Monday, August 10, 2015

No Assigned Seats?! - Starting the Year

I decided to forgo the traditional idea of desks over Spring Break last year.  I had a perfect group of kids to try my new ideas out on, a group that was cohesive and well trained.  Which means next week will be the first time I'm starting a school year with an alternative seating arrangement.  Yikes?  Not sure.  So far, it seems manageable, so I'm just going to go with that. :)

While many people may look at this as scary (or even crazy), I'm seeing it as an opportunity to launch into an entire school year like nothing my students have ever seen before.  Can you imagine walking into your third grade classroom and, for the first time ever, being allowed (and encouraged) to work where you felt most comfortable.  You could sit on the floor and lean against the wall, you could find your own private sanctuary, you could sit in a chair at a desk, you could sit on the floor at a desk...the possibilities are endless!  (Well, endless to the world of a third grader!)

One of the things the Teacher Education Program at UCSB stressed (over and over again) was to always be able to justify everything we do in our classroom.  As long as you can explain your reasoning (and it's relatively legit),  you're basically good to go.  I'm glad I had this training, because I am heading into the school year prepared to explain my motives to every concerned parent who may come my way.  Let's face it, chances are there will be at least one parent who thinks this new teacher has gone crazy. :) But hey!  Although I am new in the grand scheme of things...I am no longer a first year teacher!  And I don't care what anyone says about me being "new"...I got to drop the "first year teacher" label!

A combination of trying alternative seating from the very first day (for the very first time) and making sure I can justify my so called crazy ideas led to lots of thinking and Pinteresting.  Here's some of what I came up with:

1.  Management: The picture below shows a management chart I came across on Rachel Lynette's blog (link in photo caption).  Although I didn't have anything created like this last year, my students understood that they would get one warning if they weren't using their learning space appropriately and, if the behavior continued, I would move them.  They were pretty used to hearing something along the lines of "if you don't choose wisely, I get to choose for you."  I really like this visible chart, especially since I'm starting from the very beginning.  Having something like this displayed will provide a constant reminder about the expectations and help the students remember their warnings.
Found on:

2.  Learning how to use each learning space: Since this will be the first time these students are exposed to learning spaces that are different from desks (and the occasional floor sit), it will be necessary to teach the students how to use each space appropriately.  My current plan is to take the first week-ish of school to talk with the class about the different learning spaces and their best uses.  I'm looking forward to giving the class the responsibility of discovering learning spaces without me telling them what/where all of them are (I trust that they will come up with a space I wouldn't think to introduce!).  Discussions will consist of: number of people that should be in the space at the same time, appropriate volume, what kind of learning could be best done in the space, etc.  For example, many students find it difficult to lie on their tummies when doing a lot of writing so it would be best to choose a space where they are sitting up and can write with ease.

3.  Subs: This is something my class was pretty good with last year, but once again, I had a dream class, so I want to make sure I'm ready for anything this year.  I'm participating in an NGSS Academy this year and will have 5 days out of my classroom; put that together with all those other days we get pulled out, and that's a lot of subs. :( The key here is *fear*.  Not really, but all you teachers know what I mean.  I found success last year because my class knew that I had very high expectations for them and that I meant serious business when it came to sub days.  Alternative seating is a privilege of sorts (someday, however, I hope it becomes more the norm) and breaking the rules leads to loss of privilege.  The day before I'm out, I go over all the expectations with my class so no one can claim the famous "I didn't know."  My sub plans are also extremely detailed: what spaces are options, how many kids can be in each place at once, etc.  Anything a sub may need to know, I write.  I also make it very clear to my class (and to my sub) that while there is a sub in my classroom THEY ARE THE TEACHER.  I don't want to come back to hear about the "but that's not how we do it..." kids.  The subs have the final call, they are the ones that have to survive all day! :) If worst comes to worst, my subs know that they can assign seats.  And an added bonus: name tags.  No assigned seats means no name plates AND kids moving around all day.  That makes it a lot harder for subs to learn names.  Name tags are very helpful!

4. The understanding that there is SO MUCH MORE: As much time as I spend thinking and planning and working and perfecting this system, there will always be something to discover that hasn't yet crossed my path.  And that's ok, because that's what makes this crazy ride so amazing.  And anyway, like always, there's so much up in this head of mine that doesn't make an appearance until after I finish I'll add it as I think it!

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