We’ve been working face-to-face in a continually evolving hybrid model all year. In general, classes were split into two smaller groups and one group came on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the other group came on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They alternated Fridays. Some students (students of staff, students receiving SDI, etc) came all 5 days. We created daily agendas that spelled out, in detail, what work to do on their “at home” learning days. It’s been intense but we’ve gotten used to it. The kids have been amazing!
During the year, other grades in our Pre-K-8 school with smaller class sizes have been able to come back full time. Finally, this past Monday, after much consideration, creative thinking, organizing, and the completion of a new modular unit built with CARES money, all 3rd and 4th grade students came back, too. I’m not going to elaborate about the model that we’re in now. Suffice it to say that it’s a work in progress, but after mini-lessons, we’re rotating out small groups of children with an extra adult for independent work in a different space. That way we can continue to have a bit more space for our workshop style of learning. Once again, we’re calling on kids to make big changes and show ongoing flexibility as we work out the kinks.
Prior to Monday, my teaching partner and I put a lot of thought into how to support our students as we build new classroom communities. Many of them haven’t seen each other in over a year. Some of them have never been in class together. Some of them are new to our school this year and have never met each other before. We wanted kids to enter this expanded classroom with a positive lens, thinking about their own strengths and what they bring to the team.
So, on the first day back, after time for greetings and logistical explanations, we carved some time out of our regular schedule.
“Think about the strongest communities you have been a part of–your scouting groups, classes, families, book clubs, partnerships, etc. Now think, what makes them so strong? What makes a powerful community or group?” I asked.
Hands flew up.
“Being kind,” someone offered. I jotted it on the board.
“Listening to each other,” another student volunteered. That went on the board as well.
“Having a sense of humor!”
Soon we had an impressive list of strengths compiled.
“So, now that we’re all back together, we’re building a new community,” I said, ” and each of us brings many strengths with us. Think about yourself. What is one strength or trait you bring to our new community? You can use our list to help you, or you might think of something else entirely.”
I asked them to depict their contributing strength (or two or three) in words and/or illustrations on a “brick” and then color it.
Here are a couple of finished products:
After collecting them all, here’s what my colleague and I created on the hallway bulletin board between our rooms. We’re still a few blocks shy with some absent students, but we’re pretty pleased.
Today when I get to school, I’m going to add the final words in the upper right corner:
Building On Our Strengths!!!
I can’t wait to see the kids’ reactions when they come in this morning and see what they’ve already created together.