Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Organizing Independence And Ownership: Part 1

Organizing student independence and ownership is one of the most daunting tasks for me in my classroom. I've finally started to realize that I hit two snags on this path--First, I have to let go of control. {YIKES!} And it takes lots of planning, organizing, and time. When it happens, there are always great rewards.

Today I'm sharing some of my super simple tips for planning my heart out and then letting go of the results.

Tomorrow I'm going to share one BIG spot in my day where I am finessing this theory in the present--right now--as in today!

My caution is for control freaks--your room will not always look or sound the way "you want it to," and your day will often turn out differently then you expected. Don't let those stop you! The benefits to kids will so far out weigh that in improved self confidence, fewer behavior issues, ownership, and respect for people and materials.

I recommend baby steps--that's what you see below--little bitty micro-movements forward on the continuum of organizing a classroom for independence and ownership.

For starters, I have not written the date on the board for months. Students take the initiative and do it! They don't ask, but it magically gets done--usually at the end of the day before.

My reading groups are named for authors--got this idea from some cool teacher, but I can't remember who! We change groups about 4 - 5 times during the year. As soon as I organize the groups, I print out the list. It is obviously displayed so that everyone can find it. It is surprising how long some kids are still checking the list. It's also great for subs, and it's one less thing I go crazy duplicating for my sub notebook.

There is a couch in our classroom! {Lucky, lucky us!} Everyone is assigned to a couch group, and these are listed on the monthly calendar. If you forget that it's your couch day, I feel a little sad for you, but it's a great chance to remember something valuable without a grown up needing to remind you--LIFE SKILL!

I've never been great about displaying academic work. Problem solved: Everyone has a clip--clothespin with a gold star and their number. They choose what work to display and how often to change it out. Some kids change it often, and some kids leave the same paper up for 2 - 3 months! No worries!

I know these are super simple ways to foster independence and ownership in the classroom. I am creative and artsy, but I don't have a wonderfully color coordinated Martha Stewart classroom. I do LOVE this time of year when I can really see how kids have blossomed, taken ownership of the classroom, and gained more independence.

Next up: Part 2!

What tips do you have for organizing so that kids have ownership and you get to teach?

If you're feeling overwhelmed or need a pick up, check out the 3 Adventure Kits over at Brave Teachers. They won't organize your classroom, but they will improve your outlook on life! And you get to choose the price!!

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