Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Teacher Check-In On Our ECP Classroom

I thought that it might be helpful for our readers to see how we as teachers view how our ECP classroom experience has been thus far.  Each teacher answered the questions on their own, without seeing each others' responses.

Teacher 1:

What is the best thing so far about physically working in an ECP classroom (ex. two classrooms together)?
  • There is so much space to move around in and utilize!!!
  • The kids get a brain boost by being able to switch up their environment and move from room to room throughout the day.  When I attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s course on Learning Environments for Tomorrow, they talked specifically about how allowing students to move freely into a new environment or space increases the production of brain chemicals, which stimulates the part of the brain that processes and receives information.
  • The teachers have more space available to them to designate spots for curriculum areas or investigations since there are two rooms to fill up.  For example, instead of having two rooms each with a science area, we now have two rooms with one science area.  This leaves us more space to showcase additional curriculum.
  • It's not as loud as everything thinks it would be.  Because we do a lot of small group work and have two normal size classrooms with a space in between, it's just as loud as any other classroom would be.

What do you like best about working with a partner teacher on a daily basis?

  •  You are getting constant professional development all day, every day.  You can’t help but learn from each other.
  • You have another person to throw ideas against to make projects, lessons, etc. more affective and you don’t need to make a phone call, send an email or run down the hall to converse.  You are just right there on the spot!
  •  If you wish, you can choose to take the lead on one area while the other takes the lead on another and share what you have found, thereby not having to spread yourself thin in improving curriculum.
  •  You don’t need to write sub plans when one is out.  The other teacher can take the lead and inform the substitute what they need help with.
  • You, the teacher, are not “on” all day long.  You can choose to take the lead at different parts of the day while the other observes and/or assists.  You can choose to share the lead together at the same time.  There are many combinations and ways of reaching the students’ needs, but you have a partner to help you throughout the day.
What are some projects, groupings, differentiation that you are able to do in an ECP classroom that you may not have been able to do in your traditional classroom?
  • When I was working in my traditional classroom I taught a lot of my language arts through differentiated centers.  However pairing the students with similar needs was more difficult because you only had twenty students to work with.  Now that we have forty students it is easier to pair students together who have similar needs, thereby allowing the teachers to specifically meet the students’ needs at each center.  In addition there are now two teachers to work at two different centers, and many more parents that are able to offer their assistance during center time.  Finally, because there are two teachers we are able to have the same classroom aide stay with us for a consecutive amount of time, which allows us to put our aide at one of the centers.  All of this help is integral in making our language arts centers succeed.
  • In addition to our language arts centers we have created math workstations (refer to previous blog post).  Because students vary in their reading and math abilities, the larger group of students once again allows us to better pair the students into flexible groups that meet their particular needs.  With the two teachers we are each able to work with one group of ten students doing direct math instruction while the other groups of ten are working on a variety of math skills to further their mathematical knowledge.
  • Finally, the thing that I have been most impressed with in working in our ECP classroom is the students’ ability to work in groups and limit classroom squabbles.  I would like to think that this is due in part to our team challenges we give them twice a week, as well as the fact that because there are forty students if they need a break from someone there are many other students they can work with and many other places within the two rooms to go.  I have noticed a huge decrease in problems amongst students within our ECP class compared to when I was in a traditional classroom and a huge increase in the ability to work as a group as compared to when I worked in a traditional classroom.
What is the most challenging thing about working with a partner teacher?
  • There are times when you need to let things that you may have done in the past go.  Because you are partnering up you are sharing both of your ideas and to include everything that each individual did on their own would take more time than you are given.
  • You are going to see this person on a daily basis.  It’s like a marriage!  You will need to get to know their mannerisms and be willing to work within them.
  • It is important to communicate with each other constantly with what’s working and what’s not and be open and willing to change something when your partner is having difficulty.
What is the most challenging thing in working with 40 students?
  • One of the biggest challenges we have had throughout this year is the organization of supplies.  Because the students do not have desks there is a lot of sharing of materials.  While the students are quite good at sharing the one material that seems to be difficult to keep track of are pencils.  We seem to go through them like nothing else!
  • Another challenge also relates to materials, either when making copies or using materials for art projects.  Maybe it’s because one still has the mindset that you will go through your supplies like you would with twenty students, but when you have forty, copies take more time, and art supplies go fast!
  • Finally, hanging forty students’ art projects has been a bit of a challenge.  Sometimes we do hang all forty pieces and sometimes we will hang twenty of one project and the other twenty students of a different project.
With the physical layout of your room what has given you the most challenges?
  •  In the way that we are currently teaching our ECP classroom, I am personally looking forward to the layout of the new school as I think it lends itself better to the type of sharing we do with our students.  Currently we have two classrooms joined together with two openings on either side of the shared wall and a breakout room in the center of the two classrooms.  The breakout room is fantastic, however the placement is not ideal as it blocks the view across the two rooms.  The architecture of the new school includes a flexible wall (with windows) down the center of the two classrooms.  If we were doing whole group work or centers we could have the two rooms opened together and if we were breaking up into smaller groups, such as during math workstation time when each teacher is teaching ten students directly, we could close the doors for sound proofing reasons.
  • In conjunction with the two classes being joined it is sometimes difficult to split the classes and teach two different lessons because of the noise between the two rooms.  The flexible wall will again, provide the teachers a better soundproofing option when splitting the classes.
What future activities, lessons, and/or projects are you excited about diving into with your ECP Classroom?
  • We have recently revamped our math program based on Debbie Diller’s Math Workstations, which we saw in action in the first grade ECP classroom at our school. (See previous blog post on Math Workstations.)  We have felt very successful in math being able to differentiate more, and better meet the individual needs of our students.
  • We have also recently revamped our language arts centers.  We are working with our new Vice Principal, Vanessa Flynn who has given our students a training on Reciprocal Teaching to use with our book clubs.  Our book clubs are already leveled but we are looking forward to incorporating the Fauntas and Pinnell guided reading library levels to our book clubs.
  • Our inquiry projects have also been a lot of fun within our ECP classroom.  The students have a larger variety of students to choose from and work with, depending on their interests and the level of inspiration they give to each other is exciting to watch!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in working in an ECP classroom?
  • Visit an ECP classroom!  There is nothing like immersing yourself into the scene to get an actual overall feeling of what it is like.  Reading about the classroom and hypothetically thinking about what it could feel like is one thing but actually being involved is what makes it real for individuals.  Personally, I visited a shared classroom of K-1 students at a different local school the spring before we opened our own shared classroom.  Seeing the teachers working together, taking turns, and using the room in different ways got me very excited and gave me many ideas in envisioning how I wanted to use my shared classroom.   Same thing with our math workstations.  When we saw it in action we were able to see how it could work for us.
  • Even though I am now considered an ECP teacher, I continually try and peek in the other ECP classrooms when I can and talk to the other ECP teachers when I can to gain additional ideas, advice, and inspiration.  My partner teacher and I are constantly adjusting things within our class to better meet our students’ needs.  It’s a work in progress, but one that is so exciting, invigorating, and motivating all at the same time.

 Teacher 2:

What is the best thing so far about physically working in an ECP classroom (ex. two classrooms together?)
Lots of space for group work, kids can move freely about, allows for a wide variety of activities.

What do you like best about working with a partner teacher on a daily basis?
Allows for great collaboration, can differentiate in real time, allows for flexibility (especially helpful with small children), no need for sub plans when one is out, double the ideas and inspirations.

What are some projects, groupings, differentiation that you are able to do in an ECP classroom that you may not have been able to do in your traditional classroom?
Everything we are doing currently, could be done in a stand-alone classroom, however I think it would be doubly challenging without the second adult in the room.  That really allows for better supervision and student accountability, in addition to having teaching happening in two different places.

What is the most challenging thing about working with a partner teacher?
Finding a way to fit everything that each teacher wants to do in, and compromising what can't be done.

What is the most challenging thing in working with 40 students?
Personally connecting with each student everyday can be hard.

With the physical layout of your room what has given you the most challenges?
Not being able to fina place where I can be seen and heard by everyone.

What future activities, lessons, and/or projects are you excited about diving into with your ECP Classroom?
Our upcoming 4R project, continued team challenges, and seeing how the math workstations evolve over time.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in working in an ECP classroom?
Go check one out- reading and hearing about one is vastly different from actually watching one in action.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Math Workstations Are Awesome!

Yesterday was our first official day implementing our math workstations and what an awesome experience it was!  We first saw math workstations in action in the first grade Expanded Collaborative Classroom on our campus.  We saw small groups working with each teacher and students working independently from tubs.  Halfway through the work period, the groups switched and the students working with the teachers were now working out of the tubs and vice versa.  We noticed first grade students working quietly and independently.  We saw students engaged and we saw the opportunity for small group, differentiated instruction.  We just had to try this out. 

In talking with the first grade teachers we learned that their math workstations were based on Debbie Diller’s book, Math Work Stations, Independent Learning You Can Count On, K-2.  We borrowed their book, used our experience in their classroom and began creating and planning our own math workstations.

If I might back up a moment, having 41 students in one classroom has provided us with the opportunity to form large enough groups that are based on the students’ individual learning needs.  For example, instead of having two students who are performing above or below grade level on a specific subject we now might have five students, which is a great number to form a group.  These groups are forever changing and are fluid throughout the year.

To form our math workstation groups we split the students into two groups; students who are currently working at grade level, are early finishers, and/or need an extra challenge on our current math concept (double-digit subtraction) and students who are working at grade level, need extra time, and/or need additional help on our current math concept.  Essentially we split them into two groups of twenty.  One group of twenty is the blue group (because their tubs are blue) and the other group of twenty is the white group (because their tubs are white.  Thank you Dollar Store!)  Each student then needed to be partnered up with someone else in their blue/white group so that they had a “tub partner”.

Once the students were partnered we then split the groups of twenty once again into groups of ten, with partners staying in the same group of ten.  This would allow the teacher/student ratio to be 1/10 during each station period.  Am I confusing you yet?

So here’s the breakdown:
  • Teacher Sk (white bins) will first work with ten white group students in the north room, meeting the needs of these ten students and going at the pace they need to go.  These students know to come to Teacher Sk first because of the following Workstation Chart.
  • The other ten students in the white group will get with their partner and find their corresponding white tub number that is listed on the chart.  (Refer to chart picture.)  They will work in their tub in the north room.

  • At this point there are 20 students in the north room, ten working with a teacher on today's lesson and ten working with a partner using a tub.
  • Teacher Sh (Blue tubs) will work with ten blue group students in the south room, working at their pace and meeting their individual needs.
  • The other ten students in the blue group will get with their tub partner and find their corresponding blue tub number that is listed on the chart.  They will work in their tub in the south room.
  • After 30 minutes the groups will switch.  Students working with a teacher will now get with their partner and work from a tub.  Students working from a tub will now work in a small group with their assigned teacher.  (Again, refer to the pocket chart picture to see the rotation.)

We have decided to keep the teachers with the same color group for one week at a time.  This will allow us to get to know the pacing of the students’ needs, and build on work done previously.  However, we would like to work with every child in our class; therefore we will swap groups every other week.  Not only will this give the teachers the opportunity to get to know each child’s specific mathematical needs, but it will give the students an opportunity to obtain a basis of understanding from one teacher, and then possibly learn a new concept or understanding from the other teacher.

So what are these TUBS you keep talking about?  The tubs are made up of second grade math concepts filled with independent games, activities and books.  The tubs have been sorted into the following ten groups:

  • Card Games
  • Dice Games
  • Number Tiles (Marcy Cook)
  • Problem Solving/Reasoning
  • Time
  • Money
  • Place Value
  • Spatial Reasoning
  • Graphing/Measurement
  • Working with Numbers

We have asked for one parent volunteer during math time to rotate between both rooms and assistant the students who are working with the tubs who may have questions or need their work corrected.  This will allow minimal disruption to the teachers during their small group lesson.

There are ten tubs for each color group and each pair of students will only work in one tub a day, therefore it will take the students ten days to get through all ten tubs.  Because each tub is filled with many games, books, manipulatives, etc. to choose from we are figuring that the students can use the same tubs twice before they need to be switched out.  Therefore, from a teacher and organizing perspective the tubs will only need to be updated once a month or possibly once per unit.

Before math workstations could begin, we did need to spend some time teaching the students how to play the games found in the tubs.  We also needed to train them in collecting and returning their tubs, and general tub etiquette if you will.  Because we had a specific place for them to work either with the teacher or with their tub partner, the first day of implementation went very smoothly.

If I might mention a couple of the many exciting things we have realized since starting math workstations. Prior to math workstations we struggled daily to get the day's lesson and a fun math activity scheduled for each day.  Our focus was split in order to make this happen.  Now, because the students are guaranteed a fun yet comprehensive math activity on a daily basis through the use of our tubs, our focus as teachers is purely on the day's lesson, and meeting the needs of each particular group we are working with.  This is huge and such a benefit for the students!

Another plus for the teachers is not feeling the pressure to continue on to the next lesson because half of the class is ready.  The students have been grouped in such a way that they are essentially moving at the same pace.  Therefore if a teacher feels that one group needs to slow down or speed up a bit, there is no problem with this as the rest of the students in the group of ten are most likely in the same place.  Already you can see the confidence building in the students as they are not feeling pressured or rushed by those in their group.

It was an exciting day as a teacher!  We felt accomplished in meeting the needs of our students.  We felt that they were learning at their pace and meeting their needs, while all the time having fun.  So far, math workstations are awesome!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Interview Questions for Parents in the 2nd Grade ECP Classroom

I have asked three parents in our class if they would be willing to participate in a survey to share with our blog community.  All agreed and their responses are below.  Enjoy!

Interview 1: 

1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?
My name is Sarah Yoslov. I have 3 children at Neil Cummins. I have been involved with the Neil Cummins Community for many years. I was a member of the Site Council for 4 years. I have been, and currently am, a Head Room Parent. I have volunteered for SPARK and am currently a Friend of the Foundation for my son’s fourth grade classroom. Over the years I have volunteered working with the reading specialist, Alice Franco. I had the honor of working with hard working students, strengthening their reading skills. I also worked one-on-one with first grade students practicing reading skills within their classroom. I also volunteer in my children’s classroom on a weekly basis.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
I was thrilled when I learned my daughter was in an ECP classroom. Along with excitement I was also nervous. I have never seen an ECP classroom in action and knew this was new to our school. Having two teachers working with 40 students would take a lot of organization!

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
I have been blown away at the success of the ECP classroom. It is clear that Mrs. Skaggs and Mrs. Shawn have put a lot of time, energy and dedication to their ECP classroom. Starting with the first day of school the environment was organized and systems ready to go. The classroom was clearly planned for table group work, independent work, with a clearly labeled library, and files of work to do when they are done. This is just to name a few examples of their wonderful organization. They have helped the students learn to be responsible for themselves and peers around them. They are held accountable from their showing their own attendance each morning to knowing what centers they go to each day (aided by clearly charted folders). This expectation of self-reliance has increased my daughter’s level of responsibility and feelings of success in her personal efforts and growth.

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
I have many favorite things about the ECP classroom. It gives my daughter a chance to work with and get to know a larger group of peers. This reflects the world she will negotiate when she is older. She is learning to work with various personalities and learning types while focusing on a common goal. It is teaching her accountability and responsibility as she needs to know where to go and what she needs. She has two teachers she can turn to when assistance is needed. Both teachers may even offer different approaches that she can learn from. Lastly, she has the opportunity to work and negotiate with various groups. Some groups might be at her ability level and push her academically, while other groups are mixed ability.   

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
As a parent I hope that the teachers get a chance to know all 40 of their students as individuals. I am sure this is harder with twice the number of students. Mrs. Skaggs and Mrs. Shawn are off to a great start. The walls are covered with projects from the students that give insight to each of their personalities.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
At the beginning of the year Hayley commented on how it feels like she is learning how to be in school all over again. When entering an ECP classroom new “systems” are learned and this surprised Hayley. She later realized all these systems are what keep an ECP classroom running smoothly.

She has enjoyed the group challenges. She likes working with those around her. However, there is one aspect of this group work that is difficult for her. Hayley says, “I just don’t understand why people at my table sometimes don’t just realize when I am right!” It’s all about learning communication and compromise!

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
I appreciate all of the extra effort that both teachers have put into this special classroom. The extra effort is evident and the students will benefit greatly from being in an ECP classroom with these two fantastic teachers! 

Interview 2: 
1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?  (Again, you can remain anonymous if you wish!)
Steve Janowsky – Parent of a NC 2nd grader and a Hall 5th grader. SPARK co-president.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
I was excited, primarily since I heard that the teachers in the classroom were really good. I thought that the collaborative and flexible format would also be good for my son.

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
Yes, definitely. The teachers, as expected, have been great. I like the fact that the class can be broken up into different groups, depending on the activity, and on how quickly a child might be progressing in a given subject. I don’t think the shared classroom environment has been in any way detrimental or distracting to my son’s learning experience.

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
It's been a positive experience for many reasons (some mentioned above).  It's exciting to be part of the pilot program, and to be honest, I would have to say that comparing 'apples to apples', the experience that my son is currently having this year seems to be superior in his eyes then that of the traditional classroom setting.

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
Keep doing what you’re doing…! One thought would be to really take advantage of the opportunity to do more segmentation when possible and appropriate – I think some of the power of the ‘shared classroom’ environment is the ability to let some students work ahead, while others might proceed at a more measured pace.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
Interestingly, he hasn’t really said anything about the different structure / format of the classroom (either positive or negative).

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
     So far, I think the ECP pilot is a big success, and I’m glad that we’re a part of it.

Interview 3: 
1.)           What is your name and how are you involved in the Neil Cummins Community?  My name is Wendy Barta and I’m involved in the NC community by volunteering once a week in my girls’ classrooms, slinging pizza on the hot lunch line once a month and also as an active board member for SPARK, the Larkspur Corte Madera Schools Foundation.

2.)          When you learned that your child was placed in an ECP classroom, what was your original reaction (and why?)
          I was really excited because I thought it would be an incredible opportunity for our daughter.  She has been given not only an opportunity to learn from two very passionate, engaged teachers but also from 39 other kids who may in some ways be similar to her, but also very different.  I felt that she potentially could be challenged in ways that a traditional classroom may not challenge her.

3.)          Have your expectations of the ECP classroom been met so far this year?
          My expectations have been far exceeded so far this year.  My daughter is thriving in the ECP class and I’m very impressed by the creative thought put into the class from the teachers that fosters really creative output from the kids.  The level of engagement both from the students and the teachers is outstanding! 

4.)          What is your favorite part about having your child be a member of an ECP classroom?
          One of my favorite things is that in a group of 40 kids there is such a wide range of ability and skill and the teachers can challenge and meet each kid at his or her particular level of learning.  I am seeing evidence of this in language arts centers where there are enough kids to group them into sizeable enough peer groups that they don’t feel like the only kid at that particular level, whether it’s a child who is sailing through the curriculum or a child that needs a little extra help – they don’t find themselves alone in the journey.  The kids are being met where they are, getting what they need to move along the continuum and they are doing this with others at their same level. Each group is challenged and successful at the same time which is a magical combination for keeping them engaged and furthering their mastery of the subject.

5.)          If you could offer a word of advice to the ECP teachers, what might you say?
Stay the course!  You are doing an incredible job.

6.)          What are some things that you have heard your child say about their new classroom this year (positive and/or negative)?
          Getting any information out of my second grader is a challenge, but it speaks volumes to me that she can’t wait to go to school every day.  She is excited about what she is learning and I hear tidbits about how “cool” the team challenges are and about how she likes working in her groups.

7.)          Any additional comments you would like to add?
          I applaud you for taking on the challenge of doing something new!  Innovation comes by taking risks and it is how we progress.  Taking a very public risk can be hard.  But you are rising to the challenge and I see your results (engaging environment, teaching the kids how to collaborate to solve problems, fostering a love a learning … the list goes on!!!) as a huge success.  You are also role modeling trying new things, taking risks and facing challenges for and with our kids. Thanks Ann-Marie and Annika – we are thrilled that Paige can be a part of what you are doing.

We would like to sincerely thank Mrs. Yoslov, Mr. Janowsky, and Mrs. Barta for taking the time to participate in the interview.  Their feedback is incredibly helpful as we continue on this journey!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why Does It Work With 40 Students?

I often find myself asking, "Why does it work with forty students in one class?"  Granted, coming into the collaborative classroom I knew there was going to be some adjustment time needed moving from an average of twenty students in one class to forty, but I never anticipated how smoothly it would actually go.  The following is why I believe it is "working" with our forty students.

We started day one, minute one, with all forty students together.  When the students received their classroom assignments they were assigned to one teacher.  We wanted to be sure that everyone understood that they in fact have two teachers, that we are all "one class", and that we will work together all day, everyday, all year long.  We made sure to share our behavior expectations upfront with the students so that they knew what would be appropriate classroom behavior in their new environment.  The reactions from the students when learning we would all be together all year long were that of a positive nature.  There were more students to learn from, more friendships to be made, and two classrooms to move in and out of, not to mention two teachers!  Now that we have finished our sixth week of school, forty students is the new normal, and when we do break them into twenty it feels small!

Another reason I feel that our class of 40 students is successful has to do with Morning Meeting.  Our Morning Meeting is based on Roxann Kriete's book, The Morning Meeting Book which is one of the elements to The Responsive Classroom Approach.  Morning Meeting also began on day one and has really helped the children get to know each others' names (which could have been a daunting task given how large we are), it has allowed the students to become more comfortable in speaking in front of a large group, and it has allowed the students to have a sense of belonging within our large class.  Morning Meeting consists of four parts which are not necessarily done each and every day.  The parts include greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message.  We generally start every meeting with a greeting which includes a quick whip around where they answer a simple question.  Some questions have included what they had for dinner the night before, how they are going to show responsibility over the weekend, or naming a math equation double-fact.  Our group activities are the basis for keeping our forty students feel connected with each other.  These activities range from a quick ten minute puzzle, share, or task to a longer 25 minute team challenge (which I will discuss in more detail further on.)  Finally, our morning message prepares the students for the day, informing them of the events they will be a part of and what will be expected on them throughout the day.

We felt that in order to help our forty students work together, having them partake in regular team challenges would give them the experience they need in order to learn how to work with others.  Teams are changed on a monthly basis, allowing them just enough time to really get to know one another and how they can successfully work with each others' strengths but also short enough to give the students opportunities to work with many other children in the class.  We strive to complete at least two team challenges a week which range from about twenty to thirty minutes.  After completing the challenge we come back to our Morning Meeting circle where we discuss the successes and challenges each team encountered.  So far team challenges seem to be a favorite of many!

"Research indicates that educators who establish firm boundaries, foster warm personal relationships in the classroom, and enable students to have an impact on their environment strengthen students' attachment to their school, their interest in learning, their ability to refrain from self-destructive behaviors, and their positive behaviors." (The Morning Meeting Book, p. 13 / Elias et al. 1997, 44) I feel that in our classroom of forty students and two teachers, we have been able to accomplish just this!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Classroom Set-Up

Part of what will make our year successful is the physical set-up of our space.  Our classroom is in fact two standard size classrooms joined together with two openings and a breakout space in the middle.  In the picture above you can see the two openings on the right and left of the white board.  The breakout space is the room behind the white board.

 The north room, pictured to the left, is our main whole group teaching room.  There are five tables for five of our groups of four to sit at, as well as two extra tables for small group instruction.

We have soft tiles (which we call "carpet squares") for the children to sit at during whole group instruction.  There is a separate square for each child, each corresponding to their color table group (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, lime, black, and gray).
In the picture to the left you can see the students' cubbies.  This is where the children keep their individual notebooks, workbooks, folders, and books.  We purposefully chose for the students to have tables rather then desks.  One of our main goals this year is to have the students be successful in working in teams.  We feel that tables are just one part in helping us reach our goal.  If students however need some time to work on their own, there are many other spaces throughout both rooms for them to work.

 The south room also houses five tables for groups of four to work at.  It also contains a large classroom leveled library, a listening center station and our teacher desks.
Our computer station is in the opening between the two classrooms behind the breakout room.  You can see it in the third picture on the right hand side.  Eight laptops will be available for the students on each individual desk.

 Our breakout room is a private room with a windowed door for us to use in many different ways.  We can assess in this room, use for small group instruction, have available for students who need more of a quiet space to work, as well as a quiet recording space when used in technology pieces.
The breakout room sits directly across from our "front door" to our classroom.  In our "lobby" we have our student mailboxes, where individual work is sorted, a calendar, homework return basket, and an area for parents to receive extra materials if the need arises.
 Because we are using our classroom cubbies for the students personal items, we have put hooks outside the front of our classroom for the students' backpacks.  This has been very helpful in removing clutter from the room, which is important when you have at least 42 people moving about daily.
An easy way for us to take roll every morning is to give each student a "magnet person" with their name on it.  When they arrive in the morning they grab their magnet person and place it on the white board in a "ten block" (shown in the first picture on the right hand side of the white board.)  Any magnet person not claimed will let us know who is either tardy or absent.

It's been a lot of fun setting up our classroom, and so far the layout seems to be working great!  We've had to move a table and adjust where we put the projector by our carpet squares so that we can fit all 40 students in a circle for morning meeting, but that is about all the changes we've had to make. We have only completed three days so far but we are constantly surprised and pleased by how well the students, as well as ourselves are adapting to our ECP classroom.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to Our Collaborative Classroom!

Welcome to the Neil Cummins 2nd Grade ECP Classroom Blog.  ECP stands for Expanded Collaborative Practices.  Our school is embarking on an exciting journey as we open three ECP classrooms in grades 1, 2, and 4 made up of a team of two teachers each.  This blog will mainly focus on the 2nd grade ECP classroom as each team has a different vision of how we wish to collaborate both with each other as educators and with our students.  To take a look at our vision as well as our colleagues, please see our presentations at the following website:

Our goal with this blog is to inform our community of teachers, parents, students, administrators, families, friends, and educators across the world what a collaborative classroom could look like with. . . . . . . . two teachers. . . . . . . . . . and 41 students!  Here we go!