My classroom space is broken into five distinct areas based on students’ needs. The areas are named in accordance with the storyline in our academic game: (1) presentation area (also known as the shelter), (2) lounge area (the beach), (3) counter area (the lookout), (4) teacher area (crash site), and the (5) table area (the jungle). Each area was set up with a distinct vision in mind. The shelter was set-up with two futons and a coffee table all located around the SmartBoard at the front of the classroom. I envisioned this area as a place where student groups could share their learning and present content using their iPads and our Apple TV. The beach area was created to help those students who do better lounging on a couch or in a non-traditional chair while working. I wanted my room to represent the traditional as well as the “non-traditional” student. The lookout area was specifically set-up for students who enjoy to look outside and see nature as they work. It also works well for those who use scenery as a reset in an environment that is often controlled chaos. The crash site was created as a result of the storyline where all students became Plane Crash Survivors (PCSs). The name makes it okay to have a messy desk! It’s also used as a space to separate distracting students from the attention of others in the classroom. Finally, the table area was made for the more traditional student who likes to work at a table or desk or likes to have a hard surface to work on. Throughout class, students can be seen moving throughout the room in accordance with their needs as a learner at that particular moment. I feel the incorporation of the different areas of the classroom helps to build a culture of learning acceptance and risk. It opens up the classroom to being more than just a sit and get environment. It helps to personalize and shape students’ learning. See also Jessi's Overview Model.
Experience Based Lab Introductions is a strategy I use to get students to start thinking about their prior knowledge and how it can be applied to a problem or challenge. For example, I use the story about Who Polluted the Clark Fork to set the stage for our water filter lab. The story allows students to use their knowledge-base to answer simple questions throughout the story. As the activity continues, I see students' perspectives change as more elements and variables are added to the story. The stories peak students' interest and bring a call to action into a classroom activity. This strategy is embedded in the Conceptual Change Model, where I'm trying to expose students' beliefs, confront and accommodate those beliefs, and then extend the concept to help students move beyond their misconceptions.
Small Group Sessions are used for student sharing or to conduct small-group direct instruction. Students within these groups are usually working on the same content in the level or are struggling with the same topic/skill and need further instruction from me. Small Group Sessions allow me to gauge a student's understanding of content and promote the importance of sharing and talking about learning. During Small Group Sessions, I actively listen to students talk about the content we are discussing. I also use this time as an opportunity to question their thinking and formatively assess their understanding of the material. In the days after a Small Group Session is over, I work one-on-one with students who have yet to master the material.
Partner Labs are investigatons that require more than one student in the group. These labs require my students to work together to come up with a solution to a problem or to conduct an experiment. Some of my favorite activities to do with my students are The Virtual Thinking Project (PBL), and the Solar Oven and Cooler design projects. These projects require students to work collaboratively together, often in the lab, to engineer solutions to problems or to perform experiments.