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Towards a safe learning community: Activities to start the school year.

By Cecilia Villabona

May 28, 2013

Usually at this time of year teachers and administrators start reflecting on how the year has gone and revising plans for the next year to improve or change as needed. One of the things that I considered very important was the classroom community, since it affects our daily activities in so many important ways.

At the start of the school year it feels like being in an airplane flight for a transatlantic trip: a small enclosed space with a bunch of strangers.  For the flight, it does not matter much whether or not you relate to someone or have a conversation with anyone. For the classroom, however, it needs to build into a safe environment to wonder, ask questions, make mistakes and be helped to gain new understandings, celebrate learning together, and more.

How do teachers do that? If you are a new teacher you may get a lot of advise, even if you are a veteran or more experienced teacher you may look for new ways each year, and sometimes out of necessity, because children are changing so much in today’s world.

I will share with you some of my first week of school activities, which worked well for me most of the time.  They are offered as food for thought, or guidelines to develop your own, or for you to try as offered if you so desire.

Let me first share with you what I consider important objectives for spending about one week doing these activities, which are not yet covering the curriculum or the Standards:

 

  • Learning student’s names, especially those in need of attention, the potential difficulties in the class.
  • Asserting my place in the class as the leader in charge.
  • Getting to know my student’s as learners and individuals (without giving them a test)
  • Modeling for my students how to ask productive question from me when they have problems.  I am not able to help the student who tells me “ I don’t understand”, but if a student says: “I don’t understand how those two fraction are equal” then I know where the problem is.
  • Coaching them to do effective think-pair-share and group work.
  • Modeling class discussion taking turns and showing respect.
  • Giving students opportunities for divergent thinking, out of the box, not guided by mathematical algorithm or rules, yet important and needed in true problem solving.
  • Showing them that they are all able to participate in their learning, regardless of how much math they remember from last year.

 

Does this list seem like it contains some important objectives to create an emotional and intellectual foundation for learning?

Thanks for visiting.  Day 1 coming soon.