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Engaging the Classroom

The classroom experience is unique each and every day, for each and every student. Every student has multiple perspectives and experiences, while various lessons are being taught each week, which all work together to create a multifaceted learning experience for, not only the students, but also the teachers. Because of the various techniques and the multiple intelligences utilized in each lesson plan, all students are engaged in some manner. For the teaching artists, some weeks prove to be smoother and easier to manage than others based on the engagement and energy of the classroom.

While interning with Community Word Project’s 3rd Grade Poetry & Visual Arts class at PS 84 in Williamsburg, I have seen a really inspiring form of consistency when it comes to learning and teaching, which I think may be due to the structured lesson plans and all the planning and preparations the teaching artists have done to ensure proper classroom management. At the same time however, there is always a slight change to keep things interesting and the students engaged. There has also been an even distribution of writing, poetry, and visual art exercises, which have encouraged students to explore their interests and build their strengths in fields they might not have known they were good at. For example, there is a fun opening ritual each week where students recite the “Breath of Life," a Maori chant from the native people of New Zealand. The last two weeks, I noticed Felipe and Phyllis, the teaching artists in this class, encourage the students to change up the opening ritual a little bit by altering the order of sentences in the chant and having the class repeat after them. The students immediately were excited and wanted to have a chance to recite their version. Based on the interests and energy in the classroom, the teaching artists were also able to learn and change their curriculum as they went.

The next few weeks, the class will be working on community murals and each student will have an opportunity to paint. When this was announced to the class last week, the students were immediately engaged and had numerous questions. It was apparent that their creative minds were already envisioning what they would like to paint and their enthusiasm became contagious. When the students went to their desks to begin writing lines for their community poem, they were motivated and focused, wanting to create something powerful for the mural. It became an engaging classroom experience for everyone present and that engagement I am sure will continue each week. This has been my strongest takeaway the past few weeks: a reinforcement of the importance of a consistent schedule each week, combined with varying amounts of flexibility, so that the classroom experience can constantly evolve and keep everyone engaged. I am excited to take this and implement it in my own classes in the future.

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