I started a new job at the elementary level. After being in the high school for 3 years I was a bit hesitant to return to the elementary life, but it has been a fun change in many ways. Watching this Mr. Winkle video shared on twitter today (I believe first by @SimpleCEO) got me to thinking about some of the things I have been seeing in the school where I now work. First of all, very few classrooms here are in neat straight rows but one of the biggest things I notice here is that there is movement. Kids don't have to sit very long. They will focus on a lesson for 30-40 minutes then they move on to something else, usually involving getting up and moving. I also have seen that the teacher will move the kids around the room. I'll go into a classroom in the morning and the kids will be in their desks, when I visit in the afternoon, they are gathered in a corner of the room for a story.
I've often wondered how and when we make the shift from having a lot of movement in the elementary classroom to making kids sit for an hour and a half straight in high school. I know that there are teachers out there who don't do this, but I have witnessed that a majority do. Now don't get me wrong, getting 30 high school students to stand up and move is about as simple as herding cats, but I've watched several teachers do it effectively after some short training with the students.
One teacher I used to work with at the high school level implemented centers into her classroom. The kids would shuffle from time to time in the classroom to various sections and work on different activities related to the same concept. She was sure to make those centers fit with different learning styles as well. After talking with her about it, she told me it did take a few times for the kids to adjust to this new way of learning (well, way of learning they hadn't seen in a while anyway) but once they practiced a few times, it was successful. I would say you would probably get this same response from any elementary teacher showing students centers for the first time. Anything new will involve a bit of training.
So we know it can be done and we know that it is probably better for kids and when we really think about it we think it might be better for us as teachers too. So, why don't we do it? I thought about this a bit and put myself back into the shoes of a teacher in the classroom everyday. I think the #1 reason is because it is hard, especially at first. Not only are you planning a lesson for the day but you might be planning 5 to incorporate movement around the room and preparing materials for all of them as well. It will also probably involve a teaching style that may be significantly different than what you are used to which adds a bit of fear. Will it flop? Will the kids get too loud? Will the administrator observing me think my classroom is out of control?
As with anything, change is hard. I get that. I try to encourage my teachers to try at least one new thing each year and then take something you've already done and "fluff it up". If you tried a little movement in your classroom for one unit or one lesson each year or each semester, you would have a few to work with after a year or two. What we have to remember about change is that yes it's hard but it doesn't have to rule our life. A sprinkle of change here and there adds up in the end.
Thanks to clearlyambiguous for the flickr photo