The ornaments of your home are the people who smile upon entering time and time again.
This fall marks the third year our family will host an exchange student. First there was Taija 12 years ago, before Andy and I had kids of our own. We traveled from sea to shining sea with Taija. Every month we were headed to another state, visiting family and landmarks and you-can’t-be-in-America-and-not-experience-this places. We also did the dishes together every night. We joked that our dishwasher (Andy) was an American model and the dish drier (Taija) was an import model. We learned a family isn’t built on blood, but on adventures and card games and laughter.
Then there was Karianne five years ago. We had three kids by the time Kari arrived. We learned a family grows close when they invest in one another. We cheered Karianne on at her soccer games and tennis matches. She went to elementary open houses and art shows. We ate pizza out of the box while watching movies, and we laughed over heated games of Hungry Hungry Hippos. We all pitched in each night for “15 Minutes to Clean,” and Kari did more loads of laundry than I did that year.
As I write this, Martha hasn’t arrived yet. By most definitions she is a stranger, yet I know she will soon become family. We already consider her the newest addition to our forever family, and she is taking up space in our hearts.
It reminds me of the way a class of students works. By most definitions, they begin as strangers, yet we know they will soon become family. I wonder how a person can go from stranger to family, often in a remarkably short amount of time. For a world that teaches us to build walls around our hearts, classrooms remain a place where families form.
I think it happens through a combination of play and work. The weekend Martha arrives we will go swimming, play card games, and take her to the loud and crazy Ayres family reunion. She will also empty the dishwasher and fold laundry. It takes both, play and work, to become a family. The same is true in our classrooms. It is through play and work that bonds are formed and communities of learners are built.
This week we look at two areas where classroom communities bond and are built — libraries and meeting areas. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Ruth Ayres is a full-time writing coach for Wawasee School District in northern Indiana. She blogs at Ruth Ayres Writes and is the coauthor of Day by Day and other books available through Stenhouse Publishers.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Katherine Sokolowski explains why it is important to sort and weed out books carefully before the new year begins:
Bitsy Parks explains how she designs her first-grade classroom library for “gradual release” throughout the fall in a way that allows students to build book-browsing skills:
Edutopia’s 5-Minute Film Festival of makeover videos is full of ideas for classroom libraries and meeting areas that are inspiring:
For Members Only
Andrea Smith shares a sequence of lessons she uses to introduce the classroom library to her fourth-grade students:
Christy Rush-Levine explains how she gradually stocked her middle school classroom library, as well as how she uses student librarians to ensure books aren’t lost:
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills describe how they set up their meeting area with the right supplies to build community and student independence:
Katherine Sokolowski considers how classroom design says a lot about the relationship between students and teachers in Who Owns the Room?:
In this encore video, The Sisters (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser) complete a meeting area makeover for a first-grade teacher:
That’s all for this week!