Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Building Classroom Environment

The beginning of school is tough.

For teachers.  For kids. For families.  For me.

It's my job to make my classroom a refuge for those tough days.  I spend the first 20 days of my school year teaching routines and classroom management to build that foundation that lasts for the remainder of the year.  It's not easy!  This year my district is also implementing a guided math AND reading workshop all together.  I'm a little stressed...but that's for another post!

One of my favorite activities is such a great one to do on the first or second (or whatever day!) of school.  I have the students trace their arm and hand on white construction paper.  In their hand, they think about what makes them unique.  I give them brainstorm ideas, such as...

What do you do on the weekend?
What are your hobbies?
What makes you happy?
What's your favorite book?
How do you spend time with your friends?
What is special about your family?
Do you have a special talent or gift?
What are you good at?

They draw and illustrate, using words and pictures, their answers to these questions in their hands.  I stress that they can use words and pictures because not all students are great artists.  They also cannot have any white space, so they use lots of color to fill in those spaces.

When they are done with their hand, they cut it out.  We spend some time sharing our hands, and I let the kids know that they can choose to share their entire hand, or just a few items from them.  It's important to let them share what they are comfortable with to build trust, and I don't want it to be a forced activity! Some students who are reluctant to share at all will want to open up by the end of the discussion and want to add details about their hand.  When everyone has had a chance to share, I bring them to our bulletin board and we arrange their hands into the shape of a flower.  There are millions of pins on Pinterest that have different spins on this idea, and I shaped my lesson from many of these pins (so thank you!)  Here's a picture of how my bulletin board turned out this year.

I leave this up all year.  This board happens to be outside of my classroom, so I am greeted by this happy board each and every day.  Such a nice reminder that we are all different, and even on our toughest days, we can all lean on each other to make it the best day possible.  That's what it's really all about, isn't it?

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