A classroom should be one of inquiry and open-mindedness. In order to foster a classroom of students who feel comfortable asking questions and are open to other students’ ideas it is imperative to create a positive, safe environment and learning community. I believe that students should feel like their classroom has high expectations, in how everyone treated each other, and in how learning took place. Creating a classroom environment where all students feel emotionally and physically safe enough to take risks is a real challenge and one that is worthy of the time it requires.
The key to an inquiry-based curriculum is a safe, positive learning environment, therefore, it is foundational that the teacher work to provide, establish, and maintain that throughout the year. In the classroom, the teacher should be working on ways to develop a positive learning community by finding out more about my students. For example, each student should fill out a Who Am I questionnaire so that the teacher can get to know their student’s personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes and therefore include them in lectures, discussions and explanations through out the year.
The teacher should also engage in differentiated instruction in my classroom so that he/she can tailor specific lessons to fit different viewpoints, and abilities of students. This is also a demonstration of care and respect for students as they see their teacher notice certain aspects about their learning or personalities and tailors their instruction to meet their needs. One of the ways I would engage in differentiated instruction is by walking around the room and constantly being available to assist students.
By offering them one-on-one assistance I can better gauge where their personal understanding and misconceptions are and tailor my teaching to them differently than I would to the class as a whole. In order to maintain a positive classroom environment, a teacher must use the ability to make quick decisions and to be flexible in the classroom. The teacher needs to make decisions and adjustments to enhance the student motivation, engagement, and productive work. One way I would make adjustments when there are issues in the classroom hindering the productive learning community is to create a new seating chart.
I find that this act is often used enough to nip any potential social problems in the bud and sends a message to students that if they want to sit with their friends, they need to earn the privilege. You would be surprised with how a new seating chart for the class can increase productivity and engagement in core subject content instead of social life information. In a science classroom, experiments and lab work are an important way for students to engage in the content. All students in the class should work on labs at the same time with minimal supervision.
The teacher must also be cognizant of how the resources of time, space, activities and attention are allocated to students throughout the short hour that they are in class. However, there are more traditional strategy for lab work. The difference comes in how many materials you have for certain labs, how much time it takes for each group of students to complete the experiment, and how tricky the directions are. Deciding which method to employ for a given lab and analyzing the classroom environment to decide which will work best in a given situation.
In the Collier County School District it is acceptable to have up to 30 students in each classroom. It is difficult in this type of environment for students to feel that they are an important member of the learning community. I found that it was easy for certain students to disengage from activities and it was hard for the teacher to pick up on their lack of involvement because of the sheer number of other students in the room. Therefore, I thought up of an activity that would give the teacher time to walk around to individual students and check their understanding of the material.
This lesson was an ACT preparation lesson where the students would be working on writing organized essays by finding a thesis statement, supporting it and including evidence from newspaper articles. I found that students would initially be hesitant to show their work to the teacher, but when they saw that the teacher would be going around to everyone at their table they became less nervous and more open to share their problems with understanding. When observing a classroom, one student even remarked as the teacher came to her, “I don’t know what I’m doing.
” She was a student that has never raised her hand to ask for help, but with the teachers inevitable arrival she was open to telling her teacher she did not understand. This showed me that if the teacher had not gone around to individual students she would not have told her teacher she did not understand. In order for a classroom to become a learning community it is important that it is organized, and meets clear standards of conduct.
An environment in which students are assuming responsibility, participating in decision-making, working collaboratively and independently, and engaging in purposeful learning activities that use higher order thinking skills and are all pieces of smoothly functioning learning communities.
The first lesson that I would present to the class in the fall would be attempting to engage students in a purposeful learning activity that asked them to think deeply about the issues of a the subject that they are in class for. The students would first work together as a class and then the students work individually to show understanding.
They were active members of the activity so they had a hand in the decision-making and therefore could assume some ownership and responsibility for the success of the activity. A strategy for engaging students in purposeful activities that promote higher order thinking that is often used in classrooms is asking students to work in pairs to create a concept map from a list of content words. By working in pairs students are collaboratively building understanding and taking responsibility for their own learning plus their partner’s.
As mentioned above, in order to have a smoothly functioning learning environment, clear standards of conduct must be established and enforced within the classroom. In order for students to feel safe enough to ask questions, engage in inquiry activities and take risks in their learning. They must feel secure and know that their teacher has clear standards of conduct that will be enforced. The first day of school is a very important day for establishing the standards of conduct that all students are expected to follow.
It is also important that student behavior is monitored in a preventative way. One way is by asking a student who is very high-energy and can become disruptive to do small tasks during the hour to keep him engaged, such as feeding the class fish, or putting up the class grade sheet. This particular student can be disruptive and cause problems with other classmates, but with the teacher keeping him engaged when she sees him getting off-task, she is signaling to him that she notices him and has her eyes on his actions.
This has been a successful strategy in keeping him out of trouble. However, all issues in a classroom cannot be prevented. Things do sometimes happen despite the best efforts of the teacher to create a safe learning environment. For example, say that you, the teacher had an incident in your classroom where two female students got very angry with each other and yelled loudly and violently at each other and refused to stop. This behavior is very upsetting to the teacher and to the class.
And to be successful in resolving the situation, you just have to remove the two students from the class and separate them. In this situation it was important to thoroughly pick up the pieces after the incident was over. This is a very helpful way for a teachers peace of mind and further ability to create a safe learning environment. The teacher should also have individual talks with the students that created the problem. One student in particular would most likely have a very changed attitude about the class after the incident.
In order to bring her back to being her enthusiastic self, the teacher should have a one-on-one talk with her, which greatly improved her attitude towards the class. One of the things that would help you to act appropriately when the incident happened in the classroom was the established standards of conduct and consequences that occur if students do not follow the standards. One way to foster students’ ability to engage in dialogue and argumentation and develop the language of thinking is to participate in Socratic seminars in class.
Socratic seminars offer a tangible, engaging way for students to develop both ethics and critical thinking, actively and cooperatively. A discussion technique that I would use in my classroom would be an ethical discussion based on the merits and problems with new genetic testing that is available. Students engaged in small groups, then in the large session to discuss their opinions about genetic testing, based on a text they had all read. In order to help the discussion remain civil and productive, I used an ethical discussion framework that was very helpful.
In a large classroom of 30 students it is often difficult to make time to meet with students individually to discuss their progress, but it is an important part of teaching that time must be allocated for. Therefore, a lesson plan that can allow the teacher to talk with students individually about an essay they had written. Lets just say that while students were in the Library Center working on ACT preparation tests the teacher then would be able to make time to talk with students individually about the strengths and weaknesses of their essays and what specific things to keep in mind when writing their next essay.
This lesson shows a good allocation of time and attention so that students could take away concrete information from the lesson about what they need to work on with their writing and they also saw that their teacher cared about their progress enough to plan a special meeting with them. This one-on-one discussion time between teacher and student is something I do not see a lot of in school and I feel it is very important to include meaningful time talking with each student.
In a science classroom it is very important that resources be used appropriately to help promote in-depth, inquiry-based understandings of content. I include it here to demonstrate how helpful it is for teachers to keep up-to-date on literature that is being written on the topics they are teaching. Through reading academic literature they can gain new ideas and insights on how to use technology effectively in their classroom in order to enhance learning and the classroom environment. Creating a positive classroom environment is a very important aspect of effective teaching.
In a teachers student teaching placement it has been a priority for to establish and maintain a safe and positive environment where all students can grow, inquire, and learn. I feel strongly that a classroom should always be a safe one for students physically. At times there are going to be things said between students that cannot make it emotionally safe, but you, the teacher can always deal with the issues to send a strong message that your classroom is not a place to come down on peers.
I do feel I have more to learn about enacting a true inquiry-based classroom, however. And I know that there are going to be times and lessons where I believe students should be actively involved in inquiry-based projects and if so, I would be very proud of them for their efforts. However, I would like to increase the times that this occurs and make my classroom into a place where students know they are going to question, explore and learn, and not just another stop on their school day schedule.
Courtney from Study Moose
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