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Situations of Structure - for 4/11

et502's picture

Hey Everyone! Emily, Riley, Elizabeth, & Nicole here! Please respond to this post - We're going to use your Serendip repsonses for a silent discussion/reflection activity.  

Think about a situation in your placement where you saw structure (or lack of structure). Was it conducive to learning? Write 1-2 paragraphs about this moment. 


ccalderon's picture

Interesting structure

I see structure every time I go to my placement. As soon as the students come in the room they have a morning message that they have to complete. This consist of editing grammar mistakes and announcements. After they complete this activity they typically go into writing in their journals. They are given a prompt that they could write about. But they can write it in a poem form story form, etc.. During their writing time the teacher puts on music. After she stops the music the students know to either close their book or raise their hands to share their writing.

I see structure in the lesson plan but I also see some wiggle room for where the students could take the teacher. After watching the student's go through the state testing, I saw that her the clasrrom structure is a bit more open. 

Sharaai's picture

It is needed.

When it comes to structure, I am in a classroom where structure is an important part of the classroom enviroment not only for the teacher and aids but also for the students. In general. students with autism tend to stick to schedules and structure. It is not uncommon for classrooms to have multiple schedules around the classroom out lining various parts of the day. 

But in my placememt last semester, the students really liked the structure of the day. I was in a first grade inclusive classroom with a total of 6 students. Each student had their own schedule in a folder with their name on, each student had an assigned seat at each table, assigned hooks in the classroom and even assigned classroom jobs such as line leader. For them, this structure was really important because it kept them on task with anything else that could come up. When they were comfortable, they were more willing to complete their, participate in class and work nicel with their peers. 

L13's picture

Can it ever be perfect?

In thinking about structure (or the lack of structure) in my placement, I am drawn to questions surrounding individual student needs. At my placement, the students are given lesson time to just roam around the classroom and pick whatever lesson they want to work on. This is usually done individually and without teacher intervention – they are supposed to want to do a lesson and seek out a lesson for themselves rather than being told to do something.


For some students - this really works. They love the freedom and are able to pick the lesson they need as well as start and finish it in a time that is appropriate for them. Other students clearly struggle. This past week, the teachers thought a student who is not self motivated in her learning might be on the autism spectrum. They note that she doesn’t seem focused and often has trouble with some of the lessons. Rather than jumping to the thought that she is autistic – I wonder if this is more about her learning style – maybe if she was in a classroom with more structure it would help her focus?


It would seem, that like learning styles, a discussion surrounding structure would also have to include individualized learning for each students. To state the obvious – some students need and thrive in structure and others don’t. That being said, are classrooms either structured or unstructured? Could there ever be a perfect classroom structure that is appropriate for all type of learners? Do standardized tests basically dictate that there has to be structure at some point for everyone? 

mencabo's picture


Since I’m the teacher at my field placement (adult ESL), the structured/unstructured issue is always on my mind. I am challenged to find ways to blend both elements into my lessons. Often we think about time as the backbone that shapes and determines whether or not a class is structured. While that seems unavoidable, I’m trying to think about the possibility that the unstructured is what actually forms/creates the structure…the best example that I can think of right now is the way I conducted my conversation class. You can think of the 2.5-hour class period as the structure, but the contents of that period is unstructured in that we talked about basically any topic that we wanted to bring up.

In my current class, a test prep class, I do give an estimated amount of time for certain activities, but I try to open up time for anything that students want to bring up. I understand that this is not going to be the case for k-12 schools, but sometimes I think the unstructured time can enrich the overall structure of a class.

Julie Mazz's picture

(Lack of) Structure in the Classroom

Last semester, I was in a 9th grade journalism class at a school in Philadelphia. The class had a very basic structure that the teacher kept to every day; he would introduce a short worksheet, the students would complete it, he would go over it, and they would spend the rest of class working on one of their various writing assignments. The classroom had a laptop cart, so the students would pick one out and spend the rest of the class on their computers. The students, for the most part, come from low-income families, and the teacher knew that for some of them, they would not be able to type up their articles if they didn't have time on a computer during class. He said that most do have access to a computer, but to keep everything equal he allocated that class time to working individually.

The class is 90 minutes, and about 75 minutes of it is spent with each kid working on their own on their laptops. I was very surprised by this when I first joined the classroom, because it didn't seem like he was really teaching. However, I quickly learned that it was necessary for these students. Overall though, it was a very unstructured 75 minutes, as the kids could work on whatever they wanted to. It was up to their discretion to finish one assignment, work on two, or just browse the internet if they were done with everything. I think it was good to instill this sense of freedom now, as it's similar to what they'll have when/if they go to college. Also, the journalism class is technically an elective class (although the teacher said that they're placed there by the school, for the most part) so it should probably be more relaxed than a regular English or science class.

rbp13's picture


Like jcb2013, the students in the school where I am placed will be taking the PSSA for the next two weeks. While my class of second graders will not be taking the test until next year, they are still affected by the schedule change because their teacher will be proctoring another class's exam. Over the next two weeks, the students in my class will be split into groups and spend the morning in one of the other second grade teachers' classes. On Friday, my cooperating teacher took time out of reading period to specifically discuss they way the students' schedule will look during the PSSA. She explained that they would still come to her room in the morning to drop off their belongings, but they would then go with their group to the other class to which they had been assigned. The teacher explained that, unlike in their class, during the next two weeks, they would be doing science and reading in the morning and have Special in the afternoon; she told the students that depending on whose class they were placed in, they would be reading a different story from their textbook; she even specifically told the class that those students who would not be reading the story that she would have taught, will be given the opportunity to catch up after the PSSA. My cooperating teacher concluded her explanation of the next two weeks saying that if her students behaved in the other teachers' classes, they would be able to have a party.  

I was impressed with how detailed my cooperating teacher's instructions to her students were. I think that the structure provided by explaining the revised schedule will help the students transition better to other classes because they know what to expect. Also, the promise of a reward if they follow the other teachers' rule will likely motivate the students to behave appropriately.

jcb2013's picture

PSSA Structure Increase

Today at my placement the PSSAs were being taken by the the 3rd-5th graders.  This extra stress within the school added/changed the normal school culture, and classroom structure.  While the school is generally very controlled and structured, today it was even more so.  Students who were not testing (like my kindergarten class) had to be silent in the hallways (this was stressed even more than usual, which didn't seem possible).  In addition, since there were not designated testing areas, the classroom next door was testing, creating even more pressure for our classroom to be silent.  This increased structure was stressful for the teachers, and (in my opinion) caused the students to be even more chatty and fidgety.  The less freedom the students were given (as activities were more individualized, and less experiencial as to keep the noise down) the more active it seemed the students became. This presented the question to me whether there is a type of bell curve for classroom/student structure; that to a certain extent structure increases learning/positive behavior, but once a certain amount of structure is passed, if good behavior/student learning decreases?

Uninhibited's picture


Since I'm not in the classroom setting per se, I don't see classroom or college access structure in the same way. However, I can say that in describing their strategies educators often spend a lot of time talking about the structure of such programs. One of the schools for example has a very structured college access curriculum in which students go through the guidance counselor to apply and then are asked to follow a certain number of steps. They have a strict timeline of meetings, deadlines and application information that needs to be submitted depending on your year. 

I wonder how much structure, or the lack of it, impacts these programs...

Uninhibited's picture


Since I'm not in the classroom setting per se, I don't see classroom or college access structure in the same way. However, I can say that in describing their strategies educators often spend a lot of time talking about the structure of such programs. One of the schools for example has a very structured college access curriculum in which students go through the guidance counselor to apply and then are asked to follow a certain number of steps. They have a strict timeline of meetings, deadlines and application information that needs to be submitted depending on your year. 

I wonder how much structure, or the lack of it, impacts these programs...

dshu's picture

Structure within the classroom

It is very interesting when I read page 277 in Improving your Pacing, which lists 8 activities suggested for teaching a lesson. I recognize 5 activities. i.e., Do Now, teach lesson, guide examples, independent work, review and Exit Ticket that are being used by math teacher Mrs. Bard reflects what happens at my field placement. My placement is in urban high school math classes. Below is what I observed in one of my visits.

Mrs. Bard used her laptop and projector for the Do-Now as well as her remaining lessons of the class. Each class period is 53 or 54 minutes long. The Do-Now is a 5-minute task. There was a timer on her laptop that was projected onto the screen on the wall so everyone could see it. In most cases, a timer can represent time constraint and stress to people. At first, I thought the structure of her lecture was intense. However, looking back, though it was a time constraint, it teaches students to use their time wisely. After the Do-Now, came Direct Instruction (DI). Today's objective was "SWBAT define and identify diameters and radii of circles and find their lengths by using the distance formula." When I first saw SWBAT, I had absolutely no idea what the acronym stood for. As a learner and an observer, I sat in my seat guessing here and there, but was not even close to anything. So I decided to try to look it up online later and learned that SWBAT stood for “Student Will Be Able To…” I also want to note that it is hard for me to communicate with Mrs. Bard during class and after class since she teaches her classes consecutively on Wednesday.

After DI, Mrs. Bard went over class themes that were posted in front of the classroom right above the board. She explained to her students about the performance of her students at Learning Campus versus the other ECS charter schools. Her big goal was to increase 10% Above Excellence Charter School Benchmark Average.

Students at ECS follow a structure schedule within the class. When DI is done, students work in pairs at their desk to solve geometry problems. Student on the right started with whiteboard and marker and then asked to lift boards up to show his or her answers and work. Then, the students on the left also did the same task. After this activity, students moved on to Independent Practice (IP). This is a 10 minutes activity. On the board, IP is where students are "Silent. Independent. Academic Posture."

The final part of class was the exit ticket and this was where students are "Silent. Independent. Show all work." Students here worked up to three problems on their own to exhibit what they have learned to Ms. Bard.

Sarah's picture

The three workshops we've

The three workshops we've conducted at my placement have been fairly structured.  We plan different activities and estimate the amount of time.  From the perspective of a facilitator, I find the structure to be very helpful: it gives the participants an idea of what we're doing for the day, and allows for different types of expression throughout the workshop (writing, pair and share, full group discussion).  The only time we are relaxed about structure it when we allow an activity to take more time than planned because we, as a group, judge that it is worth staying with that particular topic.  Thinking about it now, I guess there is a balance between structure and lack of structure. We always come in with an idea of what we want to do, but are open to changes based on participant suggestions.  We also don't have structure like raising your hand in discussion (though sometimes participants do so out of happen).

hl13's picture


In my placement, the teacher devotes about a half hour every day to SSR (Sustained Silent Reading). This activity has an interesting mix of structure and freedom which seems to be a beneficial part of the day's schedule. First of all, it is always the first activity they do after lunch. It seems chaotic at first, because my teacher is relaxed about allowing the class to get to their desks and reading quietly. However, I think this mix of structure and freedom is good, especially after lunch, because it gets the class calmed down for the following lesson. My teacher has effectively used an activity (SSR) to make good use of the time it takes for a class of 4th graders to calm down after having recess and lunch, which does not end up taking away fro, a lesson he teaches. Secondly, my teacher also uses this time to let students catch up on work if they were behind or absent, or get other work done. For example, this past week he was giving students reading assesments for the parent-teacher meetings. 

ellenv's picture

Station Days

Every once a while, the classroom I am in for placement has station days. Each one of these station days has followed the same structure during my time in the classroom. There are always 6 stations, each station taking place at a different table in the classroom and the station number referring to the table number (except when im there, and then station #6 is on the rug with me). The students rotate through the stations in the same order (filtering through stations 1 to 6) and the teacher goes over this order and the assignment at each station at the beginning of class before beginning stations. Last week at my placement, the students were at stations again and after the class had left, the teacher started talking to be about one student, Arnold, who had gone to the wrong table at several points during stations time. She asked Arnold why he was at the wrong station and he indicated that he was never sure where to go next and so he usually just followed the rest of his group members. Because the class had changed table groups recently though, he had forgotten who was in his group and just went to the table he thought was right. The teacher was confused about how to make the structure of stations more accessible to this student given that they had been doing stations since the beginning of the year and this student had never raised a concern before.

transitfan's picture

Structure in meetings

Quakers aren't known to be very structured, but the EnvironmentalQuakerActivistSquad (pseudonym), full of not only Quakers but also anarchists, does an exellent job with structuring meetings.

Agendas are posted on the board, which timings, which are kept to. There are opportunities for breakout groups, which don't always report-back to the large group.

In the couple of meeting's I've attended, EQAS doesn't keep stack; people speak freely. As I write this, I realize that EQAS meetings are similar in some ways to Ed Classes in the Bico.