Organizing and Managing Your Learning Environment
Theresa London Cooper
and managing your learning environment at the onset of the school
year, sets a tone for success. There are a number of conditions
I established within the first two months of my teaching that supported
a healthy learning environment.
is extremely important. Before the first day of school, I planned
a number of lessons that were necessary to lay the foundation for
a well-run classroom. Carolyn Evertson, a classroom management expert
refers to a formula, 3=33, which means three weeks of practicing
the necessary procedures will yield 33 weeks of sound instruction.
Therefore, it is important to reflect on the essential procedures
that must be introduced to the students starting on the first day
of school. I established procedures for a number of concerns:
- How to enter
- What to do
- How to ask
- How to resolve
- How to submit
- What to do
on a fire drill
Each one of
these procedures became a routine that students carried out on their
own without my prompting. Other procedures were established on a
“need to know basis.” I do, we do, you do is the formula.
Students must be able to visualize what is expected. Modeling is
critical. A great deal of guided practice is necessary before students
can become independent.
We also set
boundaries that governed student and teacher behavior. After talking
with the students about the best ways to establish a learning environment,
we decided on just a few “working agreements.” Most
of their ideas fell under the four agreements listed below:
- Be prompt.
- Be prepared.
- Be productive.
- Be polite.
how each looked, felt, and sound. We talked about self-management
and making wise choices. I found that taking a proactive stance
Another effective strategy I used was placing “good”
telephone calls to parents. It made a quite a difference in the
parent’s response when it was necessary to discuss some of
the challenges I observed. The telephone calls allowed parents to
see that I acknowledged the strengths of their children before noting
the areas of concern. When you establish a positive rapport with
parents, they are usually much more receptive to later communications
regarding concerns and challenges about their children.
space, materials, and students was another major concern for me.
It is important to think about how to use space to facilitate a
classroom community. Usually at the onset of my year, I arranged
the desks in an “E” shape. I wanted the students’
attention on me and my demonstrations. As the year progressed, the
“E” shape easily supported group and partnership activities.
Generally, I worked with large groups of students, so center activities
were placed in folders that were portable and easily relocated to
a student’s desk. During the first week of school, we discussed
the materials and how they were arranged and could be maintained.
Procedures for the organization of space, materials, and students
the students and monitoring their progress was necessary to inform
my instruction. It is important to decide upon a system of monitoring
your students that works for you, as you will be collected data
and using it for later groupings and differentiated instruction
to meet their needs. For example, focusing on three or four students
per day will help you get to all of your students by the end of
the month. One effective method of recording your observations is
using self –adhesive labels to jot down what skills and strategies
students have mastered. The labels are transferred to a notebook,
which lists each child’s name on a page. By the end of the
month, you have gathered very specific data on each student that
are used to inform your instruction and can be shared with other
rest of the students while working with a smaller group is also
a challenge. However, working with your class to develop an “
I Can List ” is an effective way to keep students meaningfully
engaged. Because students learn at different rates, and complete
their assignments at different times, an “ I Can List”
is a practical way to have students take more responsibility for
their learning and practice meaningful and controlled choices. The
list should be posted in a visible spot so that students may refer
to it. It is critical that the list reflects “meaningful activities”
which students can do independently. You also want to make sure
that all the items on the list reflect choices that you know are
helpful to your students.
As professional practitioners, planning, organizing, and managing
materials, lessons, and students are essential to a healthy learning
environment. What routines and systems have you implemented thus
far? What are your next steps?
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