Now that the school year has well and truly finished, I am able to take stock and consider some the best things that I introduced into my Year 4 classroom this year. Due to the nature of my training programme (with Teach First) I only had six weeks’ worth of training before stepping into the classroom as a full time teacher, therefore much of what I did this year was trial and error based upon what I thought my children needed at the time. And it turns out that there were some trials that actually paid off!
- Carpet Spaces. This really saved my sanity. Initially at the beginning of the year, I had hoped that children in Year 4 would know how to sit on the carpet. But boy was I wrong. They practically sat on top of each other, squabbled, chatted to anyone who would listen and would rather sit under or lean against the furniture than sit where they could see the board! Carpet Spaces revolutionised my carpet inputs. The children had consistency of where they sat, they were sat next to complimentary learning partners (some in order to mix ability and some due to behaviour). They would then sit still, listen, talk effectively with their learning partner, they would no longer squabble and nor could they use the furniture to hide! I would really recommend carpet spaces for a class with many personalities that require routine, consistency and structure.
- Gallery Walks. I adapted this idea from my experience of school when, at the end of a lesson, my Art teacher would let us wander around the classroom to see what our peers had done during the lesson. I used to enjoy doing this and believe that I learnt a lot from this simple activity. I have used this in my English lessons and give the children 10 minutes to rotate the classroom with post-it notes looking at their peers books. They can then write constructive comments to either help or praise their peers work and they can also make note of any good ideas they wish to use in their own work. They loved this and it taught them a lot about being respectful – they knew they could only write comments in a way that they would like to receive them.
- A Calm Corner. Knowing that I had some personalities in my class that could be prone to angry or emotional outbursts, I wanted to make sure that they felt that they had a safe space in the classroom to calm down or give themselves a time out. I believed that this space was even more important considering how these individuals were used to being removed from the classroom. And I believe that, in most cases, once they’re out of class they never properly come back that day. I made it a space where they could express their feelings in written or drawn form. And had prompts to help them make sense of their own emotions. An oops bin and a worry bag was also provided so that they could use this space independently when needed. It worked very successfully, especially when they learnt to use the space to help themselves rather than as space they were sent to by a teacher.
- Daily Supported Reading (DSR). In my school, all children in Key Stage 1 (KS1) have DSR. In groups, every child reads with an adult once a day and they focus on roughly two books a week in order to give the children time to overcome the barrier of tricky words that might hinder their understanding of the story. It is first read to the children by an adult and then they re-read the book continuously whilst an adult asks comprehension questions and checks for key reading objectives. I observed two of the children on the Special Education Needs and Disabilities register were struggling to engage with and enjoy stories as they were struggling with tricky words. I wanted to remove this stressful barrier and help them see an enjoyment in reading. I therefore started DSR in Year 4, which is unusual. I trialled this in my class and by the end of the year, it was being successfully used in both Year 4 classes. Those two boys had a much more positive view of reading, and greater reading ability, by the end of the year.
- All the music. As much as possible. I used it to set the scene for writing tasks; to time activities; to time tidying up; to calm the children; and I even used classroom karaoke as a reward for good learning. I used it as much as possible. It just worked for the children in my class and they enjoyed working with it. It really helped them to focus and keep on task. Plus, as a huge music fan myself, music has really helped to perk me up on difficult days.
What have been the best things you have implemented in your classroom this year? Have you tried any of the things I have used?