Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day of Reflection

What a great day!  A snow storm. Horrible driving conditions.  Several students absent.  Early dismissal. 

So what's so great about that?  For whatever reason a day that could have been chaotic turned out to be relaxed, pleasant, and very productive.  The children trickled in this morning and we didn't start our day as a group until well over an hour after the official start of the school day.  But, the children arrived seeming happy to be in school.  Everyone had something to do--something of educational value.  There were activity choices posted and deadlines for projects were close.  Even though these children are young, they didn't need much (if any) guidance to get started with their "work day."  They didn't need an official "go ahead" from me either.  It didn't matter if there were five children or fifteen, things ran the same.

For me, it was a great morning to observe the children, something I love to do and something that I find to be crucial to creating the best learning environment I can for the learners.  I watched the children to see what choices they made and who interacted with whom, and I was able to spend time having conversations with individuals. 

At one point I wondered if the children would have even noticed if I left the classroom!  One small group had organized a subtraction flash card practice session, a few children were working on creating submissions to our Junior Doodle project (discussion the best way to represent the word "incognito"), and a couple of children were working on some sort of writing assignment.  One child asked for help with an independent research project he wanted to do.  After I guided him in the right direction, he was all set to work on his own.  And a few children were doing various independent activities they had chosen for themselves that morning. 

The day progressed quite calmly even with constant interruptions with important announcements about changes in lunch schedules, information about the early dismissal, and messages from parents about how children were going home.  We moved into some group work and then returned to some independent work.  We had a very early lunch, discussed some upcoming projects, worked on a current project, and all the time, the children seemed content with their time in the classroom.  While, outside the window, the snow blew, the streets filled with a slushy mess, and we wondered if we would have another snow day tomorrow.

While it's nice to enjoy a snow day, it was also great to reflect on the current learning environment.  Do the children enjoy where they are?  Do they own their learning space?  Do they understand that their learning space is for them to learn and they don't have to wait for someone to tell them to learn?  Are they just as happy to be at school with their friends working on their activities as they are building a snowman in their backyard? 

If not, how you can make your learning environment as exciting as sledding down a snowy hill?

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