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Archive for the ‘light’ Category

September is for new beginnings. This year, I have another new classroom… and it is not as appealing as some of my previous classroom in its aesthetics. The light gets absorbed by the dull green walls, cupboard doors are missing in various units, the paint is peeling, and the chalkboards are faded and marked with residue of tape.

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Hard lines.

 

Divergent green walls.

Divergent green walls.

 

Storage without doors.

Storage cupboard without doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first priority for my new room was making it as appealing as I could using some “found” materials. I brought in baskets, containers of shells, glass jars, hanging beads, a small carpet, two (plastic) Muskoka chairs and burlap. This is a grade 6/7 classroom. I wanted to create spaces to allow for some movement away from their regular seating. Currently we have 31 desks, however tables have been ordered and are expected to replace the desks within the month. So, I focused on a library with seating area, a carpet for gathering/discussions, and an atelier or art studio.

The room has a cloak room that runs along the back of the classroom with two entries. The storage cupboard wasn’t needed, and is adjacent to a window. It seemed a secluded yet observable area for a small table with a couple of chairs, to allow for exploration with a variety of materials. So the shelves have been filled with materials that are accessible to the students who want to use the area.

Shelves in the centre of the room along the wall under the windows were previously holding a variety of dictionaries and textbooks. I moved these to the back counter and created a fiction and non-fiction browsing library with labelled bins for organization and an area to display some larger hard cover texts. The chairs are set facing the shelves (and the windows), inviting students to this space. During our reading workshop, students are selecting these seats for reading and also for meeting to discuss work during other times in the day.

photo 1

Class library.

photo 2

View of atelier from classroom.

Atelier

Atelier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I was temporarily tempted to hang posters and “decorate” the room to brighten it up, it has evolved quickly in the last week to include the materials that students can use to inspire and support their work that is taking front stage and hiding the peeling paint.

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The environment is the third teacher when it provides children the opportunity to slow down and take note. One of the questions I often ask is, “What do you notice?” This encourages reflection, conversation, and knowledge-building among the students. For some students, observations take time. They answer without really thinking or noticing – by rushing to give an expected answer rather than a response that is unexpected.

The use of light and projection in the classroom has provided students with new perspectives. They may be looking at a familiar subject, yet they see it in a new way. When they are introduced to the act of tracing an image, they are fascinated with the simple task and it slows down their consideration of the subject.

From our neighbourhood walks, we had observed a variety of trees. The children compared coniferous and deciduous and talked about the differences that made each identifiable. However, when drawing deciduous trees, their observations from the walks were not evident. The trees still looked like trunks with a circle of green set on top. So we revisited the trees and took photos.

neighbourhood tree

 

 

When an image of one of the local trees was projected to a table in the classroom, the children were intrigued with the task of tracing its many limbs. I noticed how this task slowed down their movements and also their consideration of the tree. After this opportunity, the children’s drawings were more realistic in that long limbs were included and the proportions changed.

 

Tracing and noticing

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Although I am enjoying lots of space and light (south facing windows) in my current classroom, I was in a room almost half the size when I started to change its environment using a Reggio approach. I had introduced some natural elements and created a small art studio using two bookcases. But the biggest changes were made when I invited CarolAnne Wien to visit my classroom and give me some advice. CarolAnne is a professor at York University, Faculty of Education, who I met when I joined a professional learning group that explored emergent curriculum and Reggio Emilia (she had just published: Wien, C. A. (Ed.) (2008). Emergent curriculum in the primary classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia approach in schools). We’ve had lots of discussions, but I particularly remember the gentle suggestions that she made. Here were the suggestions:

  • move the group carpet out of the corner to the centre of the room. This created a welcome focus and allowed for centres to branch of from the carpet and make use of the walls.
  • hang all the poems written on chart paper in one low and accessible place (the side of the filing cabinet). The poems were previously spread out in all areas of the classroom and added to the visual distraction. The children actually used them more by reading them and lifting them like a hanging book for reference.
  • remove the alphabetized word wall off the display boards and replace with a usable clear pocket chart. The children then found the word they needed and could take the word (on card stock) to any centre in the room, then return it.
  • cover busy patterns or unappealing surfaces with felt – to soften the dividers used for a reading area.
  • add a sheer curtain over a reading area to define the space and filter the light from the window. This change enhanced the reading centre and made it more inviting to the children.
  • remove a shelf that blocked a view of the carpet area when entering the classroom to the side of the room as a divider between two learning centres.
  • remove the yellow and red bins.

All of these suggestions were welcomed by me, as I was keen to make changes in the environment and see if it encouraged the children’s interactions with the materials and within the various centres. It did! What I like most about CarolAnne’s suggestions is that they were simple and achievable. There was no cost and no need to introduce anything commercial or gimmicky. This was the start of my fascination with seeing the effects of changes in the learning environment that make the classroom the third teacher!

!

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johnaleslietdsb

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