Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Setting the Stage - Act 1

If we’d walk into your classroom, what would we see?

Is it welcoming? Bright, cheerful, organized?

Does it reflect your students’ involvement? How can you tell that your class occupies this space, for at least a small amount of time each week?

Is it a “Jewish space?” What makes a space Jewish?

Very few of us have the luxury of having our own space – most of us share with at least one other group: sometimes more. If we’re fortunate, our classroom is located in a larger Jewish space (synagogue building, JCC, Jewish camp). In that case, the “big picture” has already been established and there may well be symbols of Judaism visible/audible to our students: mezuzot, Hebrew letters, books with Jewish content, kippot, posters, signs, music, oral Hebrew ….

Some of us work in secular settings: for example, rented public school space or a community center.

Still others share places used for non-Jewish worship or study, such as a church or interfaith center.

Each setting provides its own challenges and opportunities for us to “set the stage” for our students.

When we’re using rented space, the biggest challenges are that 1) nothing can be posted permanently; 2) we can’t store things so that they are readily accessible; and 3) we have little control over the room setup.

Unfortunately, we often look at those challenges and decide that there is nothing that can be done.

Fortunately, that’s not true: there are some things we can do!

We can take chairs off the desks and turn them upright – we just need to remember to replace them at the end of class. In secular school settings, students often have to do this at the end of the day, so you’ll be scaffolding on top of a habit they already have.

We can re-arrange some of the furniture to make the space more conducive to our needs – we just need to remember to move things back at the end of the day. Digital pictures depicting the room as seen from different angles are immensely helpful.

We can laminate posters – and tape them up at strategic places (the door, over the chalk/whiteboard) – we just need to remember to remove them before we leave. A checklist helps with routine reminders.

We can bring displays in –using two tri-fold pieces of cardboard (aka “science fair boards”) clipped together with binder clips – for center work, displays, and sharing information with groups of people.

And that’s just a beginning…..

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