The First Weeks in Renee Goularte's Classroom
In January of 1997 Renee Goularte posted on a multiage
listserve a description of the first weeks in her classroom
(at that time she team taught a class of 51 first, second, and
third graders). It is very descriptive of one way to get a multiage
class started off to a successful year. With her permission I
have reposted it here.
The first two weeks of school we devote to "team-building"
activities while we slowly introduce the classroom procedures
and activities which are highly dependent on self-direction and
organization. For example, we have PE almost every day of the
first two weeks of school, at the start of each day, doing collaborative
/ cooperative activities in mixed-age groups. The older children
are immediately thrust into the role of "mentors" for
the younger ones, helping them learn how to bounce, throw and
catch a ball, how to play tetherball, how to play foursquare,
how to jump rope, etc. In the classroom, we do small group rotations
for part of the day, mostly using math manipulatives for exploration.
At this time, children learn appropriate care of materials, as
well as where and how to clean up and put things away.
While these two weeks are progressing, we begin to introduce
procedures and activities which will remain largely unchanged
during the year, such as storage and care of their materials
(we have no assigned seats), Daily Message, Incredible Equations,
journal time, SSR, Independent Reading and Writing, and how to
use all the language and math independent work choices on the
shelves (games, task cards, assorted manipulatives, etc.). We
try to introduce one new procedure a day and immediately have
students try it. By the end of two weeks, everything has pretty
much been introduced and the children have started working on
their own. As the students work together these first two weeks,
we have the opportunity to develop and discuss rules for the
classroom (students do these together) and playground rules and
rules for outdoor games, and also to observe students' motor
skills and social skills, as well as students' levels of responsible,
respectful, self-directed behavior. We don't "teach"
during these times, but largely observe and discuss with each
other what we see.
During these first two weeks, we assess each child's individual
skills. On the first day of school, we have the children write
about themselves and draw a picture of themselves. We don't give
them a lot of directions for this assignment, nor do we "grade"
it; rather, it goes into their portfolio for parent conference
in November. It takes the full two weeks to have every child
read aloud to one of us individually, so that we can get an informal
sense of their reading skill level. We start with the literature-based
basal for this, at the students grade level. If it is too hard,
we go down a level or use "leveled" trade books, until
we find the level where the student reads comfortably. Then we
very loosely "assign" each student a color code (which
is flexible and might change more than once during the year).
Blossom Valley School
San Jose, CA