Caution! Learning Under Construction.

Guest blog by Lisa Watson and Jodi Roper, 2nd-grade teachers at Martha Reid Leadership Academy in Mansfield ISD.

Do you remember any engaging childhood classroom experiences? So engaging that you couldn’t wait to get to school or mad that the bell rang to go home? Or were you just going to school because that’s what we are supposed to do? We loved learning and liked school, but do not recall ever being really excited by what we were learning, or why we were learning it. We remember taking notes from the board, coloring pictures, and sometimes making a poster or group projects. All the things we liked doing but wondered if our classes were more engaging would we have been more captivated by the learning experience.

Room transformations are a fun way to engage your students and bring in real-world applications. This recent room transformation was construction themed. The room was decked out in construction themed decor, barricades, cones, and tools. This time we teamed up with our local Home Depot for donations. They were able to donate toolboxes that the students built, hammers to use, work tool aprons, and carpenter pencils. We were able to borrow barricades from our local Parks Department. Parents were more willing to donate the necessary items to finish out the transformation this time around. They donated plastic tablecloths, cones, and toy construction trucks. The parents were just as excited as the students for this transformation.

We tied in math and writing into one exciting activity for our students. We are departmentalized, so one difference we made this transformation, was to keep our homeroom students all day. First, all students measured the wood pieces for their tool kit and completed construction based word problems. After all students were done with the math portion, they were able to build the tool boxes. With a little glue and a lot of hammering, the tool boxes were complete. Next, students brainstormed the process of how they built the tool boxes.  Then they completed the day by writing a procedural text about “How To Build Toolboxes”.

The best part of the day from students? “I got to use a hammer”!  The best part of the day for the teacher? The students were actively engaged in their academics all day. Dave Burgess from Teach like a Pirate says, “Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.”  This is exactly what happens every time we complete a classroom transformation. This is our best teaching days because all students are engaged in the learning process and behavioral issues are at a minimum.

Many ask why we do the classroom transformations. Our answer is always that we want to create experiences for our students, where students are excited to come to school, try new things, make mistakes, and learn new things! So our advice to teachers at any grade level; try something a little “crazy” or “out of the ordinary” in your classrooms. We promise you won’t regret it.

Jodi Roper and Lisa Watson

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