The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

The Quiet Buzz of Engaged Learning

This is a post that I have been meaning to write for a couple of days now but life has been busy and it has prevented me from updating as frequently as I had hoped. I am happy that I finally have time to blog, though, because we have had a remarkable transformation in my classroom this week!

Throughout the year, I have worked to establish a sense of time management and ownership in my classroom. I have emphasised that my students are truly responsible for their own learning. Yes, I provide the framework and yes, I am the one who is teaching, whether in whole-class or small-group settings, but I want my students to feel that they are the ones who are responsible for their time and for what they are learning on their own.

My goal has been for my students to manage themselves independently while I work with small groups. I have tried to limit the amount of time I spend standing at the front of the room, preferring instead to move around the classroom, helping students, answering questions, and probing for understanding. When I am not floating around the room, I am typically found at the back of the room at my table, working with groups of two to seven students at a time.

The challenge has been getting my students to the point that they can work independently while I am working one-on-one or with small groups. Some students have demonstrated the ability to do this quite well. Other students seem to need someone watching them constantly in order for them to stay on task. Most students, of course, are somewhere in the middle.

This week, however, I have witnessed my students staying focused and on-task for extended periods of time, both during our long math block in the morning and our longer literacy block in the afternoon. I don’t know what changed or why it changed, but I am happy to know that it has changed. I love pausing from working with small groups or individual students and looking around my classroom so that I can both see and hear the quiet buzz of engaged learning. My heart thrills when I see students helping each other, not just talking about whatever random topic has popped into their heads. I am delighted when a student raises a hand to ask a question and then, before I even get a chance to make it through the maze of desks to help the student, she has waved me away saying, “Never mind; I figured it out on my own!”

We are swiftly approaching the end of the third quarter (just six school days to go!), but I am finding myself feeling confident that we will somehow manage to do all of the things that we need to do before the end of the year hits us. And while we are running toward the finish line, I am hopeful that my students will keep on going after they leave my classroom.

As I tell students at the start of each year, my job is to help my students learn how they learn so that they can learn without me telling them what to learn.

I feel like we are getting closer to that point.

What signs do you see of active engagement around you?

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