Beyond These Four Walls

Believe it or not, there is an actual term called ‘seat time’.  Yes – states, the national government, school boards, and the rest of ’em, refer to the amount of time a student needs to be learning as “the time they spend in their seats.”  So, we create spaces where students feel safe, comfortable, and willing to risk as we maneuver around this idea of ‘seat time’ because really, who wants to be in a seat for hours upon hours a day?

We move furniture around and engage in Sky Writing (writing on the windows), we use bright colors to liven the spot up and throw rugs on the floor, we use wind chimes and zen gardens to channel our collective inner peace.  I love all of this.  I do.  Because our classrooms are our homes away from home, we invest in them.  For students, sometimes it’s their only home.

Until now.

This year I’m taking the show on the road.  And by show, I obviously mean the Reading Writing Workshop…because I wouldn’t stay home or head out without it.

I’m not alone in this vein of thought.

Amy has gently drenched us with her new found love for teaching poetry; inclusive of strategies, techniques, and student buy-in that emerged for her this summer at Frost Place.  Shana (and her hubby) have taken us to England where we virtually toured historically majestic places where remarkable literaries once stepped foot.  And, Jackie has provided us the opportunity to be audience members through Poetry Out Loud as we envision the poetic brilliance eminating from our New England youth.

Thank you, ladies.  I’d like to return the favor.


Welcome to the streets of NYC where students and I take on the challenge of reading throughout the entire day ‘outside of seat time’!

We know, educating our youth is a collective effort – always.  Therefore when my principal afforded our students the opportunity to purchase books of their choosing, he envisioned handing them their individual gift cards and letting them be on their way.  While this is lovely and most definitely appreciated, I needed to be part of the process with our emerging and evolving readers.

This journey needed to be a collective.


Our ‘seat time’ for the day!

The goal was to ensure that the day was full of all things literature – from the moment we left the building.  So, as students and I bundled up to head out into the winter cold, we locked the door to Room 382 with metrocards in hand, Writer’s Notebooks in tow, and independent reading books tucked into our bags.  While enroute to the four-story Barnes and Noble located in the heart of Union Square, the NYC subway became our independent reading haven.  Students were aghast at first to know that I was serious about reading, not only on the train…but in public.  Yet, once reality set in, one-by-one books started to surface.  Students started to seep into their pieces and some decided to (unconsciously) ignore the fifteen minute benchmark; they found their time on the subway to be soothed by the lull of everyday noises that so typically distract them.  Today is different.

Today we are readers.  Public readers.

On the hunt for literature

On the hunt for literature

As we arrived at our destination, students were given a lay of the land and had the opportunity to go explore.  I learned a lot in that moment, and in the moments to follow.  I learned that while working with students for five months now, I still do not know all of their literary interests…or that some prefer to read graffitti art books because they are fueled by creativity…or that some have been intrigued by forensics since they started the course about a month ago – and so of course – they want to read up on it…or that graphic novels are still at the core of young men’s desire to read.  As students traveled up and down escalators to find what they were looking for I was proud of their willingness to take on an adventure that had the potential to be wildly overwhelming.


Weeks later, back in Room 382 and in true RWW form, we took to our Writer’s Notebooks and students were asked to chronicle a vivid moment in their lives.  What you are about to read took my breath away, literally.

A vivid moment comes to life...

A vivid moment comes to life…

Davon decided to chronicle this moment:

The first time I went to Barnes and Noble it shocked me a lot. I didn’t even know what Barnes and Noble was intill I got there with my teacher and classmates.  When we got there and I realized it was a book store, I was shocked.  I started feeling all types of bad feelings running threw my body.  I was nervous and had butterflys in my stomach.  Seeing all the people at different book shelf’s in there made me feel like I didn’t have no business being there.The fact that everyone looked like they knew what they were doing and looking for, made me just want to stay out of everyone way and get out of there.  


Davon in deep thought


Davon’s honesty is brave.  And from the looks of it he managed just fine. Better than fine.  He found a piece that would keep him company over the holiday break, that would fuel his imagination, and that would support him in his literacy quest.  A piece he is calling his own.

Using our ‘seat time’ in the most unconventional ways proves that as educators, we know how to support the needs of our students. Sometimes we borrow strategies and ask for guidance, but innately we know what each new group of students needs.  Sometimes it takes a minute to figure it out or customize differentiated plans to make it work.  However, I propose that instead of always rearranging our seating chart or window decals or placement of colored pens…we need to bust out of the four walls in which we learn everyday and let the RWW guide us through the wonders just outside.

In what ways do you foster student learning through the RWW outside of your classroom walls?

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12 thoughts on “Beyond These Four Walls

  1. […] post at Three Teachers Talk about taking her students on a field trip to Barnes & Noble is a really important read. It got me thinking about the ways that we could work to find and create […]


  2. Kara February 7, 2015 at 9:20 am Reply

    Awesome, Erika. I like seeing how people entertain themselves on public transit (because, you know, in Vermont, I have lots of opportunities to do that…). I always feel like the Rebellion is winning when I see people reading physical books.

    I had a colleague in grad school who used teach a unit to her freshman comp classes on public space. For one assignment, students had to go to some public space and make observations for 45 minutes on how the space was set up, being used, etc. In some future class, I want to send my students into other classes and have them observe the space and how people are using it in ways sanctioned and subversive.

    This also reminds me of our sex ed teacher who assigns kids to go look at condom displays and evaluate how they feel (i.e. what would you feel like if your elderly neighbor came up behind you right now?).


  3. Erika B. January 30, 2015 at 9:19 am Reply

    Thanks for your continued support, CB. XOXOX


  4. Keep going,GREAT JOB , EB, I am truly impressed. Can Do. XXX CB. January 29, 2015 at 9:25 pm Reply

    Keep going, GREAT JOB. EB . I am truly impressed. Can DO. xxxxx CB


  5. Erika B. January 28, 2015 at 7:50 pm Reply


    Thank you for your genuine kindness. You are so good for the soul!



  6. jackiecatcher January 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm Reply

    Wow in true Erika fashion, this piece gave me goosebumps. I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall during this experience–a moment that validates why we chose to become teachers in the first place. Incredible!


  7. Kim L. January 28, 2015 at 10:15 am Reply

    This is a testament to the work of the RWW and a teacher who finds new and unique ways to bring the power of literature to her students. As always, it is beautiful to watch and inspiring to read about.


    • Erika B. January 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm Reply


      Thank you for sharing in our ‘reading in the world’ rendevouz as well as supporting the RWW work that takes shape daily at BBA.

      Your support is appreciated,


  8. Ruth January 28, 2015 at 8:20 am Reply

    Applause!!! The fact that people “out in public” is an eye opener for so many of our students. II am always struck by students’ bravery and that is a compliment to the trust you have built.


    • Erika B. January 28, 2015 at 12:45 pm Reply


      I love reading in public…and love (even more…should that be possible)…watching students engage in the world as public readers. There’s so much power in visibly obtaining knowledge regardless of the distractions that interfere with that process.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts,


  9. Amy January 28, 2015 at 6:10 am Reply

    What a great reminder of our responsibility as educators to teach the whole child. The part about reading on the subway struck me the most. These students will forever remember this experience you crafted for them. And they will always notice people reading. Maybe they will be one of them. Bravo, Miss Bogdany, and your brilliant students!


    • Erika B. January 28, 2015 at 12:43 pm Reply


      Thank you for surfacing the mention of the ‘whole child’. I love how innately and organically the RWW meets students where they are as students…and…as individuals. It makes the educating and learning so much more lively!



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