Tuesday, January 9, 2018

To Let Them Choose...

I've been teaching for 14 years.  All of those years spent in 1st grade in the same district and the same building.  I like to think that I have some things figured out when it comes to first grade.  However, I am always looking for ways to improve my craft.  I am not one for trendy/bandwagon topics in education.  I like to use strategies that work and that have been tested in the classroom and are going to stay around for a long time.  For all of my 13 years, I've had my kids' desks set up in small groups.  I really like this because the small group format gives kids the chance to develop their social skills and talk with one another.  Small groups are also great for cooperative learning activities.  It also makes passing out supplies that much easier, hahaha!  Every quarter, for the past 13 years, I've changed my kids seats.  This was always done in an effort to help kids get to know others in the room and to keep them from getting "too comfortable" with their close friends.  For the most part, switching desks worked, but I would spend so long working on the seating chart.  Bobby can't sit next to Sally.  Jimmy can't sit next to Tiffany.  You get it.  It was a nightmare.  Then there was the moving of the desks, because I always used packaging tape to tape down their name tags..in the fall I would rip up the freshly waxed floors.  There was also the noise.  Anyhow, once I had all the desks moved and the kids in their assigned seats, problems would arise.  I'd be spending even more time moving the kids in and out of groups...hence extra work on me.  There had to be an easier way.  This year, in the fall, I set up the desks in groups, making sure to put an even number of boys/girls in each group.  I got smart and used wax clips (link below) to put the kids' name tags on their desks.  The kids have done an excellent job of not picking at them or playing with them.  Each Friday when we disinfect our desks, they slip their name tags out of the clips and wipe under and around them.  I thought the wax clip was genius.  That tip came from a newer teammate on my team.  I will never go back to packaging tape!

Fast forward to the end of the first quarter and time to move desks...*I have four (bolded because I only have 19 students) students with MAJOR behavior concerns in my class this year.  Separating them from one another and others who trigger their behaviors was going to be challenging.  I had a come to Jesus moment.  I thought to myself:  I have always had extremely high expectations for my kids and they always rise to the occasion.  I have always given them responsibilities that are appropriate for first graders and they are able to complete them with flying colors.  And I'm all for anything that takes a little off my workload!  So back to my epiphany, why wasn't I LETTING MY KIDS CHOOSE THEIR OWN SEATS?!!?  I let them choose their own seats on the rug and at the front of the room during instruction.  I let them stand where they want in line.  I let them sit next to whomever they want during lunch.  Why is seat work time any different?!  For a minute I thought I was crazy, given my four friends who struggle, but then I thought, what the h***?  I can always assign seats if need be.  So, come second quarter, I sat my class down and had a little chit chat with them about choosing their own seats.  We brainstormed what would be a "smart choice" for where to sit.  We talked about not sitting next to friends that we would be tempted to excessively talk to.  We spoke about sitting next to someone we maybe we don't know too well yet; someone we could get to know a little better.  We talked about how choosing our own seats was a privilege...that if they couldn't handle it, we would go back to assigned seating.  We talked about all the things.  And then, I let them go.  They gathered their belongs and name tags and went for it.  No one pushed.  No one yelled.  No one cried or whined.  They simply found someone to sit next to and that was that.  What surprised me was the fact that my four friends chose to sit next to the most well behaved kids in the class.  The leaders.  Those kids know that they struggle.  The want to improve and they actively chose to sit next to the leaders.  I haven't had to move a single desk since I gave my first graders the freedom to choose their own seats.  We are now in the third quarter and they've chosen new seats yet again this year.  I'll never go back to assigned seating again.

So the moral of this post is simple:  When you let your students have a choice, magic happens.  I dare you to try it.  I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I was. 

***For more classroom management posts, click HERE.***



angie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love the wax clips and have used them for a long time. I've taught for 34 years! I always have them on my calendar.
I think your idea about letting them pick their own seats is great. You'll have to update us on the progress.

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