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Sunday, July 08, 2018

Creating the Co-Lab: A Dynamic Space for Collaborative Learning

Planner Tables
The local Wayland Public Schools Foundation (WPSF) awarded me funding to turn my classroom into a co-lab for the fifth grade. With the money I ordered 3 cabinets and 5 tables to create a more collaborative environment for teaching and learning--an environment not unlike the spaces I witnessed at Google Headquarters in California during a visit there several years back.

As with any grant I receive, I want to keep track of the efforts I use to put the grant into action and reap success with the funding I received. What does this mean for future action?

Collaborative language, skills, and practice
First it means that I'll continue to dig into the book I co-authored, Integrating SEL Into Your Curriculum, as one way to make a plan for building a more collaborative and successful learning/teaching team. I want to give students the language, behaviors, and practice required to be successful collaborators. Not only is this imperative to establishing a dynamic co-lab, but it's also imperative with regard to lifelong success and good living.

Everything in its place and a place for everything
Next, I will need to spend considerable time in the classroom prior to the start of school organizing all materials and equipment so that it's easy for students to access, use, and put away. During the first weeks of the school year I want to introduce students to all the equipment we'll be using during the year and I want to teach them how to retrieve, use, clean up, and put away that equipment. I will need to clearly mark equipment drawers, cabinets, and containers to make this possible.

Protocols and policies
Together students and I will choose where people sit and how they'll manage their learning space which will include supply caddies, a table, stools/chairs, and whiteboard. We'll use the student handbook to notice what students already know and do well and what they'll need to work on. We'll think about other policies and protocols that we might need to add to make our room a successful learning environment, and we'll likely make signage to lead our efforts in that regard.

Creating a co-lab is not just about the new furniture, but instead about uplifting a sense of team and learning community in all aspects of what we do with and for each other in the learning environment. I want to make our efforts explicit in this regard as I know that to build and maintain a dynamic team today is to give students vital skills, knowledge, and understanding for good learning and living well beyond fifth grade. I'm excited about this opportunity and grateful for the support of WPSF.