Saturday, September 17, 2016

Creating Collaborative Communities

Is that a tomato or a sun?

Dear Readers,

I have been back to school for 9 days and am already having a blast! Here are some ways I am helping foster a collaborative learning community.

Employment Opportunities

Students were given the opportunity to apply for the following jobs: librarians, associates and interior designers. They helped to set up our classroom and it has really given them ownership over our space. I am not even sure where everything is at the moment because they chose where to keep our classroom supplies.

Action Figures

We spent some time talking about identity and how we define and see ourselves. They were given the task of creating their own action figure. If a store was going to sell them on a shelf, how would they design their box? I created a model so they could get to know me. After having them reflect on the task, many admitted I pushed them out of their comfort zone and they were "unsure" about the activity, but ended up loving it in the end.


We are fortunate to have 1:1 Chromebooks for all students this year. I had everyone e-mail me and tell me something they like or do not like about our class. I then responded and asked them to set a reading goal for the 1st quarter. My next step is to help them narrow down their goals to be specific and achievable. Part of their "bell work" every day is to check their e-mail.

Interest Surveys

Every year, I hand out interest surveys inquiring about pop culture, extra-curricular activities, family, friends, etc. I also inquire about how they see themselves as learners. They did a fantastic job this year being specific so I have an idea of how they learn best!


We spent a couple of days discussing bullying and did a gallery walk where they responded to questions on post-it notes. The feedback I received was that it was a great activity that taught them a lot about what bullying is and what they can do. In addition, we discussed a fixed vs. growth mindset, as well as, proactive vs. reactive language.


I have also made reflecting a daily task as part of their "bell work". They have a prompt to respond to reflecting on a task, learning or themselves. I am thoroughly enjoying this section of their notebook. I participate as well and always share with them my own reflections.

Read Aloud

In order to introduce our first unit, I am reading an informational picture book so they can begin to gather background knowledge on the subject. I also introduced them to the idea of sketchnoting. While I am reading, they are sketching what they are visualizing since it is a climate and culture very different than ours. 

I shared my example and it sparked some great, fun, light hearted conversation as my drawings usually do. One student thought my airplane looked like a band-aid. Another student thought my sun was a tomato. One final comment was that my cattle were people crawling. I sincerely love those conversations.

Classroom Roles

The students are able to sign up to be tech helpers, librarians, attendance officers and the green and clean crew. They are going to keep their positions for a month and then change. 


On the interest survey, students were given space to write down songs of their choice. We have started to compile a list of songs to play throughout the year.

Independent Reading Books

As my students signed out there independent reading books, I had a short conversation with them. I then impressed them the following day when I could name each book that was check out. We ended the week with some independent reading time.

I hope you are having as much fun as I am!