A Peek into the Classroom – Part Deux

Since I got a lot of great feedback on the last post – A Peek into My Classroom – I decided to post a part 2! I’ve learned a lot from reading other teachers’ blogs and I enjoy sharing with others too.

Keep scrolling to read about each picture:


ABOVE: Having a place value chart above your whiteboard or chalkboard is great. You can see I went over the value 427 just by writing underneath the each place value. The signs are from Math Equals Love. I also recently purchased these elementary word wall organizers. They are perfect for the first month, when I am reviewing general math for all the Grade 10s and 11s.

ABOVE: I was originally trained for Tribes right after my B.Ed. but have put off doing cooperative learning until this year. I will be using more Kagan structures each week to develop cooperative learning. We have four groups in Grade 10s. Each group is assigned an animal – moose, beaver, snake and caribou – and these milk crates are an easy way for the “equipment manager” to grab the necessary supplies for their peers. I try hard NOT to laminate unless they are for posters that will sustain years and years of use. I used binder clips and plastic sheet protectors to attach the labels to the milk crates.

ABOVE: My teacher’s desk. I don’t sit here much until the end of the day, or to enjoy a cup of Turkish tea (I have a stash of tea leaves and white sugar at school). I had to put a sticker on the edge of my desk that says, “Students are not allowed to sit at the teacher’s desk”; it’s taken me nearly 3 years to train students NOT to go into my stuff! The sense of boundaries is a bit of different up north, so I had to adjust to that when I first started. Hanging on the pin are growth mindset cards for the Encourage role in our student groups. I bought them off Kate Coners on Teachers Pay Teachers. She has amazing stuff! For a close-up of the cards, check out my photo from Instagram.


ABOVE: My backpack, which has a pocket for my laptop, and an Indigo book bag that I use to carry my lunch. I also have a Bing Bong keychain on my bag, because creativity is soooo important in life! He was definitely my favourite character from Pixar’s Inside Out. I even hunted throughout DisneyWorld (April 2016) just to get a collectible pin of him.

Breaking It Up: Circle Games

For the last two years, I was teaching out of the science lab upstairs. It was a very rigid set up because I could not move the lab benches if we wanted to change up the setting of the classroom.

So I was absolutely elated when I got a regular classroom this year. Now, by training, I’m an elementary teacher and while I work with high school students – specifically Grade 10s and 11s – every once in a while, I like to play games in my class. Especially circle games.

Circle games are a fantastic way to “break it up”. My 11s had spent the 5th period writing their first math test and were feeling a bit stiff. So after we did a quick note in 6th – reviewing the metric system and how to convert between the units – we pushed aside the tables and gathered together.

We did two activities:

  1. Writing observations: Every student was equipped with a whiteboard and a marker. They were also given a card with a North American animal, such as harlequin duck and nighthawk. Yesterday, we had talked about what it means to write observations, one of the 6 steps in the scientific method. How can we describe our observations? We can use our five senses and describe objects in size, shape, colour or form. We can also describe patterns of behaviour. Each student was given the opportunity to write a description of that animal, without using the actual name. I had a snapping turtle; I describe my animal as a reptile that lives in the water, is grey and eats fish and frogs. When they finished their description, they passed it to their “elbow partner” on their right. Their peer had to guess what the animal was. Then they had to discuss whether the description was adequate and what could be improved. There were a few students who wrote one word; others that gave a fantastic description. The board was passed back and repeated with the “elbow partner” on the left. At a quick glance, walking through the circle, I can access who understood the objective of the lesson.
  2. Riding the Bus: For the last ten minutes, we played a game that had nothing to do with curriculum (gasp). “Riding the Bus” is one of my favourite games that I learned from Tribes training*. Arrange the chairs in a circle. Pull one chair out and have one person stand in the middle. Start the sentence, “I’m riding the bus with someone who is … ” and finish the sentence with a descriptor (i.e. wearing glasses, dyed their hair). Whoever fits the description has to get up and find a new chair. The person who is left standing has to choose a new descriptor. Everyone was laughing. I also had a few sentence targeted at me, “I’m riding the bus withs someone who is over 30”, “who is wearing a watch” and “who is Asian”. Ha! I used phrases that included a large part of the group or everyone; “I’m riding the bus withs someone who is in Sec 5”, “who is wearing socks”, “wearing something black”. We had a lot of smiles and laughter.

Why sit in a circle? Why play circle games?

  • Everyone is an equal: Even the teacher sits with the student. This makes everyone feel that they’re all part of the group.
  • De-stress: It’s important to let everyone laugh and smile. Writing a test and going through 6 periods a day doing work is stressful!
  • Teamwork: Gives a chance for different kids to mix and intermingle. They are forced to talk to each other. BWAHAHAHAHA!
  • Physical movement: Moving around is important. The act of getting the body in motion is a great way to get some good hormones going!

On average, with each of my classes, I play at least 2 circle games a week. Usually they are math games but I want to make sure I have a good balance between both my math and science classes. My kids trust me and they know they have fun with me. I don’t have any teenagers sneering and saying that they’re too cool not to participate at all. Yes, it does take 5 minutes to rearrange the furniture and it does take time to clean-up. But my kids work together and it is great for the work ethic! And psssttttt, if you’re not caught up with today’s edubabble, “movable classrooms” are in! Lots of reasons to switch things up in the classroom!

Have you played circle games in your classroom? Is it something you would try?

*In the manual, it goes by a different name, but I’m not sure what it is.