We’ve reached the start of another school year. With Teacher Workshop Week beginning on Monday, many of our RPS teachers are already starting to look at their class lists, hang posters on their walls, and send handouts off to Paper Tiger in order to ready themselves for the first week of school. However, before you make those first sets of seating charts, I encourage you to take a moment to think about how you arrange the furniture in your classroom as you settle in to the start of a new school year.
My first year of teaching I traveled from room to room with all my textbooks on a cart. Because I taught in five different classrooms, all of which were setup by five different teachers, I learned quickly to adapt to various room arrangements. My first class of the day was all in traditional rows, my second in pairs all facing the board, my third in groups of four, my fourth in rows again but with students all facing the center of the room, and my final class of the day in a ‘U’ formation. It only took me about a week to realize that there were definite benefits and sometimes detriments to each set-up. Here is what I found…
Of course, at the time, I hated pushing around a heavy cart from room to room and having to navigate busy hallways at passing time; however, when I finally had a classroom to call my own the following year I knew the importance of making a conscious decision about how I wanted to arrange my desks. Taking into consideration the types of desks I had and my small space, I decided to arrange them in pairs that all faced the center of the room. I did this because I knew that I would often have students doing partner shares, that they would occasionally be working in small groups of four, and that we would often have large group discussions and debates. This arrangement made such things easy while still allowing students to see the board and without making it hard for me to access students who needed help; plus, on test days, students could easy shift their desks to create single rows allowing for purely independent work.
Years later, after being given the opportunity to have two-person tables instead of desks, I opted for a ‘U’ formation—I had one large outer ‘U’ with one smaller ‘U’ nested inside. Of all the arrangements I’ve personally used, this has by far been my favorite. Again, it made partners shares simple, one table could join another to quickly create a group of four, and large group discussions and debates flowed naturally with this structure. The added pros being that I could also place myself in the center of the ‘U’, making myself a fellow learner rather than a teacher standing at the front of the room, and it was easy to turn the ‘U’ into an inner and outer square for our frequent Fishbowl Discussions. Of course, independent work was less simple, but I found that by teaching and re-teaching what I expected during such times made it rarely an issue.
As you begin another school year, I encourage you to consider your space and what activities you anticipate doing in your classroom—arrange your room accordingly. And remember: if the arrangement you opt for doesn’t work for a certain activity, desks and tables do move.
This post brought to you by Heather Lyke, Secondary Implementation Associate
At the start of the school year many teachers wonder how to access curriculum documents. Below is a video that shows how to access and navigate the Rochester Public School Curriculum Repository from any school computer.
In addition to accessing the Curriculum Repository, some teachers like to map to the Repository, making it easier for them accesses in the future. Instructions for how map it to your main teacher computer can be found in the Word Doc linked below. (Do know that you have to do this individually for each computer, should you wish to map it on multiple computers. Also, you can only map it on district computers.)
The first days of school can be hectic: teachers—especially new teachers—are just settling in to their classroom space, wrapping their brains around curriculum, and starting the planning process for the year. As every new school year dawns, most teachers find themselves dwelling on curriculum, textbooks, and instructional technology. Our Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team urges you to hit the pause button on these items and instead shift your focus to building relationship, making your space inviting, and establishing clear routines and procedures.
First impressions are key. When students leave your room at the end of that first period with you, what do you want them sharing with friends? What do you want them sharing with parents? Can you hear what they will be sharing? Will they be excited or apprehensive? Will they be ready to learn or ready to give up? Will they know you care or will they believe you could care less?
It is when a class begins with a list of rules, explanations of the syllabus, or a complicated homework task that students form a first impression that then proves hard to re-craft as the year goes on. However, when a teacher greets students at the door with a smile, has students jointly help establish classroom rules, and takes some time to get to know a bit about each student’s background—here the first impression made is a strong one that will serve as a solid foundation on which deep learning can flourish. These class relationships, clear rules that students understand the purpose of, and procedures that students know and have practiced allow the students and their teacher(s) to move forward more quickly as the year progresses. Indeed, it is time well spent.
Often, teachers want to start the school year with this solid foundation of relationships and expectations but struggle with ideas for how to begin. Luckily, there are many ideas out there already that teachers can use or tweak. Some of our favorites are:
As you start to shape the first few days and weeks of you school year, remember you can always utilize the Secondary Curriculum and Instruction team: we love to help you help your students.
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Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.