Well, after one week back in the classroom it sort of feels like I've never been away. Same room, similar year level and even nine of the same students as 2007. But I'm determined that my classroom practice this year will continue to evolve and change, blending the best practice of my work colleagues along with the boundary pushing ideas of my online learning network. Time as always is the enemy, conspiring to eat away at these good intentions and the wealth of expertise and resources I want to sort through and adapt for my own students' gain.
The first week always seems to be about negotiating ground rules, setting expectations and procedures before launching into any sort of timetabled routines. I have spent far too much time talking at and with my students but I'm yet to find a more efficient method of establishing a shared understanding of how our classroom will work. We managed to come up with a pretty good class vision statement - Our classroom will be a calm, focussed learning environment where all learners are free to make mistakes and strive for their personal best. - brainstorming key words and phrases for our six Classroom Agreement rules on the interactive whiteboard and then getting the students to shape then into statements. We also discussed and then photographed visual examples of our rules in action, uploading them into BigHugeLabs Motivator poster tool to save, print and display. This is an idea I initiated last year with our upper primary classes - every class has these colour coded in this format but with their own negotiated statements. See here for an example; students' photographic identity has been obscured by distortion. The posters in our room are crystal clear and are a great visual reminder of what the classroom is aiming to be like in 2008.
Anyway, the first few weeks are about laying down the foundations for a successful year. At this age level, explicit lessons in the initial part of the year help give the scaffolding and structures that will enable the students to become more independent and develop their initiative. There's plenty of time to start shifting the curriculum. That job will be more efficient if the students are settled, clear about expectations and know how to lay their hands on necessary resources as they need them (technology included).