This was something I first tried last year, a big step for an organisational freak, and I was hoping it wasn’t a one-off fluke success for both the students and myself.
So with fingers crossed, changes and lesson learnt from last year we began the start of Grade 3 and the tuning in of our first #PYP unit #STP with our rooms unset-up.
Day one was orientation day, in the morning new families and the afternoon the returning ones. Nothing was asked by any child or family as the dropped in for a visit and not because they were forewarned, but because they believed it would be ready for the next morning.
Day two and the students arrived and as we met them at the door they were faced with their first decision- which cubby they wanted for their bag. This resulted in many looks, unsure what to do next and checking with me that they could really select the one they wanted. This stage of the day became more remarkable as each student entered the ‘unset-up’ room and found one of the 3 activities I had put out and didn’t question the room at all. Call for pack up and ‘let’s meet together’ was the first instigator of wondering and questioning- ‘but where’ and ‘there is no mat’. A few students noticed a mat rolled up and asked if they could unroll it. My response confused them, “If you think we need it”. I got another should we question, I shrugged and a few started to tentatively unroll it continually looking back at me for reassurance. I was eventually asked for help as it was upside down a little heavy. Once the mat was down we introduced ourselves. Still very few comments about the room. I handed out letters written by previous 3TS students.
During this second activity, I was finally asked about the room and when I was going to do. It was made clear to me it wasn’t working and they didn’t know where to work.
When we came together again we started a discussion about the concerns and issues with the room. It was quickly decided to ‘fix it’ Some wanted to just move things, other wanted to draw plans. I shared my one requirement- I needed something to put my computer on near when the project cables are. This year I had also put every piece of furniture I the middle of the room and had removed the traditional teacher’s desk that I didn’t like having. Unlike last year no-one wanted to take inventory and the class broke up into groups. 3 groups of overs (not working together) 3 planners also working solo and a sign maker. As there there was lots of big, heavy pieces of furniture I had a safety talk about how to lift and carry furniture and how to ask for help when needed. before setting them of to co-construct their learning spaces and out over all class room.
After observing for some time I paused the work and highlighted what I noticed. 3 groups creating a library in 3 parts of the room. Each group moving each other’s furniture. And that the planners hadn’t shared their ideas to anyone. Some comments ‘ah that’s why we have to keep getting the shelf back’, ‘do we need to share the ideas’ and ‘should we work together?’. To all of these, I responded I was just sharing what I noticed. A few more minutes of working on the room and one of the designers sharing an idea brought the teams together to create 1 library area (without the bookshelf) and a relaxing area (with the bookshelf) in 2 parts of the room. We then broke for a canteen tour, as they now move upstairs with different routines and snack.
After snack, we bus stopped around stations to record what we thought a classroom should look like, sound like and feel like, what helps or hinders our learning and what good teachers and students are like to prompt discussions and ideas. A few more minutes were given to room arranging before we played a get-to-know-each-other bingo activity.
After lunch, I had again put out some social activities and took photos of the students to use throughout the year. We then came together to discuss any concerns, ideas and problems- big and small. We recorded these on the board to use later. Then Grade 3 came together as a grade to brainstorm ways we wanted to get to know each other and go over the bus routines. These ideas for getting to know each other are being used in our Friday afternoon PSPE dedicated time for the next few weeks as we look at our #STP unit and setting a strong foundation for the year ahead.
While these activities along with self-assessments on reading, writing, math and inquiry were happening we were trying out different classroom arrangements. And due to concerns and experiencing what worked and what didn’t the students worked on several room arrangements over a few days.
I was impressed to see several students take a lead in ideas, those that compromised were needed and everyone got involved in setting up our physical and learning spaces. Yes all 4 teachers took slightly different approaches to how the rooms were designed and who had (some) final say for the room arrangements but all students had a voice and help decided the overall look and feel of their classroom for the year.
Next steps for 3TS are for the students to continue to have a voice in finalising our class agreements and making decisions about flexible seating guidelines.