Brittany Murawski is a Kindergarten teacher at Bradford Academy.
What keeps your students aiming for success in the classroom?
My students keep aiming for success in the classroom for a couple reasons. First and foremost, my students are beginning to realize the importance of school and how certain skills will help them be successful in later grades. Additionally, I think that my students understand that it is okay to make mistakes and that the only thing required of them is to try their best. My students know that if we can get our work done, put in some good hours of working hard and together, then we can have some fun time too!
How do you remind your students of the expectations you have?
I remind my students every day how smart and important they are. I also start the day with a hug and let them know that I love them and care about them. I think that by reminding them how important they are and that I only want the best for them, my students think more highly of themselves. I also try to be as consistent as possible with consequences for negative behavior, as well as reinforcements and rewards for positive behavior and hard work.
Your students seem to take an active part in the classroom. In what ways are they active in their learning?
In our classroom, I try to do a balanced mix of independent work, group work, and small group work. Students who are more advanced are given the opportunity to work at their own pace and then move onto the next assignment or find a student who is struggling to help. During centers, I am able to put students in slower groups to work more one-on-one with students who are struggling or need more targeted instruction.
With such independent students, how do you incorporate teamwork into your classroom?
Teamwork is a big part of our classroom. Our students sit at tables and have the weekly objective of earning table points. Table points can be earned by being good listeners, working quietly on assignments, helping students at their table, and giving each other reminders when behavior needs to be corrected. At the end of the week, the table that has the most points is given the chance to have lunch with me on Friday as their reward. This is just one incentive to work as a team and help their peers. Additionally, we do daily centers/stations in which students work independently with manipulatives and/or review concepts have been working on together. This is a time when my students can help each other and work as a team to complete a task.
In what ways do you build a family-like atmosphere in your classroom?
We are a family in our classroom. Just like other classrooms, bullying is not tolerated and we work hard to make sure all students are being treated with kindness. We have started to do a ‘friendship’ circle in our classroom, on a weekly basis, in which we practice complementing or peers and saying something we like about them. This helps the students to practice verbalizing positivity and make us all closer. My students also know that I am always there for them, whether it be to talk about something that happened at home or share exciting news, and most importantly, we like to have fun with each other.
What’s the ‘secret ingredient’?
I am not sure that there is some sort of ‘secret ingredient,’ but I will say that I am a BIG proponent of free play and exploration. My students have come very far in the development of their social skills, which I attribute a huge part of this to be linked to their extra recess times, opportunities to make independent choices during centers and their opportunities to explore freely during our lessons. We also have very little ‘down’ time during our day, which gives very little time for students to get distracted and find themselves in a situation they shouldn’t be in.
How do you keep your students interested in learning?
I try and keep my students interested in learning by making concepts as relatable as possible to their own personal lives. This can be really hard, especially when our ELA curriculum is talking about the 1920s countryside living or even learning about Columbus, but I try to find ways to make lessons more hands-on and creative. I also like to incorporate as much movement as possible into our daily routines so that the students are rarely sitting for longer than 15 minutes at a time.
How are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?
I try and make sure that my lessons are not only practical for all students’ developmental needs, but also make them more than just pencil to paper. We do differentiated center activities and try to do as many hands-on, exploratory learning! Right now, we are watching the metamorphosis process happen right before our eyes with our chrysalises!