Saturday, 26 May 2012 17:45

Try Out New Ideas at the End of the School Year (Teaching Tip #72)

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The last few weeks of the school year are a terrific time to try new ideas that you’re considering using in the fall. I first started this type of experimentation approximately ten years ago. Until that point my classroom arrangement featured a series of rectangular tables that sat 6-8 students each. For the most part I liked this arrangement, but I didn’t like having so many students sitting with their backs to one another.

So, during the last month of the year, I experimented with a U-shaped arrangement that allowed every student to face the front of the room and created a large rug area where the children could sit during instructional lessons. Immediately, I loved how open the room became and how all the kids could now see one another when sharing work orally from their desks. When it came time for groups to meet, some kids moved their chairs to the other side of the tables, and cooperative learning was no problem. The following year I began with this room arrangement, and it has remained this way ever since.

I continue to use the last few weeks of the year to try new ideas. Sometimes I’ll use these ideas the following year, other times I won’t, but the testing of new approaches is inherently valuable, and there’s almost never a downside. I share my new ideas with the students because I think it serves as important modeling. Trying new ideas keeps things fresh, and there’s a certain spirit about it that I love. I want kids to understand that in order to improve continuously, we need to be open to new approaches, and we should be eager to step out of our comfort zones and try something different, whether it pays immediate dividends or not.

As I mentioned in a previous Teaching Tip, this year I am experimenting with a weekly Project Time, in which my students pursue their passions and work on self-selected projects. The early results are encouraging, and I definitely plan to make Project Time part of our weekly schedule next fall.

New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.