have visited many classrooms much like the first-grade classroom that Patricia Tarr describes in her article

have visited many classrooms much like the first-grade classroom that Patricia Tarr describes in her article, Consider the Walls (2004), rooms filled with “color-in-the-line activities and pre-designed crafts that give little room for creative freedom, as well as seasonal decorations overpowering the children’s work. I enjoyed this article because it gives an explanation for my dislike of “visual busyness” (p.1) in the classroom. The importance of being intentional beyond the curriculum and activities to the classroom aesthetic and children’s learning environment was the overarching theme of the article and the most important point that I will take with me. The classroom represents “the values of the institution and the teacher” (Tarr, 2014, p. 2), and it should be one that expresses a view of children as “active, curious learners, with ideas to communicate” (Tarr, 2004, p. 5), rather than as consumers of information.
In my future classroom, I plan to follow Tarr’s suggestions by creating wall spaces that are prepped and waiting to be decorated with the projects that my students will complete throughout the year. I would have the project names on the walls so that my students would have an idea of what is to come. One wall could be used for a study of watercolor media or self-portraits. Together we could frame and hang their artwork on a neutral background so that the colors and uniqueness of each piece stands-out, or so that, each piece can be seen as a “single entity as well as part of a larger group project” (Tarr, 2004, p.4). These would be hung at the eye level of the children as Tarr suggests. Another area could be reserved for an “inspiration in a box” creative display. This would include on each side of the box, an original creative story composition or a research project on a topic of the students’ interests, as well as other written projects. I want the individual voices of each student heard on the walls of my classroom.
The Responsive Classroom (2014) is a program that approaches teaching and learning by balancing the teaching of academic skills (perseverance, learning strategies, academic behavior, and academic mindset) with the teaching of social-emotional skills (empathy, self-control, assertiveness, cooperation, and responsibility). Second Step: Early Learning (Ages 4-5): Improved Behavior, Improved Learning (2018) is a program that focuses on nurturing children’s social-emotional development (teaching them to listen, manage their behavior, get along with others, and pay attention), but does not include academic competencies in their program curriculum. Both programs recognize that children’s academic growth depends on their social-emotional development, and are, therefore, aiming to nurture the whole child. I do not use a specified social-emotional program for my students, but I do work on the development of self-regulation, empathy, responsibility and attending to task, through social stories and role-play, while also focusing on academic competencies as well – much like the Responsive Classroom (2014) program.
I assess my student’s knowledge through the authentic assessment of written observations as I watch them in their natural environment. But I also assess them by collecting data on each correct (+)/incorrect(-) response during my sessions when I use an ABA method called, discrete trial training. Both assessments are developmentally appropriate for my students, allowing them to respond as they are physically and cognitively able. I am also able to look back at each month as a whole and the days within it, individually. This allows me to recognize if the low percentage received on a trial was caused by an outside influence, or the child needing further support and strategies to help him achieve the academic or social-emotional goal being worked on. For that reason, these assessments help me to avoid error, allowing me and all stakeholders involved, to make informed decisions about the child’s progress and placement (Branscombe, Burcham, Castle, Surbeck, Dorsey, & Taylor, 2014). Authentic assessment is the best ways to avoid error in placement and is more flexible to fit the developmental levels and learning styles of each unique child. This allows children to show their knowledge in a variety of ways.


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