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Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Next Eight Weeks: The Final Chapter

The final chapter of the year is a good time to practice all the changes you want to make and all the efforts you hope to refine for the year ahead.

It's a good time to assess the year's high points and the ways you can shore up routines, teaching, and practice to make the end of the year as good or even better than the first three quarters of the year.

How does this translate into classroom action?

A Place for Everything, Everything in its Place
It's been a challenging year for me with regard to the teaching/learning environment. I uprooted and changed supplies, desk arrangements, shelving, and more repeatedly to make space for new curriculum and a new model of teaching. The children have also spent time rearranging and making spaces for their recess play, investigation, creativity, and learning.

Right now, we have a fairly good arrangement with a STEAM center and creativity space at the back of the room, a reading corner, a child's fort (yes, the children made a little fort in the corner of the room), and a teaching/learning listening/presentation area. As we get closer to the end of the year, I'll know my new assignment and start to clean-up with that in mind, but for now the room is in good shape and I don't anticipate any more big changes.

Classroom Routines
We have a fairly simple routine each day. I'll add a bit more playtime at this time of year so students can run and play in the nice, warm spring air. We'll also spend more time on class discussion, shared decision making, and problem/project base learning. I continue to want to build in routines for the discussion and reflection elements of successful learning, and this is a good time of year to do that. In addition, since transitions are coming up, we'll need more time for class meetings and care. As for homework, I have a class meeting planned for this week to discuss the current routines and we'll likely make a few changes to better meet the myriad of student schedules, needs, and interests for the weeks to come.

Signature Projects and Tests
Students have a number of signature projects that we'll prep and prepare for. They have two MCAS tests and four PARCC tests. They also have the fifth grade play and biography project. A science field trip, visiting scientist, and social studies field trip are also planned. There's field day and other in-house special events too. There's hardly a day after April vacation where there isn't a special event or focus so that will definitely keep things interesting for the children.

Health and Happiness
This is definitely the time of year when every teacher runs a bit ragged with one foot in this year and one foot in the next as we write report cards, complete transition forms, create classes for next year, meet new teams, plan for the next year and this year's events, and order supplies. So even more than before it's important to reach for balance of home/school endeavor and plenty of time for healthy routines--a challenge for many of us who balance home/school responsibilities.

In the end, the goal is to have every child leave with a sense of happy satisfaction that the year was a good year as well as a sense of confidence and cheer about the exciting changes to come. As we teach, the children are our barometers of teaching/learning quality. If we listen and observe well, their attitudes, effort, and behavior will lead our review, revision, and teaching/learning paths in the right direction. Onward.