Fourth graders in the Penta/Marchionno/Meyer class at CV Starr recently had the opportunity to set the tone for their class for the year.
“After reading Miss Nelson is Missing, our students came up with ideas for what makes the best classmate, what makes the best teacher, and how we want to feel in our classroom,” Kathryn Marchionno said. “We used these amazing answers to create our class pledge.”
The teaching team grew up reading and loving Miss Nelson is Missing, the classic picture book written by Harry Allard and illustrated by James Marshall. The book is also a frequent favorite with their students.
“Reading it breaks the ice and gets the kiddos really thinking about the type of classroom environment and teacher they would not only want, but need,” said Elena Penta.
The teachers wanted their students to be able to express how the book made them feel. They came up with a series of questions that students moved around the room answering on Post-It notes. Questions included:
- What makes the best teacher?
- What makes the best classmate?
- What makes a classroom feel safe?
- What are some ways we can feel safe and welcome in our classroom?
- How do you want to feel in our classroom?
From there, they studied the answers to pull common themes from each question and collaboratively create their class pledge. The teachers then challenged students to think more deeply about each part by considering how exactly each piece of the pledge might work in their classroom. Groups of students presented their thoughts to the rest of the class before they all signed their pledge.
Students came up with truly thoughtful answers to each component of their pledge.
When discussing how to be respectful in their classroom, for example, students considered both the physical space and the feelings of their peers.
“We can give confidence,” one said.
“We can keep our classroom clean.”
“We can help someone if we see them doing the wrong thing.”
Once each group had shared their ideas for how each piece of their pledge could work, Penta had an important question for them.
“Do you think we can do these things?”
When they voiced their approval, she continued. “This is hard, but you all showed us that you’re ready to sign our pledge and be part of our classroom community.”
They lined up, each signing their name with Sharpie as an indication that they are ready to be held accountable for the class’s pledge.
“Our ultimate goal in doing this activity is not only to hear everyone's voice, but for each student to hear each other's voices,” Marchionno said. “We are passionate about building a strong foundation based on the classroom community so each individual feels warm, welcomed, and safe. We don't refer to ourselves as a class, but rather a family, where each person plays an important role.”