9. My Classroom is Conducive to Student Learning

KSA 6 - Teachers create and maintain environments that are conducive to student learning

First and foremost, an environment conducive to student learning must be safe and caring.  Refer to Page 3 of this portfolio for specifics of that.

Organization of Space for Optimal Learning

Additionally, I work very hard, independently and cooperatively with other teachers in my school, to make our classrooms and schools stimulating learning environments. My first priority in doing this is to maintain a level of order in the classroom so that personal belongings and shared supplies are cared for with respect.  
Source: http://blog.proqc.com/simplified-5s-what-is-it-why-is-it-important/

While our work often gets messy, the students have learned routines from the start of the year to put materials away in their place so they can be accessed again quickly.  It is extremely important that our learning is not hindered by trying to "find those pieces" or "clean off the boards so we can all have a blank slate".

Behaviour Management

Materials aside, I maintain acceptable levels of student conduct and use discipline strategies that result in a positive environment conducive to student learning by respecting students as integral members of our learning team.  Although I demand respect as an authority figure I do not do this through power or fear. I do this through giving students voice, structured responsibility, and choice. I do this through compassion and caring.  We spend time agreeing on a Class Creed (details at this link, scroll down to #2) to give us rules for the year. Each student is also in charge of several classroom jobs.  I find that idle hands are often mischievous, so with a fair amount of responsibility, there is often little time for shenanigans.  I frame my discipline around choice.  For example, "If you choose to ignore my instructions so that you can't complete your task, you will in turn be choosing to stay in for recess.  The task needs to be finished by the bell and since you're more than capable, you can choose to do it now or at recess." I also try to care.  Most of the time I don't have to try hard.  I ask questions. I laugh. I follow up on their weekends and I give hi-fives and hugs.  I pray for my students on a daily rotating basis.  Just quick little prayers about the struggles I perceive them facing. 

Our behaviour management "clip-up" chart waits at the front of the class for students to have visual reminders for both positive (Great Effort, Role Model) behaviours and negative (Slow Down/Heavy Work Break/Oh No Stop) behaviours.  Notice the clothespin clips with their photos on them all gathered around the "Great Effort" strip today! This is more often than not a very positive motivator since the Role Model is pretty hard to get at and stay at for an entire day.  When they do achieve this the Role Model student gets to pick a small prize from the "prize bag".  The only draw back to this is that if I let it slide for a while and don't "clip students up or down" then when I do get back into it, it becomes a bit of a distraction as students notice the change and often call out "so-and-so's moved up...let's all get to work" (which is great motivation but still a bit distracting if everyone already IS working) or "Uh-oh, so-and-so better shape up, they've moved down!"
Although I've rarely had to use it, a colleague tuned me into to the "Heavy Work Break" section of the chart. On many of the charts in cyberspace you won't see this label.  I like it because it really changes the pace for the student which, more often than not, is all they need to get back on track.  If a student "clips down" to this box, they can then roll a dice to complete some activities in the hall.  Read and download the freebie here.Sometimes this can be distracting (you can imagine said-student who was already causing distractions, then doing twenty push ups in the hall) so I will often just get them moving by sending them to the office for a "delivery".  I'm sure the trick is as old as the hills, but it's further explained here.

Student Engagement

Furthermore, as a general rule, the better planned I am, the more engaged students are or at least I will usually have more tricks up my sleeve ready in a pinch, and therefore the less behaviour problems I'll have.  To this end, please read my "She who Plans, Succeeds" post.  I also love this graphic from Mia MacMeeking and use most of these strategies at lease several times on a daily basis.
Source: https://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/pay-attention-please/

Humor to Enhance Learning

If you can't have fun in your classroom, WHERE can you have fun?
Here are just a few fun pics of us this year and although it's "fun to have fun", I firmly believe doing activities like this are not just for giggles, they go a long way in creating memories, rapport and trust among students and certainly help in creating and maintaining environments conducive to student learning.

"Ugly" or "Wacky" Christmas Sweater Day - This was a school wide event that was just so much fun to all get involved in.
Green Smoothies for St. Patty's Day. Can you guess the secret ingredient! Spinach!  Yum!  No one even tasted it!
April Fool's Day new desk arrangement.  This lasted just enough time to take the photo!  Doesn't it look like they're actually on the wall!?  So fun.

 Community Involvement

A solely teacher-led environment gets stale pretty quick.  Yes I said it...even I get stale!  Although my students are blessed to receive instruction from a variety of other teachers simply due to the demographics of our school, I also aim to try and get parents in regularly and guests when possible.  I find that these small changes to the routine, when planned with educational aims, are integral to maintaining an environment conducive to learning.
Students teaching parents (or parents impromptly teaching US!) how to play Cricket during PBL India Unit
Special Guest - Getting our Hands Dirty with a Soil Specialist

Special Guests - In Touch with India

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