Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Week Keepers - Creating a Classroom Vision

As much as I love teaching, I tend to dread the first week of school.  I recognize and understand the need for all the team building that takes place, but I want to just jump right into the curriculum!  So this year I was on a mission to figure out how to start curriculum (sort of) but also include a lot of community building activities.  I'm happy to report that there were several activities I did with my 5th graders that I will definitely keep for upcoming years.  Full disclaimer...none of this has anything to do with flipclass, so if you want to tune out now, go ahead (I promise, no hard feelings).

At one of our back-to-school PD days the teachers participated in a vision making activity.  We're currently reworking our district vision, and they wanted our input (go figure).  As we were completing this activity, I thought about how I realize I have a vision for my classroom, but do my kids?  Why not complete the same activity (with some changes) with my class.  So here's how it went down:

First, I posted the question, "Why are we here?" on the board and had the students write their personal opinion on a sticky note.  I got a few giggles (and a few odd looks) when I told them to write what they think, not what they think I want to hear.  From there, they paired up with one other person & tried to combine their thoughts onto a new sticky note.  Then they paired up with another pair and combined their thoughts to a new sticky note (now a group of 4).  In the end, I had six different answers to the question I posed earlier.  The picture below shows what they came up with (their words, not mine).

That was all for Day 1...on Day 2, when the kids came into the classroom I had combined their six opinions into one, and I asked them if I managed to get everything in.  The following was on the board:

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life.  We want our learning to be fun and applicable to the real world.

Most students liked it, some weren't totally happy yet, so I asked them what they would change.  We then had a really good discussion about how we should put something in there about people learning differently, and how it's important that everyone gets a chance to learn.  I also had a few stuck on the desire to add something about sports.  I asked them to tell me more, and one talked about wanting to get an athletic scholarship, therefore he needs to do well in school...huh, I could've easily brushed his idea aside, but I'm glad I asked the follow up question.  So here's the final version of our classroom vision.

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life (college, sports, jobs).  We all learn differently, but we all CAN learn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this activity, and will continue to use it in future years.  And while this was pretty powerful for the kids to have a say in, it's going to be even more powerful when I reference it this year during our lessons.  Everything we do is going to connect back to this vision.  

After we finished the vision, I asked another question: "What can you do to help us accomplish our vision?"  Again, they did some independent thinking, and put their ideas on sticky notes.  Out of that activity came our class rules.  These are rules that the KIDS came up with, not me.  Now that's not to say these are the only rules we'll have this year, but I plan to let the kids realize it when we need to add a rule.  

I'm hoping that since I've done all this from the ground up, rather than the top down, I will see more buy in this year...let's hope so.

PS - I'm really glad that a few kids had #4 down, because I certainly like it ;)

1 comment:

  1. Now that the year is over, any updates on changes you saw as a result of the class vision? Was it impactful, or a good team-building activity that faded in significance by October?

    I'm curious because I'm considering stealing it for the Fall... :-)