Tag Archives: welcoming classroom

preparing for a new school year lower primary

And so it begins — a New School Year – #readilearn

Teachers around Australia are already thinking about how they will organise their classrooms to maximise learning when the new school year begins at the end of January. They are as excited as the children with hopes and expectations of a successful and enjoyable school year.

To ensure a rewarding year, it is important to begin with a clear idea of what you want to achieve and the steps that will contribute to success. It is useful to keep in mind that one of the most significant contributors to children’s learning is the classroom environment, especially the relationship with the teacher. A supportive classroom environment that welcomes students and their families is essential so that children have a sense both of belonging and ownership.

Rita Pierson makes this quite clear in her TED Talk Every kid needs a champion.

Here at readilearn, our focus is on supporting teachers with lessons that are ready for them to teach rather than on worksheets for children to complete. We recognise the beneficial role of discussions that involve both teachers and students sharing ideas. We also assist teachers to establish a welcoming and supportive classroom environment.

Establish a welcoming environment

getting ready for the first day of school

Continue reading: And so it begins — a New School Year – readilearn

Welcome to my world

When children enter school for the first time it takes a while for them to adjust to the unfamiliar culture and environment which pertains only to school. They need to settle in, get used to the new routines, and understand what is and is not allowed.  A supportive classroom environment with established procedures for welcoming new students makes for a smoother transition.

Children also need to be familiarised with the physical surroundings so that they are able to confidently navigate their way to, from and between their classroom and places like the amenities block, the office, the canteen, the library, and the playground.

Students moving from one school, or even one class within the same school, to another, also require a period of adjustment. While some understandings of the culture from the previous situation may be transferrable, there will be some aspects which are unfamiliar. No two classes or schools are identical or have the same set of rules and expectations.

school rules

I saw the difficulty experienced by each of my children when the newcomer in an established group. While both were confident and resilient children, verbally able to express themselves, both struggled initially to find their place within already established friendship groups that were comfortable and confident in their familiar surroundings.

My son changed schools at the beginning of his second year at school and was the only addition to an existing class. A more sensitive teacher with established procedures for welcoming new students may have eased his transition. Although, due to delivery delays, he was wearing his previous school’s uniform, his teacher failed to realise that he was new to the school and class and did nothing to help him integrate into the group or to familiarise him with school procedures and facilities.

ist day of school

Bec’s first day of school © Norah Colvin

The situation for my daughter was a little different. Her first experience of school was at age nine when she entered year four. Although I had explained what she might expect, everything about the culture and the environment was unfamiliar. While her teacher was a little more sensitive and did what she could to help her settle in, there was much about the established culture and environment that others took for granted.

When we are familiar with and comfortable in a situation it can be easy to forgot how unfamiliar and daunting it can be to someone new to an environment in which nothing can be taken for granted, nothing is known for sure.

I always established a welcoming classroom but the experiences of my own children confirmed its importance. If they, as members of the majority culture, found it difficult, how much more difficult would it be for those from minority groups.  I suggest that every teacher should have in place procedures for welcoming new students.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Here are just a few suggestions:

Welcoming a new class of students at the beginning of the year:

  • Provide many opportunities for students to get to know each other through group activities, discussion circles and paired work with many different combinations of children
  • Explain expectations and rules. It is no fun being chastised for a misdemeanour that resulted from lack of knowledge as opposed to poor choice
  • Take students on a walk around the school showing them places they will need to visit (as well as any places they are not allowed); for example:
    • Toilets
    • The office
    • The library
    • The playground
    • The canteen
    • Where to eat lunch, and to dispose of their rubbish
    • Where to line up
    • Where to place bags and other belongings

school directions

Procedures for welcoming new students throughout the year may differ slightly. It is not always practical to repeat the same procedures that were used when familiarising an entire class.

However, students still need to have the expectations explained to them, as some may differ from what has already been experienced, for example: are they required to put up their hands for individual release when the play bell rings or are they dismissed for play en masse; do they keep their water bottles on their desks or are they stored somewhere else; do they line up with a row of boys and a row of girls or are the rows mixed?

I always found it a useful practice to include newcomers when messages were sent to the office, the canteen or the library, for example. This would help children get to know and be known by other school personnel, as well as get to know their way around the school.

Until their own friendship groups were established I ensured there was a friend to “look after” them at break time, showing them where to sit, where to play, where to line up and, especially, to play with them. There were always plenty of willing friends.

I have been thinking about the importance of showing students around the classroom and school this week in response to the flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch. Anne Goodwin, author of Sugar and Snails, took over the reins from Charli Mills this week, prompting writers to compose a 99-word flash on the theme of showing someone around a property As usual the prompt allows for a variety of interpretations and Anne suggests that we not let out imaginations be confined by four walls.

I never like to think of imaginations being confined and in recent posts I have talked about the importance of imaginative play, even introducing many to a new term: loose parts play.

I decided to play with loose parts this week, and include a welcoming environment. It occurs in a home, rather than a school. I hope you enjoy it.

New world

Thinking it much too quiet, Sally excused herself from the conversation.

She peeked through the door. A sheet was draped from the top bunk to the curtain rail. The drawers were stacked staircase-like, their contents piled high in the corner. Emily, adorned in crown and cape, watched Jessica, in cowboy boots, fossick in the overturned toy box. Max sat nearby reading to assorted stuffed animals. All three sensed Sally’s presence simultaneously.

“Mum! Look what we made!” beamed Jessica. Sally suppressed her initial reaction: mess.

“Come in. We’ll show you! This is our cave. This is our mountain …”

Thank you

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

The importance of community

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the importance of belonging to and having the support of a community. Charli is talking about the supportive rural community where she lives and describes the way everyone rallies around to help in times of need. No asking is required. Everyone responds and pitches in, like spokes on a well-oiled wheel.

Charli also talks about the importance of the online community, reminding writers that spending time on social media is not a bad thing but an essential part of building community. For many of us introverted writers it is the easiest way of linking up with like-minded people. We gravitate like moths to the flame for our weekly meet-ups around the Carrot Ranch camp fire where Charli stokes the flames to inspire writers and build community.

Charli says that,

“Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers.

An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.”

People are social creatures, and that sense of belonging to a community, whether large or small, is something most desire. The type of community in which I have spent most of my life is the classroom community, typically an early childhood classroom. As with any other, it is essential that all members of a classroom community have a sense of belonging and feel valued and respected.

Creating a welcoming classroom with those essential ingredients: having a sense of belonging and feeling valued and respected were always high on my list of priorities as a teacher.  I tend to mention this frequently and have done so here, here and here, to list just a few.

That these ingredients, along with the other essentials, learning and fun, were thoroughly mixed through everything I did is what characterised my classroom. In my classroom, the community knew that everyone, whether child, parent, support staff, or volunteer, was welcomed and valued for the contribution each made.

Routines and expectations enabled the classroom to function effectively and I tried to add a little fun to lighten up even the dullest of routines expected of us. One routine that will be familiar to many is the daily roll call. The teacher sits or stands at the front of the room calling, in a repetitive monotone and in alphabetical order, the name of each child who responds with a half-hearted, “Present, Miss”. Meanwhile the other children wriggle and fidget waiting for the tedium to finish.

But not in my classroom. Within a matter of days my children knew their position, and probably that of many others, in the roll. While I marked attendance on the roll each day as required, I didn’t call the children’s names. Each child in turn stood  and greeted the class warmly, “Good morning, everyone!” The class and I responded by returning the greeting to the child. Everyone was involved all of the time, a community in action.

This five minutes of the day was always fun and filled with smiles and laughter. Some children jumped up with arms outstretched and called out loudly. Some popped up quickly and back down with a quick greeting. Some did a little dance and sang the greeting. Others greeted us with a new language they were learning, or their own first language.

When the children were confident with the order, we would sometimes do it in reverse order. This gave them a little more to think about, but it didn’t take them long to get the hang of it. The children who were usually last on the list enjoyed being first for a change.

When new children joined our class, their names weren’t always immediately added to the roll in their permanent alphabetical location as the rolls were printed fortnightly. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss where in the roll the child’s name would be. Sometimes we had to discuss more than the first letter in family names to determine the correct placement. Oftentimes this would be one of the first things children would insist upon. They wanted everyone to feel welcome and fit in to our warm classroom community.

Adding a little bit of fun to an otherwise tedious task had other benefits:

  • Building community,
  • Recognising individuals.
  • Being engaged,
  • An opportunity for activity
  • Learning alphabetical order
  • Developing memory

We could also have a bit of fun seeing how quickly we could line up in alphabetical order, each time improving on the last. It was a quick way of making sure everyone was there after an activity or break.

It is this theme of community that Charli has used as her flash fiction prompt this week, challenging writers to, in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. I hope you enjoy mine about a classroom community.

Belonging

 He waited quietly as yet another teacher heard his life story; a story without hope of redemption or the expectation of a happy ending. With each familiar incriminating snippet, “more schools than years”, “single parent”, “transient”, “neglect and abuse”, he’d instinctively glance towards the teacher. Instead of the usual furrowed brow and flat-mouthed grimace, he found sparkling eyes and a turned-up smile.  He peered into the room. When the children saw him looking, they waved him in. He hesitated. Then the teacher said, “Welcome to our class, David. We’ve been waiting to meet you. Come and join us.”

Thank you

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