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Building Classroom Environment – 3rd Grade Interviews

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The beginning of the school year is filled with excitement and transition. Schedules are being learned, routines are being established, and different expectations are being outlined for the various classrooms. All of this contributes to an important aspect of learning, a safe classroom environment. Creating a safe, positive classroom environment doesn’t just manifest magically with one discussion, or community building activity. It takes time, collaboration, patience, and openness from both teachers and students. When trust is established in a classroom amongst peers and with the teacher, learners feel comfortable to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.

In 3rd grade, students have been working on interview projects. To begin, students generated questions as a class, which I recorded on my computer as they were proposed. I then printed the questions the group generated and made copies for them to use during their interview. My two 3rd grade sections consequently had different questions, and all students were able to contribute directly to the list of questions. Students often receive worksheets from teachers, but these questions were created directly by the students. It was no longer a predetermined assignment I bestowed upon them; it was their interview questions they just made up right then and there. It was like they created the assignment. I found this gave a lot of power back to the students and encouraged them to take ownership of their work.

Students then were randomly paired up to begin the interview process. Over three days, the partners met up and interviewed each other using the questions we came up with as a class. During this time, my classroom felt alive with conversation and laughter. We even took the time to do some of this work outside because, well, it just happened to be a really beautiful day. Overall, we had a great time getting to know each other, and the process felt relaxed and fun.

I believe learning is optimal when the learner feels safe, genuinely cared for, and is having fun. For this project, the process was meaningful to them because they came up with every single question that was asked during the interviews. The end goal is to write a four to five paragraph report about their partners. That is a big assignment! I look forward to sharing the reports aloud during Author’s Chair so we can all learn more about each other. Feeling comfortable is essential to taking risks, and by taking risks, we learn. I feel this project has launched the never-ending process of establishing a fun, safe learning environment for my students this year. I look forward to seeing what learning and fun lies ahead.

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