students around the world.
Here in Vermont, a cadre of passionate educators are scaffolding project-based learning around those goals. And #vted students are hard at work, changing the world, one community at a time.
The #everydaycourage of doing nothing
As we cultivate more self-direction in students, their lives get more complicated. They have a greater responsibility to themselves and their success.
How can we nurture the whole student as they grapple with becoming agents of their own education?
Feedback often feels like criticism. But what if we used it as an opportunity to grow?
In third grade, I had my own time-out chair in the principal’s office. My exuberant chattiness, combined with an 8-year-old’s lack of social filter frequently earned me a trip to that chair that sat in the corner facing the clock.
My face would burn with shame as I trudged down the long hall. As I sat and waited for the loud ticking of the clock to signal my release, I would try to figure out what I’d done wrong. Sometimes it was obvious: Nathan’s story hadn’t “gone to the dogs” as I’d loudly proclaimed. (But it had just seemed like the perfect punchline to the joke when my teacher had asked…‘Where has your story gone?…’)
Other times, many times, I was completely bewildered. I’d do my time, and then return to the flow of the classroom, as if I’d never left, edgy and bracing for my next invisible (to me) infraction.
Based upon the frequency of these visits, I doubt they were learning experiences. Instead, they were punitive, spirit-crushing time-outs; lost opportunities for growth.
It takes a courageous village
In order for student centered learning to happen, we have to invest in explicitly teaching (and reteaching) routines, expectations, and behaviors for learning. The beginning of the year is an ideal time to first establish a culture and community for learning.
But it takes time to learn and practice these routines.
Often, we feel the pressure of time urging us to jump right into our first units, yet without this foundation in place we can find ourselves spending valuable time redirecting student behavior, rather than focusing on content-specific learning.
It takes courage to acknowledge that we need to model, teach behaviors, and establish routines before we can ask students to learn. #everydaycourage.
What is curiosity?
Is curiosity important? What does it mean to be a curious learner? What am I curious about?
These are some of the questions Cornwall, VT students considered this winter as they embarked on inquiry-based, personalized, research projects. For six weeks, we turned learning over to our students for the (first annual!) Curiosity Projects.