Learning in Classrooms
Learning in Classrooms
A visitor entering Tamara’s combined kindergarten/first-grade classroom is likely to be struck by its atmosphere of calm purposefulness, given that so much is happening at once. On a typical day, twenty-two 5- to 7-year-olds are busy working on diverse activities throughout the room. At ten o’clock one Tuesday, several children were in the writing center—one preparing a thank you note and four others collaborating on making a list of the names of everyone in the class. In the reading center, five children were browsing the shelves or reading books, in pairs and individually. At a table next to shelves filled with math materials, four children worked in pairs on a problem requiring them to choose items from a restaurant menu without exceeding their budget. Yet another pair was immersed in an interactive computer activity about plants as sources of foods. Tamara was seated at a table, reading and discussing a story with a cluster of six children. The children in Tamara’s class come from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. About three-fourths live in the middle-income neighborhood surrounding the school, located in a midsize Midwestern city. The rest are bussed from a housing project for low-income families several miles away. Two children have reading disabilities, and one has a speech and language delay. Several times a week, a learning disabilities teacher and a speech therapist come to the classroom to assist these children. Tamara’s students present great variations in experiences, knowledge, and academic skills. She uses this diversity to enrich their learning. The classroom is organized into seven clearly defined activity centers. The largest is the reading center, which doubles as a class meeting area. Others are the writing center, the math center, the life science center, the physical science center, the art center, and the imaginative play/extended project center. Computers can be found in the life science and writing centers. All centers are brimming with materials—on shelves and in boxes and baskets, clearly labeled and within children’s easy reach. And each center contains a table to serve as a comfortable workspace for collaborative and individual pursuits.
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