Thursday, January 8, 2015

Letting Go and Opening The Classroom For Learning

Choice Brings Agency and Focus~
The multitude of choices open to learners today has brought more authenticity and agency to our classroom. The opportunities available has refocused how we plan, work and learn, and our roles as student and teacher. Student choice is encouraged not only in the way we learn, but also in how and what we learn.  Students choose from iPads, computers and apps as easily and freely as paper, pencil, markers, and crayons. Students choice focuses and drives learning and inquiry.   

Classroom Community and Choice~
A student led classroom requires a strong community. Taking time to build a trusting learning community must be intentionally taught. Developing a classroom community strengthened my trust in
the students.  I trust them to be responsible for their learning and to make choices for their learning. We work together to solve problems, manage the classroom, and grow as learners. This work builds a sense of ownership that enables students to feel pride and power in the classroom and the learning. This creates engaged learners who work to take care of our space, each others and themselves.
Classroom Structure is Key~
In order for students to become purposeful in how they plan and work, they need to know they will have time to explore the tools and to make choices in their work. We need to create a that schedule that is predictable and open for choice kids can count on. We need to schedule time for choice everyday. Our classroom runs in a workshop model. The workshop structure of our day gives students the opportunity to make theses decisions.  Each workshop begins with a focus lesson designed to support students in the work they will be doing later. The focus lesson ends with students envisioning the work they will do in the workshop.  As the students enter the workshop they begin by selecting their space, books, tools, and how they will work, in a partnership, a small group or independently. Students spread out on the floor, in beanbags, at tables or tucked in corners.  Some curl up in one task the entire workshop, others create ways to share their learning. They might create a poster to show their thinking or create a VoiceThread to ask others to join a conversation. Some may invite a friend to conference. Some may choose to blog about learning and still others visit the media center or conference with in the common space between our three first grade classroom with a friends from another classroom, (this is another post- later).  The workshop is full of choice each day the students count on this time and often come in in the morning with plans already made.  

Our New Roles~
So what does all this choice mean to our roles as student and teacher? It means We are guided by the students interest, needs and discoveries and we are all learners. It also means there are 23 teachers and students. The kids are independent and find they can learn from and with each other. During the work part of our workshops we are conferring and meeting with small groups, with an individual, or alone. All along I am monitoring the classroom and student progress to guide my planning and our next steps together.  No longer am I coming into the week with a preset agenda or project. I come into the classroom with questions and possibilities, the lesson design comes from the kids and becomes personalized and authentic. I think it’s important to remember the one doing the most work is doing the most learning.  


  1. Your last line is a great connection to a blog I'm posting Monday. Powerful once I not only typed it but beleive it.

  2. Like Maria, I love the last line of this post. With all of the mandates, I sometimes lose sight of who's doing the work and what should guide my planning. Thanks for the reminder!