2nd Grade Elementary Classroom in Tokyo
*** The map and map key were created with Google Presentation and Classroom Architect.
Analysis of Student Movements and Classroom Setup
Furniture and Set-Up
This classroom is set up to create multiple domains to learn in. The tables and chairs have been scooted back, so the students can turn their chairs to see the whiteboard. The tables are in placed in the standard U shape with the teacher’s whiteboard at the center of the U. Students can also quickly turn around to collaborate with one another. There are the square carpets which are good for sitting on to read and/or discuss topics. In addition, there is a circular rug which might be good for an introduction or setting up a leader for discussion since one child could be placed on a chair to indicate the leader position. Finally, I’ve seen teachers at this school use the chairs an an alternate to a table with students sitting on the floor and writing on the chairs. Overall, the classroom structure is set up to effectively move between multiple locations to learn. This is fantastic because this allows kids to better encode information instead of it all blurring together because of the location.
In addition, materials for learning are readily accessed. There are rules on the wall indicating the standards of the classroom. The teacher has placed materials used all the time on the tables such as crayons, pencils, erasers, and rulers. This is important because these tools are used daily. So, this saves time, but the teacher is also communicating that he trusts the students to stick to high behavioral standards and not touch the materials until necessary. The trashcan and entrance to the classroom are located at the back of the classroom which should reduce disruptions since students won’t have to walk in front of the teacher to throw things away or enter/exit the class for a bathroom break. Finally, there are interesting posters of irregular conjugations as well as prefixes and suffixes in addition to other grammatical core standards for 2nd grade on the wall. All in all, the space seems ideally set up for moving.
Observations and Movement Patterns
During my observation, the teacher made full use of this space. I observed a reading lesson during a 60 minute period. The teacher first introduced the information text they would be reading with a specific word culture being defined. He then provided a worksheet that provided an outline of what they would be searching for in the informational text for comparison purposes. During this time, the students had their chairs faced toward him. If you look at the map you notice that none of the chairs are set to face completely away from the blackboard. This is excellent when possible because the effort to turn around a full 180 degrees is much more than simple tilting one’s head or chair slightly to the side. I think the positioning of the chairs helps the students maintain attention. There was little movement around the class of the teacher at this time. He maintained a position in the center of the U shaped arrangement of tables next to the chalkboard. However, the teacher did stand the entire time which I think helped keep some of the more exhausted student’s attention.
During this introduction time, a student entered the classroom and put away his belongings. The student had a specific cubby for his belongings with a name marked, and the entrance to the classroom is located at the back. So, the disruption was really minimal with the other students barely noticing that the student had arrived until he had already put away his stuff and was looking for his table. The teacher had just changed seating arrangements that week.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. The teacher asked the students to collaborate on finding the answers to the chart he had just explained and given examples for. The task was to search and retrieve information from the book. The students turned their chairs, so they faced each other at the tables and began talking. The transition time was almost non-existent showing me that this is a simple way to change the feeling of the location from lecture-based to more collaboration/student-centered based. During this time, the teacher begins to circle around the students. The map indicates that the teacher circled around the groups asking for feedback and double checking that all students were participating. If a group needed guidance, the teacher would stop briefly to ask guiding questions and then move on. He did this repeatedly throughout the 15 minutes, and it was very effective in keeping the students on task.
The tissues are located in the back, and one student got up and retrieved some tissues (burgundy student) during instruction. Another student (green) threw away some trash. Both items are located in the back with tissues inside the bookshelves. The students clearly knew where they needed to go to use these items indicating that the supplies is regularly organized that way. This is an example of non-directed but purposeful movement. Neither of the students seemed to fumble around looking for anything, and they quickly returned to their seats.
After the worksheet activity was completed and materials were put back. The students began reading the booklet that they were searching and retrieving information from. The teacher initially had them stay in their seats, and I felt the fatigue of the classroom. While the teacher was circling and moving around still while reading, the students weren’t. And these students had been in their chairs for about 40 minutes since the beginning of the activity. As a result, many of the students began rocking their chairs during this time.
The teacher clearly felt this inertia, and he asked the students to move to the carpet. This re-energized most of the class, but one student (blue on the map key) had an emotional outburst during this move and broke down sobbing- probably because he was tired. The teacher quickly dealt with the outburst by first trying to fix the problem and then giving the student the task of purposefully going to the bookshelves to grab his water bottle, get a drink, and get a tissue. The rest of the group (including the burgundy and green students) was already seated on the carpet. The blue student moved purposefully but non-directed to the trash can to throw away his tissue. This caused minimal disruption because the group was at the front, and this student was at the back. Only the teacher was able to clearly see the blue student in this formation. Once the blue student finished, he wandered around for a second around the classroom looking at some crafts on the way still upset but much calmer than before. He lingered on the outside of the group circle until the instructor told him to sit between two classmates. I left before the completion of the reading lesson, but the class was headed for a break.
Feedback and Suggestions
The teacher did a fantastic job of moving students around the room. This re-energized what could have been a really boring literature class simply because the requirement in the schedule is that the students have information texts for almost an hour. I also liked how he moved around the room during group collaborations. The students stayed on tasks, and even students who initially seemed hesitant to participate participated better with the teacher lightly guiding them. In addition, the room felt really warm with student projects on the walls, standards set up, interesting grammar and reading texts on the wall. Finally, the materials that needed to be retrieved or used were usually located behind the students. This is great because when one students gets a tissue or throws something away, the disturbance is minimal. Therefore, the class stayed fairly on track.
I only have a couple of critiques. I wish the students had moved between the group collaboration activity and the reading portion of the class. However, the teacher quickly corrected this when he noticed them fading. An additional way he could have kept them at their tables but reduced fatigue is by either moving them earlier to the square carpet or by moving the tables or chairs into socratic circle.
Furthermore, I also wish there was an interactive element to the walls. Something that changed throughout the week to get the students excited. Finally, the room would benefit from a resource area with either dictionaries and/or computers. But the teachers share a portable bank of computers due to budgetary reasons, so this might not be possible.
Truthfully, I felt the classroom was set up pretty ideally, and the teacher moved around effectively to manage and engage his students. Therefore, all of my suggestions are very nitpicky as a result. This was an excellent class to observe. And I would be interested in having a similar set up to my classroom.