Starting the school year has always been exciting not only for students but also for teachers. We, as a teacher would never know the children we are going to deal with for the whole year through. Thus, setting up an essential agreement at the beginning of the academic year is essential as we want to establish a good and conducive class.
Rules or agreement?
Teachers in some school are now starting to move away from using the word “rules” to using the word “agreements”. What are actually the differences between rules and agreement in classroom? Rules are imposed. They’re set for the purpose of compliance. Any violations of rules should be punished to maintain the power of the rule. Rules are “above people.” The locus of control is external, teaching us that we don’t have the power – so we’re pushed toward obedience rather than internal motivation.
Agreements are negotiated. They’re set for the purpose of collaboration. Any violations should be discussed to learn. Agreements are “between people.” The locus of control is internal, teaching us that we have the power – so we’re pushed toward intrinsic motivation.
However, although some teachers are no longer use the term “rules” in their classroom, some others are still using it because they might think what their classroom would be like without any rules. They don’t want to have a chaotic class so that they prefer using the “rules” instead of “agreement”
As for me, since i am teaching in an IB school, i prefer starting my class by creating an “essential agreement” to make sure that my class will function well and in a conducive way. Rather than teachers imposing their rules on children, everyone in the group works together to establish an agreement of how the class will function. Here are some tips of creating an essential agreement in class.
- Last year, i tried this with my students. First, i will let them watch some video about what a good classroom and a “not-good” one. After that, we brainstorm together. We ask them which classroom they would prefer studying in and ask the reason why.
- After brainstorming, we ask the students again what make a good classroom. Students will come up with various answers. We can also ask students to come up with things that might disrupt the class, anything that will make the class stray from its goals. For example, if students want to improve their listening comprehension or learn to think in English, it will be highly disruptive to hear students speaking their native language. Little ones might say that they don’t want any shouting, yelling, or hitting in class. Some students may say that they shouldn’t interrupt someone when he or she’s speaking.
- How to avoid disruptive behaviour. After getting some ideas about what disruptive behaviours are. We can brainstorm with the students about how to avoid the disruptive behaviours to make the class run smoothly. They might be quick to say that no shouting, yelling, or hitting is allowed in class. And to avoid interruptions and make sure everyone has a chance to speak, your students will suggest that they have to raise their hands. Try to phrase each of the rules in an affirmative way, for example, in a way that tells them what they should do and not what they shouldn’t do. Having your walls filled with “No shouting”, “No eating in class”, in other words, no, no, no everywhere does not contribute to creating a very positive learning environment either.
- Now you have to put it all in writing, after all, verbal contracts won’t hold water in a classroom. They can make a poster illustrating the essential agreement, and then put it up some place where it’s clearly visible. You can also give students some post it and have them write about what they just said about how to avoid disruptive behaviours to maintain a good and conducive classroom. Ask them to paste/stick into the place provided and together read all the agreement.
- So, to sum up, make sure each and every student is clear and agreed on the agreement. They should also understand that the agreements are subjected to any changes should there be any cases which require any changing or improvement of the agreement.
Grade 4 Teacher
If there is one thing I learnt from being a teacher for so many years, it is the importance of a positive teacher-student relationship. The teacher-student relationship is one of the most powerful elements within the learning environment. Students learn best when they enjoy learning with their teacher, the classroom atmosphere or the ambience the teacher creates.
When teachers form positive bonds with students, classrooms become supportive spaces in which students can engage in academically and socially productive ways. Students who have a positive rapport with their teachers use them as a secure base from which they can explore the classroom and school setting both academically and socially.
Each student has a different learning ability and as a teacher, we need to recognize that. I have always treated my students as my friends. I like to get to know them better. Firstly, it means getting to know the students’ learning styles and where they are in terms of their knowledge, abilities, and potential. More importantly, it also means getting to know their interests, personality, and background. For the teacher, this body of knowledge opens up the possibilities for growth and learning opportunities.
Teachers will see wonders once the students are willing to come out of their shells. It means they trust us as their teachers. We have gained their trust and confidence. Hence, students will no longer see us as only their teachers but also their friends. To me, this is what a positive teacher-student relationship means. I have seen so much improvement in my students once they no longer see me only as their teacher. Yes, they still have to respect me because I am, after all, their teacher, but they also trust me because I am their friend.
By: Devi Godri
English as a Foreign Language Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug, Jakarta
In a day’s work as a preschool teacher, I hear many sounds. Starting from the moment they enter the classroom, I hear their clambering footsteps and their high-pitched enthusiastic voices. Halfway into the day, I could discern the scratching of colored pencils against paper, the flapping pages of paperback books and the clicking sounds of legos being stacked in what might seem as a perpetuating symphony of creative energies. Then, the clock signals 12: 40 and the children leave for home, yet the room never stays quiet. Even in the midst of the busy morning commotion, there is one voice that strikes true in my ears, the classroom. Yes, the classroom does in fact speak and you need only to listen carefully.
While as teachers we are the primary source of knowledge and information for our
students, we are not their only mentors. The classroom can serve as their secondary teacher and can provide the children with an endless boundary of learning opportunities even more than we could offer in 5 lessons. IB PYP has emphasized the importance of learning centers in the classroom. However, what does it truly mean to have different learning areas in classroom? Isn’t there only one learning space? I came across this challenge in the beginning of the school year when setting up my new KG classroom. I remembered asking myself, “What could we possibly do in a 4 meter by 8 meter rectangular space?” I was inspired to transform my classroom.
In any preschool classroom setting, there is always bound to be a play area. This should not simply be a space filled with random knick-knacks and toys. This should be an area where children can openly express their imagination, engage in meaningful play collaborations with their peers and practice their critical thinking or problem-solving skills. Thus, we set on the idea of the home and construction learning center. As it is called, the children may feel right at home in the “home corner” where they may take part in enriching imaginative play (e.g. cooking, family role-playing, etc.). Simultaneously, they have the option to engage in solitary play in the construction area interacting with the blocks, legos, and puzzles.
Moreover because creativity is such a critical component of the PYP attitudes, I decided the children need a venue to display their creative perspectives of the world. Hence, we’ve created an art gallery in which they are free to explore and manipulate different materials and resources for their unique masterpieces. In these creative pursuits, it is not unlikely that the children also are exposed to an emergent literacy experience. Aside from the occasional messes, it is a win-win situation in both cases.
Of course, the classroom would not be complete without a mini-library. Designating a space where the children may participate in a quiet reading activity (whether independent or guided) offers a balanced classroom atmosphere. While a vibrant learning space is essential, a quieter area in the room helps promote balanced and healthy emotional regulation in children.
From this classroom set-up experience, I realized that renovation is never a simple and single event. It requires continuous revisions and modifications. However, once the classroom finally obtains its “’voice of learning,” learning will never be silent.
By Daisy Novianty Homeroom Teacher Grade KG GMIS-Bali
For a long time I thought that concept-based learning was an idea that was too vague to implement, until I participated in an IB “Concept based Learning” in-school workshop back in 2013. The workshop itself didn’t answer all of my questions but it brought me to my own conclusions related to my queries about inquiry based learning. Here is some of what I’ve learned. To make an inquiry model work in your classroom you need to focus on concepts rather than outcomes within teaching and learning and in order to engage students you must make these concepts visible in your classroom.
One strategy that I use is to create a concept chart. On the chart I put the concept of the day (micro concept) and the key question. This becomes the focus for my lessons rather than a single objective.
“Tune in the learner into a concept, not a topic”. Kath Murdoch
This is one of my favorite quotes which inspires me to ensure that I start every lesson, by introducing the concept and saying, “Today we’re going to learn about this concept…” I usually show them the concept on the chart and then I continue by stating the key question. “So by the end of today we’re able to answer this question….”
By using this routine, students are more focused on the targeted concept to understand and to explore during the lesson. By making it visible, we can always refer to it anytime. Since it’s only one word, it’s easier for everyone to stick to this idea. Of course, in order for students to do this, they must be familiar with the key concept in relation to this related/micro concept.
A follow-up strategy is to list all the related concepts under the key concepts, again for the purpose of always referring back to it and showing that we’ve learnt about it.
By using this simple strategy to make the concept more explicit and visible in the classroom, I think the teaching learning in my classroom is improving. We’re no longer trapped within routines focused on knowledge and skills. Instead the exploration of concepts becomes wider and students’ understandings are becoming deeper.
I’m currently teaching Visual Arts and this approach is still relevant in my art lessons. I hope it’s useful for you too.
Yan Yulius – PYP Coordinator at Sekolah Ciputra Surabaya.
At Sekolah Ciputra, we consider the Visual Arts room not only a place for students to create artwork; instead we consider it more as a place for freedom of expression, for exploring possibilities, for challenging creativity and for promoting inquiry. The Visual Arts teacher is not the single authority in this space. We offer students opportunities to build the Visual Arts room together with the teacher. We use the learning opportunities offered under the transdisciplinary theme “How We organize ourselves” to engage students collectively in realizing this vision of a shared creative space. Below are the details of the unit:
A supportive work environment is essential to the development of our creativity
Key concepts: Function, Responsibility and Reflection
Related concepts: organization, work environment, creativity, aesthetic, design,
Lines of Inquiry
- Considerations when working in a Visual Arts room
- How the Visual Arts room supports the development of our creativity
- Maintaining a supportive Visual Arts room environment
Summative assessment task(s):
Students work in groups to design a safe and comfortable Visual Arts room to be used by the entire school community. This room should be organized with clear procedures and agreements created by all users (teachers and students). Students need to present their ideas for management, organization and design of the Visual Arts room to teachers and peers. The chosen ideas are accepted and applied in the Visual Arts room for use by everyone.
Once the idea is adopted, it is applied throughout the year. This has helped to build a greater sense of shared ownership of this creative space, with students actively taking responsibility for maintaining the space.
In addition to engaging students in designing and maintaining the Visual Arts room, here are some tips on creating an environment of inquiry that I gathered during my first year as a Visual Arts teacher:
- Materials and equipment should be easily accessible by students. When there are varied items available for them to use independently, then you may expect more from students in terms of creativity and inquiry, especially when exploring the use of these tools and materials.
- Make the thinking visible. Just like in other inquiry classrooms, you need to involve students in thinking and creative processes. More importantly this needs to be visible in the classroom. Use thinking routines such as “I see…I Think…I Wonder” which fits well with “responding to art” activities.
- Display provoking questions, along with samples of Art work. These questions provoke students to think about their responses to art work and to take inspiration from the samples. The questions should be conceptual and related to the UOI.
- Involve students in responding to Art. Encourage students to express their thoughts and opinions as this might lead to further inquiry questions. At the same time, students are learning about the techniques and elements of Visual Arts.
- Display lots of provoking images and artwork. These are great primary resources for allowing students to tune in to various art concepts and can also be a source of inspiration.
- Provide a variety of books about art. There are books available for students to use both for inspiration and for learning about technique.
Those are just a small sample of ideas and tips that could hopefully be useful for your school’s Visual Arts room or maybe for your classroom.
Yan Yulius – PYP Coordinator at Sekolah Ciputra, Surabaya, Indonesia
Displays have the ability to create a rich environment that is both engaging and welcoming – displays can be bright and colorful or scientific and intriguing – either way, if they are done correctly they can really influence children’s learning.
A sense of belonging is really important in any classrooms, especially in primary school. If each student has at least one piece of their work on the wall then they will feel more at home in the classroom. This promotes a sense of pride and team spirit which is essential in any class.
Display boards also give us the opportunity to teach the class through the art of creation. By decorating the boards together with the class they will feel a great deal more involved in the overall project and remember the information the teachers are teaching them.
Here are some wonderful class displays in Grade 5 classes.
Homeroom Teacher of Grade 5 Barito
SEKOLAH VICTORY PLUS (SVP)
The first week of school is the most important week of the school year and it is always be exciting for both teachers and students after the holiday. This is the time for teachers and students to make an adjustment. Everything was well prepared to welcome those days. Everything was made to attract the students to play and learn
At the first week of school the students made their agreement. They wrote their agreement on a big piece of paper and put their colorful hand prints on it. We called it ‘Give Me Five’
- Respect each other
- Take turn
- Keep ourselves and others safe
We tried to make our days more relaxing and less stressful with fun activities that required arts and games. We read stories, created our ‘jar of stories’, played together at the big playground, made friends and shared holiday experiences. We sang IB learner profile using ‘twinkle-twinkle little star’ tune. We used movements to represent the profiles. They loved it so much, for it’s easy listening.
The students also explored and created IB learner profile in the classroom. They made it using their understanding and of course their language. They discussed, wrote, and put them on the window so they could see and read it everyday.
Our first week of school was awesome. Students enjoyed their times to play for learning and of course they had fun.
“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”
— Oscar Wilde, author and poet
EY 2 Teacher
Sekolah Victory Plus