Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.
It is essential that schools cultivate a community of trust and respect so all students feel welcomed and supported throughout the school day. In every classroom, teachers incorporate research-based teaching methods to promote a supportive learning community where students needs are acknowledged and fulfilled. Students frequently participate in a cooperative learning environment. Cooperative learning helps students figure out how to work together, support each other’s learning, and reflect on their individual learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 32). Teachers who incorporate cooperative learning are also fostering a supportive learning environment. Beesley & Aptorp’s research concluded that additional benefits of cooperative learning include increased academic and socioemotional achievement, higher self-esteem, and decreased feelings of isolation in school (as cited in Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 46).
Before beginning my student teaching experience, I had not considered how cooperative learning operates in a Kindergarten classroom. I also had not thought about how the basic skills needed during cooperative learning also help a teacher ensure students feel like a significant member of the classroom. I quickly discovered there are a few unique qualities about Kindergarten. Kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student, how to participate in academic activities, and how to engage in social interactions. The foundation of cooperative learning is built during Kindergarten as students focus on fundamental life skills like respect, sharing, being kind, and helping others.
As displayed in the picture on the left, my mentor teacher incorporates social skills as part of the students’ learning goals. These skills support a positive classroom culture. Learning social skills helps students’ transition throughout the school day, interact with their peers, and provide assistance to each other during lessons. There is a constant reminder that everyone should practice kindness, caring, and sharing. This focus helps students remember how to cooperate with each other as they line up for recess or inquire about each other’s work. Eventually these skills will aid students as they participate in cooperative learning activities.
Throughout the next few months, a teaching goal of mine is to incorporate more cooperative learning opportunities in addition to social skills learning goals. I think more group-oriented learning tasks will be a great time for students to discover how their developing social skills are utilized during academic activities. A stronger learning environment will be built as students gain confidence working with each other.
Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.