Saturday, 10 November 2012

Does my classroom reflect my teaching philosophy?

Last weekend on Twitter, @whatedsaid tweeted an excellent question along the lines of "Does your classroom environment reflect what you believe about learning?"
At the time I thought this was an excellent question and wished I had time to do it justice in a reflective post.
As luck would have it, this week I was asked to give a presentation on a similar topic so I managed to create time to reflect on what I do and whether this matches what I say I believe.
Here is what I found:

Even though what I do, I could do successfully in a different system, my philosophy of teaching is based on my foundational belief in the dignity of the human person. I believe that every child is made in the image and likeness of God, and that every child deserves to feel safe, have fun and to enjoy learning experiences that suits their needs.
 Learners in my classroom are usually busy doing. Of course there are times when they gather to listen, reflect and recap, but I try to allow opportunities for hands-on exploration, discussion and experimentation as much as possible.
 I am very proud of the way that my students are able to speak about their own learning and why what they are doing is of benefit to their learning needs. This year I have implemented the Daily 5 program for the first time. I have found that this program which fits my philosophy well, provides a structure for my practice in Literacy, and that the students and I have been able to transfer the best parts of this practice into other curriculum areas.
 Right from the beginning of the year, I work hard to establish a sense of community through special shared experiences, predictable routines that highlight the identity of our class community and behavioural expectations based on mutual respect. A few years ago I convinced my school administration to allow us to move to a resources levy system instead of a text book list so that I can set up shared resources in my classroom. When students have individual belongings and pencils cases I find that usually by the end of the first semester, many of the twist-up crayons have been turned into pea shooters and half the class can't seem to find a pair of scissors when they need them. Since moving to the shared tubs, I have discovered that students are more responsible for the resources since they don't see them as belonging to them, but as necessary for our class community.
 If you spent a week in my classroom you would notice how much and in how many ways technology has transformed the way that I work with students in my room. I use my projector and laptop as an essential part of many of our routines. I use a bank of student laptops (shared among a few classes) for individual and collaborative activities. I use a set of shared iPads for a range of purposes, and use my own personal iPad and iPhone for capturing student learning on a daily basis.
 I try very hard to allow all learners to engage in challenging activities at an appropriate level by providing differentiated learning experiences and open-ended tasks. I use K-W-L charts and pretests to determine the students' individual and collective knowledge and interests prior to learning experiences and use this information to guide my planning.
 The General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum are at the heart of what I do. I regularly reflect on how I am offering my students opportunities to develop in these capabilities.
Although I am restricted to the furniture I was given and a reasonably small classroom with no "break-out" space, I have tried my best to arrange the furniture to suit the kinds of experiences I want students to have in the room. I have set aside a large carpet area so all the children can gather in front of the IWB and so there is enough space for games and movement. I have arranged the desks into pods and students know that even though they have a "home desk" which houses their books etc, they can work in a variety of spaces within the room, sometimes for flexible grouping, sometimes by their own choice. In the corner, I have had the old whiteboard installed at floor height so that students can use this space to write questions, reflect on learning, practise their spelling or express ideas in pictures. The PE teacher has loaned us an exercise ball and students love to sit on this either at their desks or around the room. My teacher desk is pushed right into the corner of the room so it doesn't take up more space than it must. I rarely sit at it anyway. My students sit on my "teacher chair" more than I do. I'm always on the move!

I really do think that my classroom reflects my teaching philosophy. Of course it is a "work in progress" and changes as I reflect on how I can improve, and when I am inspired by other great teachers who share their ideas.

Does your classroom reflect your beliefs about learning? I'd love to see more ideas!


  1. I love your thoughtful posts! I change up my room regularly based on what I find works with the bunch of kids that I've got. Twice this year I rearranged the whole class, and I think I've finally got it right. I'll ponder your post and reflect on my teaching as I start planning next years room!

    Down Under Teacher

    1. Thanks, Kylie.
      I don't know if there is such thing as a perfect layout. I have moved things around a bit throughout the year to suit the changing needs of the class and to reflect my own growth as a teacher.
      I look forward to seeing how you set up your room for next year. It is always interesting to read why people do the things they do. I always learn something from looking into someone else's room, especially when they explain why they did what they did.

  2. Hi Jane,

    You have just done something that is really hard, and we don't often stop and do. Reflect on our teaching. We know what we want and we go ahead and plan to direct this, then get wrapped in everything that goes with school and don't STOP!

    I love rearranging my room - although it was always a weekend job for me and we aren't allowed to go into school on weekends or holidays - bummer hey!

    I didn't realise you were Australian! Yay! I will add you to my blog buttons!

    Teaching Maths with Meaning