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Classroom Management Versus Exploratory Learning

As a teacher who wants to support children as they construct their own learning through exploration, inquiry and play, I must always strike a balance with classroom management. The following is a classroom management fail:


The children wanted to explore camping. To support this, I set up a full-sized tent in my classroom. Little A decided that she needed every single toy bin inside of the tent. Not wanting to suppress her creativity, I allowed her to gather one bin after another, with a reminder that she would have to clean up and put away each item. She agreed.



When clean-up time arrived, Little A refused to clean up. I warned her (trying to use logical consequences) that she would have to stay in the tent with the toys until it was cleaned. She agreed.

Lunch was served. She still had not started putting away the toys. I told her she would have to eat lunch in the tent. She agreed.


It was nap time. She still had not started putting away the toys. I told her she would have to nap in the tent. She agreed.


Finally, it was time for the kids to go home, but she still had not put away the toys. I told her that her mom was to arrive soon, and that she would not be able to go home until the toys were put away. She agreed.

Her mom arrived. She still had not put away the toys. In fact, she had dumped all of the bins into a pile of toys. I explained to her mom the logical consequence I had been trying all day, and asked for her support.

Little A’s mom went into the tent and asked her for a solution. Little A whispered “my friends should help me.” And they agreed. Not only did they agree, they ran around sorting and putting away the toys while Little A sat on her cot like the queen of her day care world, with a giant, grin that seemed to say, “Look what I can do.”  


As I reflected on the events of that day, I wonder which of us constructed our own learning and which of us managed the classroom.

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