Saying no to Classroom Eye Candy – Planning for Agency from Day One

No matter how many years I’ve spent in education, I never sleep well the night before the first day with a new class.

I fret about mispronouncing names, how amazing other teacher’s learning spaces look in comparison to my own and wonder if I have enough activities planned to keep the kids ‘occupied’ until the real learning begins.

And there’s the problem!

In our rush to make that perfect first impression to our students and their parents, it can be easy to forget that the authentic and real interactions we have with our learners over a year far outweigh the initial ‘wow’ factor of classroom eye candy or fun first-day activities.

When we stop and look at the purpose of the first week of school it is –

  • Students and teachers to bond as a class.
  • Understand how our class will work together in a collective space.

In short, all that work teachers do during the holidays of arranging furniture and setting up classroom displays is the learning!

As a result, Day 1 in our learning space will look like this.

Not a beautiful display in sight

Part of developing a culture of learner agency especially in the early weeks of school is taking a critical eye to classroom culture and asking yourself – what are you doing for your students that they could do for themselves?

My students have five years of elementary school under their belt, they have a pretty good idea of how a physical classroom space should look.

Some of the children will likely have ideas for the use of space and furniture that have never occurred to me.

I’ve set up a simple floor plan of the room that the children will work together to design and pitch their ideas of the space to their peers.

A timetable of possibilities

Giving time and space to plan the classroom space with the children, opens up the possibilities of further configurations of the room during the year to meet the needs of the learners.

It makes the room less ‘my’ room and more ‘our space.’

Pernille Ripp challenged us to design a first day reflective of the kind of classroom environment we envision for our year.

Messy, creative, and with just enough help from adults to set the learners up for success.

Seems about right to me.

 

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3 thoughts on “Saying no to Classroom Eye Candy – Planning for Agency from Day One

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  1. Thanks for sharing! After reading your post and a few others, I decided to try this with my new Grade 2 class. It also links to our first UOI about how we learn. We’re only 1 (half day) in, but I feel the excitement and students already have some great ideas. I can say though, I did feel a pang of doubt when parents and children arrived this morning and saw the bare classroom with all the furniture stacked in the middle, no eye candy to be seen! It will be hard work and my students will need a lot of help, but I think the learning will be worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leah
      I felt the same pang of doubt at a bare classroom. I am very lucky that the school’s senior leadership has been very supportive of me trying new things which I think helps me feel more confident.

      Stephanie

      Like

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