I adore pinterest for classroom arrangements and decorations. One year, I diligently searched and figured out how to make an enormous Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree. Another year I decorated in Truffula trees and Dr. Suess themes. My fellow teachers and parents raved about the room but I eventually began to ask the question of what the students actually thought of their classroom. Their answers surprised me and changed the way I both set up my classroom and ran it for the rest of the year.
If I just asked, “Do you like this room?” They answered, ” Yes” until one brave soul said, “It is really pretty but we didn’t make it so it doesn’t feel like our classroom.” That is a huge statement. I realized that even though I had strived to have a student centered classroom, I had made a beautiful-to-the-adult-eye classroom and not necessarily what my students needed.
To change the classroom, I started asking lots of questions. “Do you like it when the walls have lots of colors? How do you like the lights in the classroom; should we use the light from the windows only or the overhead lights? What kind of areas should we have in our classroom?” This opened up a whole new world of information to me. My students didn’t all have the same opinions so we would survey them and then talk about the results. How can we make these preferences work for everyone?
What ended up happening was that the class as a whole began to develop empathy and understanding for the different preferences or needs that were in the classroom. We also began to mix up our day, using the light from the windows for writer’s workshop and listening to background music while we did math. It also made the discussion of how to make our classroom community the best that it could be a regular part of our classroom culture. Kids felt free to talk about things that bothered them and then the other students would work on solutions for them.
My room may not look as pinterest ready now, though sometimes the students hit on an idea that we can go all out for, but I’ve gained a caring, peaceful class culture that I would never change. Parents often tell me that their students feel safe and cared for by both me and their peers. I couldn’t ask for a better learning environment than that.
You can ask your students a question a day or you can take some class sessions and let them survey their peers. This is a freebie that lets kids tell you about their learning preferences. It also includes some follow up activities to let them tally the results of the class as a whole and then form class agreements based on that information. Just click on the picture below.
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