Flipping the Loom: Rethinking Classroom Structure

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Do you remember what a loom looks like? Maybe you learned about it in your history class or in Home Economics. Maybe you’ve even used one.  Looms have been used since before the middle ages to create cloth. They work by binding together the “warp” and the “weft” to make fabric. The WARP is made up of steady fixed columns of material attached to the base of the loom and the WEFT is the material that weave in and out of the columns. Together they bind disparate threads into strong durable cloth.

We’ve been thinking a lot about weaving at the Guild.

For over thirty years*, educational theory has made standards-based learning the WARP of the classroom, asking teachers to weave in their students individual needs in as the WEFT . But emerging research has begun to show that a new way of teaching is possible. Experts from CASEL, Bank Street College of Education, Harvard’s Project Zero, and more, have been championing the importance of child-centered learning in raising achievement scores, reducing stress, and improving student success post graduation. Inspired by their work, the Guild has developed an exciting new approach to how our classrooms should be structured. We think we need to flip the loom.

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What if students’ lives were the WARP? What if we prioritized children’s experiences and addressed the child as an individual first, then wove curriculum in around that structure? While this approach may at first seem counterintuitive, we believe it essential to producing strong learners and positive outcomes.  

“Children bring a tremendous range of life experiences to our classroom,” says Maya, a 4th/5th grade teacher in New York City. “We have students experiencing homelessness, family illnesses, and custody issues. All of this is layered on top of ‘regular’ stressors like anxiety about learning and the coming transition to middle school.”  Maya knows that addressing student as individuals is essential for a productive classroom. “A child who is worried about what’s happening at home,” she says “is going to have a very hard time focusing on what we are learning in the classroom.” In order to be ready and able to learn children must feel safe, acknowledged, and understood.

In addition to understanding their students’ emotional needs, teachers need to address children as individual learners. There are ample opportunities to implement this approach from adapting lessons to address various learning styles, to using children’s existing passions as an entry point to engage them in the learning process, to relating material to student’s own life experiences.

The Children’s Arts Guild offers a wide variety of programming to help educators implement this approach. We work with teachers to create effective and achievable plans tailored to their individual schools or districts. We offer a community of support and resources to guide educators through implementation. Our in-person workshops and online courses will give you the tools to reframe your curriculum and classroom structure to make your students’ personal identities, experiences, and interests a starting point for how you design and implement lessons.

For more information visit our page For Educators or email contact@childrensartsguild.org

*Standards Based Learning, No Child Left Behind, Common Core