Saturday, 4 February 2017

Creating a Collaborative Classroom: Day One & Two

It is always hard starting the new year with a new teacher and new classmates.  So this week I have focussed on creating a collaborative and inclusive classroom environment.  Whilst it started off a little slowly (with technical road bumps and very shy students), I am starting to see and hear collaboration happening in my classroom - and only on day two!

Key Competencies - TRUMP

My first day was focussed on learning more about the Key Competencies.  The NZ Curriculum says it is important, and our learners are even graded on the KC's in their report.  Despite this, students generally do not know what they are and what they mean.  Today we focussed on unpacking each of the Key Competencies: Thinking, Relating to Others, Using Language, Symbols and Text, Managing Self and Participating and Contributing.

Finding out their PK

To start with, I wanted to get the students Prior Knowledge, so they participated in a quick bus stop rotation.  This was when they shared what they thought each word meant.  This was supposed to be done on Google Docs, but we had no internet at the time.  It was great to see that my learners already knew quite a lot!

Students PK from the Bus Stop rotation

Unpacking as a Class

After this, we unpacked each one as a class. We drew on their ideas from the bus stop activity, and think-pair-shared our ideas of what each KC meant.  After this, we discussed how we could show each KC.  I helped them think about this by asking them "If the Principal walked into our classroom, what would he see if you were ___".  Asking what people would see helped my learners to understand what each KC means and 'looks like'.  To start with my learners were hesitant to share, but after lots of encouragement and positivity, there was a lot more talking happening amongst the table groups.

Time to get Creative!
Student's photographs of them showing the Key Competencies

After sharing our ideas and recording them on the board (there was no internet, so no LinoIt! 😞 ), my learners were given the challenge of taking photographs of them showing each of the 5 KC's.  They seemed to enjoy this part.  The boys and girls worked together to take photographs.  They were sharing their ideas and starting to relax with each other. 

I created a wall display which used their definitions and ideas, as well as their photographs. This will serve as a visual reminder of the ways my learners are expected to behave. Because it is their ideas and their photographs on the wall, there is more accountability for them to stick to rules and show the KCs.
Our wall display with the students own definitions, ideas and photographs

Class Contract

The next day we created our class contract.  I started the lesson off by revisiting the KC's and asking why it is important to know and use them.  For the class contract, I decided to use AnswerGarden. The question on the first AnswerGarden was "What helps you learn?".  AnswerGarden was a great tool to use because the ideas that were repeated would grow bigger.  This was a great way to see at a glance what was important to my classroom.  Learners also collaborated on an AnswerGarden asking "What DOESN'T help you learn?".  Both questions were incredibly insightful and gave us lots of things to draw on for our discussion. 

AnswerGarden for "What helps you learn?" click here access the AnswerGarden

AnswerGarden for "What DOESN'T help you learn?" click here access the AnswerGarden

AnswerGarden was a great tool to use to get students to share their ideas.  It was an easy way to see what was important to my learners.  I also think that it helped the students to share their ideas because their names were not attached to the ideas they posted.  It was also reassuring for them to notice that many others had said the same thing (when their ideas grew bigger, or from noticing someone had said something similar).  I would definitely use this tool again with my classroom.

Class Discussion

Following the AnswerGarden, the class choose the most important words/phrases relating to what helps them learn or not learn.  Using Think Pair Share, we discussed the importance of each of the ideas as a class.  I choose to keep relating their rules back to the idea of us wanting to create a safe, inclusive and happy environment.  Next, I got the students to form small groups and write 6 rules for the classroom.  

Lastly, we shared our rules, mixed them together and adapted them to create a set of rules that we were all happy with. It was great to see my students gaining more confidence, with some of my shyest students sharing their rules.

Wall Display of Class Contract

I created the class contract on Canva. In hindsight, I could have gotten the learners to help choose the template, colours and fonts (this would have given them more ownership of their contract).  

Instead of getting the students signatures or hand prints, I chose to use puzzle pieces.  Before getting the students to make their puzzle piece, we discussed the importance of the contract and adding their puzzle piece.

Where to next...

Overall I am pretty pleased with how the first two days have gone.  I will need to keep going over/referring to our class contract and our KC wall to reinforce our class expectations.  Despite their shyness, the majority of students (17/19) said they preferred working with others in groups.  So I need to continue to encourage learners to work together and share their ideas. One thing I noticed was the reluctance to work with the opposite gender.  This is something I need to keep in mind.  I will continue to encourage my learners to collaborate and celebrate when they do so.  They have already showed me that they can do so much more when they work together. I was also really happy with the way they have grasped using digital tools like AnswerGarden. I need to continue to find new and engaging tools that will allow my learners to feel confident to share their ideas with one another.  


  1. Sounds like a great first week Chelsea and it looks like you have an awesome class! It will be interesting to see if you have any comments from the kids about the acronym for the KC - TRUMP :)

    1. Thanks Heath :) it was an awesome first week and I'm loving my class. Haha a few kids thought it was funny, but it went over most of their heads luckily! Hope you have had an awesome first week back in your hub :)


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