Sixth Grade Transition Building a Positive Culture

Our 6th grade Transition team at the Lower School has started off the school year in a unique way, putting together a culture wall as one of their projects this fall. To give the students some ownership over their own actions in the classroom, everyone in the class had to select a quote that embodied what they wanted their culture to be in the Transition program and school as a whole, and then illustrate a board which was installed in the hall.

The goal of the project, in the words of one student, was to create a visual set of guidelines “showing how we need to act and what we need to do to have a good 6th grade transition community.”

John, one of the students in the sixth grade Transition program, said that the project “made me think about how we need to be nice to each other and be respectful to each other.”

In its ideal use case, according to sixth grade transition teacher Monica Kuhlman, the culture wall would serve as a way for students to not only see how the actions of others in the class might not fit the culture they want, but how their own actions might not reflect their classroom values.

“When someone isn’t behaving according to our culture, we can point to the quotes and say, ‘hey, that’s not what we agreed to,’” Kuhlman said. “They can not only point things out to others, but they can also reflect on themselves, show some introspection, and say, “OK, these are some of things I can work on.” Nobody is going to be perfect, but this will help us all, me included, achieve the kind of community we want to have.”

Gabe, another student in the class, said, “I look at mine pretty much every day. It was ‘Without a doubt, nothing is impossible.’ That helps me stay positive.”

The next step for the class is adapting the quotes from their culture wall to the work they’re doing in class. The transition students are working on classroom norms, like staying on topic and not interrupting each other, and that’ll involve building off the culture wall and bringing down the relevant quotes into the classroom and how those quotes apply to how the class actually functions.

Right now, it certainly appears to be having the desired effect.

Alex, another student in the class, said, “I think about our culture wall a lot, and not just how I think about how other people are acting in a group, but how I know that people are thinking about how I am acting in a group. Knowing what we put on our culture wall, I can make better choices.”
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