Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You Have a Couch? #30goals

I love the latest 30 Goals Challenge: Change Your Environment, mostly because I have an obsession with changing things in my room with the hope to foster better learning. I consider it like Edison and his hundreds of failed attempts at the light bulb. Change, reflect, tweek, and repeat.
Here are some major changes in my classroom that I have done and enjoyed:
  • No Desk Friday. This is a simple tool to get kids out of their seats and moving about the room. They have a spot for the entire day that serves as their learning spot. As you know, I teach 2nd grade, so this is a big deal to them.
  • Get a Couch. Won't kids abuse it? I think you would be surprise how well kids can handle objects with respect and care. You certainly have to set up some guidelines, but kids thrive when they take ownership. The couch serves as a place to read and do group activities. My other "fun places" include: the closet which is a small nook with it's own light, the bean bag corner, and under my desk. Since these are sought after places, I have to draw names when we do silent reading time in the room.
  • Around the School Scavenger Hunts. I stole this idea from Ron Clark. I got the secretary, the janitor, and a few teachers to be key players in our traveling scavenger hunt related to our book, The BFG by Roald Dahl. They held the next sealed part of the riddle, that would in turn take us on another hunt. It was a real blast, and when it was done the kids looked at me and said, "Is it really over?" The cool part was at the same time, our partner class in Louisiana was doing the same hunt, and Mrs. Thompson got the same reaction. We both agreed that we needed to create another riddle hunt in future.
  • Surveying and Interviewing is a fun and exciting activity that gets my students outside of the room and interacting with other students in the school. The kids use our class Ipod loaded with the app, PollDaddy (see my review on IEAR) to browse the hall, ask survey questions and create bar graphs from the data they gather. The kids also started using our Flip Video camera this week to interview students about Abraham Lincoln. We will combine the clips at early next week and make a highlight video of all the short facts and tidbits. We plan to post and send out to the other classes in the school to see our handiwork.
These are just a few of the things going on my class. I would love to hear the cool changes in your classroom. Post a link so I can read and see your learning environment.


  1. This is really helpful -wonderful suggestions! I'm eager to try the scavenger hunt but am concerned about the possible disruptive element. I would need them to knock at some teacher's classrooms for clues and that would be disruptive to their lessons. What do you think? (High-school)

    Thanks for the post!
    Naomi Epstein

  2. Hi Ian! Just found your Blog. Great ideas! Have you ever used Voice Thread? I was thinking you could have your students upload their graphs from the Polls they take. They could then interpret each others graphs. They could also have teachers, parents, other school personnel answer questions about the graphs.

    Here's the link to Voice Thread if you're interested and don't already know about it.


    Here's a link to one of my favorite graphing sites. Students could use it to create their graphs and then upload to Voice Thread or some other format.


    Voice Thread would also be a great forum for sharing your Abe Lincoln videos. The other classes in the school, or your LA partner class could leave comments.

    @naomi I work with Middle School, so I know what you mean about the disruptive element. What if you had other teachers tape the envelops on or near their doors. You also have teachers who don't have clues tape envelops on their doors. The kids would have to open the envelop to see if they got a clue or not. This could all be done from the hallway w/out entering the rooms.

  3. @Naomi
    The scavenger hunt was designed to avoid disruption. I planned out ahead of time with the secretary, gym teacher, and janitor so that it would be less intrusive. The other locations were picked around the school so that it would not disrupt classes (library when empty, exit door away from classes, etc.) You can certainly make it work with some careful planning.

    I have looked into voice thread and have used it for a project with kids where they designed their own BFG and then wrote and record somethings about them. It worked really well. You have a great idea on getting the graph results and reactions recorded. I think next time around, I will give that a shot!

  4. What great ideas! I've always talked about changing the classroom environment but I never took the step of actually thinking about the furniture in each station. Thank you for the "Ah Hah!" moment!