The Flexibility of a Work Period

I love having a chunk of unscheduled time during my day.  While it rarely happens, when I do have 30-45 minutes to myself with nothing to do, I enjoy being able to look ahead, start planning my next unit, listen to some music, do some writing or reading, or get caught up on television shows.  The freedom to do what I want during a block of time is quite amazing; I’m in charge and it feels good to run the show.

My students are the same way.  They love having long chunks of time to just work independently, which is why we created a student-centered classroom.  We make use of very little direct instruction and individualize our curriculum to best support and challenge our students.  We use the workshop method of literacy instruction to provide the students blocks of time to read and write without distraction or interruption.  My STEM curriculum is very individualized so that the students can work on their own to complete the work, do the learning, and solve the problems.  We provide the students with lots of time in class to just jump into and swim around the ocean of knowledge and learning.

Today in STEM class, my students participated in their last work period for our Astronomy Unit.  They had a chance to finish any last math assignments, complete the Application Phase, and prepare for tomorrow’s math exam.  I was able to meet with each student to review their grades, missing work, and their past self-assessment reflections to help guide them to success in class today.  It was awesome.  The students were focused and worked diligently to complete the numerous tasks at hand.  While half of the students still had work to finish, the other half were completing work to exceed the learning objectives.  They were making models of their solutions to solving Earth’s space junk dilemma, helping their peers understand assignments, and making movies showcasing their understanding of astronomy concepts.  I was able to float around the room, observe, and be in awe of how independent my boys have become.  I was amazed.  They do so enjoy having these flexible work periods during which they can work on whatever portion of the unit they happen to need to or want to work on.  Choice in the classroom allows for engagement.  Providing the students with choices as to what they work on fosters a happy and focused classroom.


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