Visiting your children's classroom is always exciting. You get a glimpse into their daily world and see what they have been up to. As a teacher, I am probably the snoopiest of parents. I look everywhere! I notice wall displays and table groupings, where resources are stored and how various items are organised. I flip through all the work being done in every folder I can find. I'll confess, I do this in every classroom I go to, whether or not it is my own kid's room!
Returning to work in classrooms across Toronto recently as been fun in so many ways. I love to see what other teachers are up to. I love discovering new ideas and get really inspired by them. It gives me new hope for our kids despite what the general climate in education feels like right now. I've taken a few snaps over the past few months to give others a little peek inside some of the classrooms I've been lucky to visit. Hope you enjoy!
This indoor tower of plants and herbs is impressive on its own. I grilled the students about where it came from and they explained how their teacher applied for funding and secured this amazing machine for them. Even more impressive was how the students cared for these plants during the day. They each had roles which involved testing, pruning, watering and feeding. The feeling in this room was incredible. The plants bring with them a feeling of calm. That piece of the outdoors inside had a very obvious affect classroom environment.
Music teachers are often left to deal with storing a load of resources in a small space. It was apparent when entering this classroom that the teacher had put a lot of care and thought into not just storing the instruments but using them as beautiful display pieces as well. I loved the attention to detail and how this was arranged.
I rarely work in higher income neighbourhoods. When I visited this school which was a public school, the privilege of the students was very apparent. There were various parent volunteers throughout the day and they brought with them some incredible resources. This group was extremely lucky to have a parent experienced in needle punching give them the opportunity to learn and create. It was fascinating to be a part of.
Exploring classroom libraries is probably my favourite part of the day. I'm so impressed by the collections teachers have. By their dedication to provide their students with a wide range of incredible literature. I also love the opportunity to explore longer fiction again, after spending so many of my past few years with picture books. I often sneak in a chapter during my lunch break and then quickly reserve titles at my local library.
Some schools make great use of their hallways and stairwells, covering them with student art. This particular school had inspirational quotations plastered all over. I had to grab a picture of this one (above) for my own kids. My eldest is very hard on himself and wants to be perfect at everything and win every game. What an amazing message to read from a top athlete.
These beautiful flowers were all made with paper and made by the students themselves. It is hard to see the scale of them, but they are extremely large. The kids were preparing decorations for their graduation. They decided together on these because after grad they could all take them home if they wanted and they could also be recycled. I loved their mindset!
Children are born with ownership instincts. It is one of the first social issues to come up with kids. I can still remember the look on my son's face at the first play group I took him to, when another little pair of hands reached out for the toy he was holding. "Mine!" he shouted. He couldn't understand why someone wanted to take 'his' toy. Now that I have two kids, this is an ongoing battle between the two.
Ownership can be a great thing though. Something I took away from schools in the UK (that I really don't see much of here in Canada) is the way teachers in Early Years and lower grades give the kids ownership of their work. Pieces that children produce are usually labelled by a teacher, using the child's own words to describe it. To be fair, it mostly developed from the UK's inspection system. Teachers always have to have evidence of learning in case Ofsted drop in. It is time consuming to do with a class of 30, but it really does help a teacher see the development of the child's thinking over the course of the year.
It is also really lovely for a parent to be handed a collection of work at the end of the year. You can sit with your child and read through their work together. Rather than just see a page of dots, you can read about what they were trying to draw. It gives them ownership. It jogs their memory. I think it even gives them a sense of pride in their work/creations from a young age.
So I started doing it myself at home as much as I could. What I ended up with though was a giant box of every single scrap of paper that my kids ever wrote on. It was getting pretty ridiculous!
One day I was reading a blog (I can't remember which one, so if anyone knows, please add a reference for the idea!) and the writer shared how she organised her kids' work. She had a 3 ring binder with plastic sleeves in it. Each month she selected a few pieces she loved and slipped them in the binder.
I thought it was a great idea! I'm not quite that organised though. So I try to just stick a date on the work and then save it in a box of their 'creations'. Every once in a while (when the box is filling up), I bring out the binder and sort out pieces to keep. My older son loves doing this with me. We pick our favourite pictures (he doesn't know where 'the rest' of the work goes!) and read them together before filing them in the binder.
I have also been trying to snap pictures of all their work as we go along. That way we have a digital record of them in case a small set of hands gets hold of the binder and is in a 'ripping' mood.
How do you save and organise your kids' work? If it is a way that makes it easy to look back through it together as a family, please do share! I am always looking for ways to be more efficient.
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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