Tag Archives: Classroom

how important is classroom decoration

How important is classroom decoration?

For a relative newcomer, in my terms anyway, Pinterest has made quite an impact on the world, particularly on the world of the classroom.

If you’re in doubt, just Google ‘Pinterest classroom’. Your search will bring up hundreds, indeed thousands, of ‘best’ classroom décor ideas.

Decorating classrooms seems to be the thing of the moment. It would be easy to believe that an elaborately decorated classroom is of greatest importance to teachers today. While we always did it (decorated our classrooms), we didn’t share and compare on social media. How could we? Social media didn’t exist. Oh, horrors! Really? Really. Pinterest is not only new to this century. It’s new to this decade, and the sharing phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Pinterest.

Concerns about harmful effects of social media messages on young, and not-so-young, people’s body image are often expressed. I wonder if there may be similar harmful effects of these classroom images. If teachers compare their classroom décor with that of others, perhaps in very different situations, will they constantly come up short? If they spend copious amounts of time, and money, on decorating their room, how much will they have left for professional reading and planning? As with body image, are these images sending the wrong message?

While I agree with the importance of setting up a bright, welcoming classroom, I also believe that space must be left for the display of children’s work. While I don’t believe in the bare wall theory as proposed by some, if there is too much on the walls, and particularly if they didn’t contribute to it, children may either ignore it or simply find it distracting.

What do you think? Do you remember the walls of your childhood classroom? Mine were mostly bare. I don’t remember anything other than a Crucifix (I went to a Catholic school), a photo of the Queen, and a flip book of large cloth charts.

What about your children’s classrooms, or your own (if you are a teacher)? How are they decorated? I’d love to know your thoughts.

flash fiction prompt to write about an epic workplace

While I had been contemplating a post about Pinterest classrooms for a while, this week seemed the perfect time, even if this isn’t the post I had been planning. You see, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.

Most of my working life (and all of my school days, which together equate to most of my life 😊) has taken place in a classroom. I had brief tilts at other minor roles, but overall, the classroom has been my workplace. With a career spanning five decades (but not fifty years – yet), I think it could be categorised as epic.

However, rather than tackle my career, I realised that Pinterest-Inspired Classrooms fitted neatly into the EPIC acronym. as long as I could find that exceptional ‘e’ word. This is my response. I’d love to know what you think.

It’s EPIC

Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all. This new attraction will have you enthralled. Bring parents, bring partners, siblings and friends. No one’s excluded. It’s Earth’s latest trend. Your eyes won’t believe. Your ears won’t deceive. It’s a sensory explosion, for all to explore. It’s entertaining, electrifying, edifying too. It’s a universe first, and it happened on Earth. It’s empowering, engrossing. There’s so much to see. With no space left empty, it’s elaborate, exciting, extols energy. With exquisite exhibits and enlightening exposures, it’s the most, enticing, enriching, educational environment, established on Earth. It’s EPIC, the Exceptional Pinterest-Inspired Classroom.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

The pretender – putting on a show!

19178-School-Building-Graphic

Back in the early days of my teaching career, back before many of our younger teachers were born, let alone teaching, we used to have a visit from a school inspector every year or two. The role of the inspector was to monitor and evaluate the implementation of school programs as well as to provide advice and support to teachers.

However many teachers tended to think of them in less positive ways and these visits often engendered a sense of fear in some teachers as the inspector could appear at the classroom door at any time and ask to see current curriculum programs and mark books, test the spelling and computational ability of the class as a whole, and hear individual children read.

Because of this, when one of these visits was imminent there was often a flurry of activity getting curriculum documents and assessment up to date, and displaying children’s work in the classrooms and foyer.

But I wasn’t one of those teachers frantic in preparation and fear of being found out. I firmly believed that if what I was doing each day for the children in my class wasn’t good enough, then so be it. They were the ones that mattered after all and their education was my priority. I could not see what else I could do to prepare for these visits.

My programs were well researched, up to date and innovative. They were responsive to individual needs which were well documented with anecdotal records and diagnostic assessments as well as required testing, and supported by samples of student work. My classroom had an ever-changing display of children’s current work allowing visitors to see what we had been working on as well as giving the students a sense of pride in their achievements.

I guess also, for me back then, the school inspector was only one of the many visitors to my classroom as I was used to people coming to see what we were doing. Parents were always welcome and there were many who helped out on a regular basis and others who made the effort to come for special events and celebrations.

The principal was very involved and supportive and often popped in to see what we were up to and to provide additional support for children’s learning. In addition, teachers from other schools would visit in order to observe and take ideas back to their own classrooms; and pre-service teachers (student teachers they were called then) were often involved.

So, for me, the inspector’s visit was just another day, business as usual.

I am having difficulty in summoning words to describe how I felt when I saw the teacher next door (our classrooms were open, separated only by cupboards and shelves) busily testing children and writing marks in mark books, filling in “current” curriculum programs for the preceding term’s work and covering the previously bare classroom walls with displays of children’s work completed that day.

I guess you could say I was aghast at what I considered to be blatant dishonesty. I felt it was so wrong that I almost wanted to remove what I had on display for fear of the inspector thinking it was simply there for his benefit.

I didn’t.

Instead I turned to poetry, as I often do, to express my feelings; and I would like to share it with you, its first readers.

I had forgotten all about it until I came across it unexpectedly while looking for something else. It reminded me of the attempt at deception I saw enacted. I say “attempt” because, of course, the principal would have been aware of the situation and I have no doubt that these trained inspectors would be able to see through the veneer.

I think if I was writing the poem now, rather than 30 years ago, I would not be so generous with my analogy, nor so disrespectful to the butterfly.

Here it is:

 

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

Not really about a butterfly

Look at you now.

You put on your show.

Your butterfly colours are warmly aglow.

It’s hard to imagine

That not long ago

You were a mere silent pupa

With nowhere to go.

You flit and you flutter

Cry, “Hey, look at me!”

And all turn their heads

-wondrous beauty to see.

But where have you come from?

And how can this be?

Before . . .

Not one head would have turned.

There was nothing to see,

–          just a little green ball,

curled up on a tree.

Is it dishonest

To change rapidly?

What do you think?

10 reasons for including Christmas in the classroom

The end of the school year in Australia is fast approaching; assessment is almost done and reports completed.

After a hectic year, thoughts are turning towards Christmas and the long summer holidays.

However the teaching and learning in the classroom doesn’t stop until the final farewells on the last day of school.

These last few weeks of the school year allow a little more flexibility and time for spontaneous explorations of children’s interests after the curriculum’s imposed learnings have been achieved. Sure, skills still need to be practised and extended but the pressure is not so relentless.

As the thoughts of most children are on Christmas and what they will do during the holidays, why not harness those interests and that excitement to make classroom learning meaningful and fun while developing important social and cultural concepts and understandings as well as practising and extending literacy and numeracy skills.

Over recent years there has been some controversy over whether Christmas should be included in school programs, some arguing that it is not inclusive and excludes those students whose cultural backgrounds neither recognise nor celebrate Christmas.

I have a number of reasons to support my argument that Christmas should be learned about in school, and my reference is to secular rather than religious celebrations which are best left to organisations dedicated to that purpose.

I would like to say that the main reason is that I love Christmas (the excitement, the anticipation, the decorations, the gift-giving, the celebrations with family and friends)!

But that would not be true.

My focus is educational:

  1. Cultural respect: Most children in Australian schools celebrate Christmas. Including Christmas in the classroom program acknowledges this and draws upon their interests and prior knowledge.
  2. Cultural awareness: Investigation of traditions celebrated by other class members, community groups or countries develops a recognition of other perspectives, including those who do not celebrate Christmas and those who celebrate other traditions such as Hanukkah, Ramadan or Chinese New Year.
  3. Cultural understanding: Learning about the traditions of the dominant culture in which one lives makes one more comfortable within that society, more able to converse about important events and holidays, and able to develop shared experiences i.e. helps to develop feelings of being included, rather than excluded by participating in the outward traditions. However, this knowledge does not necessitate participation or belief.
  4. Cultural acceptance: Learning to understand that, although not everyone shares the same beliefs or traditions, we all share a common humanity and that there is good in everyone is important for creating a peaceful and nonjudgmental world.
  5. Self-awareness: Christmas is a time for reflecting on the year’s achievements and behaviour e.g. whether you have been “naughty or nice” or whether you have worked hard are superficial questions which can lead to deeper introspection. This self-reflection can lead to celebration as well as to the setting of positive goals for improvement.
  6. Other-awareness: Recognising one’s own strengths can help to identify, recognise and appreciate the strengths and achievements of others.
  7. Emotional intelligence: Children learn to recognise and describe their own emotions, and the emotions of others. They understand that not everyone thinks and feels the same way about similar events and learn to respect the thoughts and feelings of others.
  8. Social-awareness: Recognising how others think and feel about certain events can develop feelings of empathy. Children are more likely to find common ground upon which friendships can be built.
  9. Being kind to each other: Christmas is all about sharing and giving. In a classroom these can lead to discussions about working cooperatively and collaboratively, getting along with each other, and giving the greatest gift of all: friendship.
  10. Enjoyment, recognition and fun! I couldn’t stop at 9, and I think the inclusion of fun in the classroom is one of the most powerful ways to engage and motivate learners!

Decorating the classroom is one way of setting the scene for explorations of Christmas traditions while encouraging the children to work cooperatively, take pride in their shared achievements and talk about how Christmas is celebrated (or not) in their families.

It became a tradition in my year one classroom to make a large 3D Christmas tree to adorn our classroom wall and become the focal point of our learning.

We would sit in front of it to have our discussions and read our stories.

To the display surrounding it, we would add child-made decorations, stories and poems they had written, holiday messages and gifts.

I would photograph each child in front of the tree, holding a sign with the message e.g. “Happy Christmas 2013”. These photographs would then be added to calendars which became a Christmas gift for parents.

The children loved doing the tree, partly because of the inherent excitement at the end of the school year with Christmas holidays imminent. But they also loved doing it because they were working together, making something meaningful to them; and as they worked together and saw the tree take shape, they realised that what can be achieved together is far more (as well as more fun) than they would have achieved on their own.

And while they were busily tracing and cutting, they were talking and sharing ideas and thoughts with each other and with me. We began to learn a lot about each other’s experiences, traditions and feelings.

Having made the tree together, the children had an enormous sense of collective pride in what they had achieved, especially when all those viewing it remarked upon how lovely it looked.

While I include instructions for making the tree here, they are also available from readilearn.

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What do you think? Do you think Christmas should be celebrated in schools?

What reasons would you add to my list? What do you disagree with?

Leave a comment or indicate your thoughts below.