Environment, Environment, Environment

 I have been loving this Teaching with Intention book study hosted by Greg Smedley.  A big thank you to this week’s chapter hosts, Surfin Through Second, The Learning Chambers, and Sassy Savvy Simple Teaching.   This week’s chapter was all about the classroom environment.  I have to admit that although my summer is just a few weeks in, I am already excited to plan my classroom layout.  That being said, I have made a promise with myself this year that I WILL NOT go into my classroom to work until August!

The chapter started out with a thoughtful quote, “I believe that classroom environments are most effective when they are literate and purposeful, organized and accessible, and, most of all, authentic.”

Does this describe your classroom?  Do some things come to mind that you want to change?  How do you go about planning your classroom space each year?  Debbie Miller suggests to start by…

FIRST THINGS FIRST-CLEAR THE DECKS!
If your classroom needs a complete overhaul, Debbie says it is necessary to start by getting rid of things we don’t need.  It seems like every summer I go in way earlier than I need to and end up throwing away and reorganizing my entire room.  Here’s some #teachertruth photos for you just to keep it real!

 Do these pictures give you some slight anxiety like they do for me?  This is just proof that I literally go through every cabinet, shelf, drawer, and file!  The pile that you see in the picture above is proof that I throw stuff every year!  Not only am I throwing, I have a pile that goes in the hallway for teachers to grab and use.  It always amazing to me how one person’s junk can be another person’s treasure so I am glad that somebody finds it to be useful!  I need to bring myself through this process every summer because it helps clear my mind and it also reminds myself what exactly is in those cabinets!  Debbie states it best, “Could it be that clearing the physical clutter of my room also cleared the mental clutter in my mind?”  YES!!!

Next task…

CREATE YOUR THINKING CLASSROOM & ROOM ARRANGEMENT
Once my room is clean, I am able to start thinking about how the student materials are organized and room arrangement.  I always start with my meeting area.  Keep in mind that these photos are from previous years, I can’t wait to reveal to you what my room is going to look like this year!  I am doing a complete overhaul (imagine that)!

My whole group meeting area is a key area for me.  This is the area that we all come together throughout the day.  This is where we have our classroom discussions, turn and teach moments, mini-lessons, shared reading, read-alouds, anchor chart talk, shared writing, modeling, etc.  My whole group meeting area includes a rug, Smartboard, document camera, marker board, focus walls, pointers, clipboards, markers, you get the idea.

The next area that I carefully plan and think out is my small group area.  My small group area is used all day long.  I use it for tier math and reading instruction group time, a space for students to go who need a quiet place to finish their work, writing and reading conferences, or even just another place for partners to sit together to work.  I have some big plans for this area next year too but for now you will notice that this area houses wikki sticks, marker boards, brag tags, reading trackers, reading cards, story sticks, magnet letters, running records binder, leveled readers, etc.

Another area of my classroom that I am really thinking hard about is my classroom library.  Debbie Miller states that books shouldn’t be confined to one area but instead spread out and integrated around the classroom.  Debbie says that it’s difficult to select books with purpose and intention in situations where you have 27 students all rushing to the same area to select a book.  Wouldn’t you take almost any you could get your hands on, just to avoid the crush?  It’s really an interesting perspective.  I am guilty of having all of my books confined to one area.  That being said, my students are rarely all picking books at the same time and if that is the case, I would have them dismissed to go over in smaller numbers.  I do want to spend some more time reflecting on what that would look like in my classroom though.  It has kind of intrigued my thinking….stay tuned…

I will admit that this is not the best picture of my library but you get the idea.  Books in tubs that are leveled according to their Accelerated Reading level.  Picture book covers are facing forward for easy browsing.  Chapter books are on a shelf with the spines facing out but I know that I need a different system for these too.  Again, my wheels are turning…stay tuned for a more organized and cozier reading area for the 2015-2016 school year!

Alright, let’s talk tables.  Prior to coming to my current school district, my students sat at tables.  It was all that I knew.  Then I moved home and have taught with my students at desks.  I DESPISE them.  They are a hot mess and kids are always digging for days trying to find that glue stick or pencil.  Trust me, I’ve tried to teach them how everything needs to have a place and that when you put something away, it goes back in that place.  It never fails, we clean our desks on a Thursday and by Friday they are destroyed.  So, I asked begged my principal to let me order tables and guess who’s getting 4 new tables!  EEEEKKKK!!!  I am so excited!  I have big plans for this too!  I just love the collaborative opportunities that naturally present themselves in a seating arrangement setting such as this.  I will have more to say about this at another time…

THINKING ABOUT LITERATE, PURPOSEFUL, AUTHENTIC ENVIRONMENTS
I really enjoyed this part of the chapter.  When you think about your classroom is it a place the evidence of your students’ learning is displayed?  Do your students have a sense of pride when they look around the classroom?  Is their hard work showcased?

As much as I love to have a cute and “matchy” classroom, I also loving nothing more than to look around and see kid work.  It’s the best.  It, honestly, makes my heart smile huge.  When I have recently hung a new project, I can’t grab my camera fast enough to snap a ton of pictures because I love it that much.  Hanging student work is usually something that gets done on my prep or before/after school.  One of my favorite things is watching a child’s reaction when they have found their project hanging up.  The smile and look of instant gratification and pride is so good for my teacher soul.  I leave you with some student work snapshots that I have displayed in my classroom.  Thanks for reading this post!

2 Comments

  1. suzstj

    Your room is so big! I am so jealous! I have the exact same whole group rug. I love the pictures of all your students' work. Thanks for sharing so many pictures of your classroom – I love it when teacher bloggers show keep it real.

    Reply
  2. Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd

    As I'm sitting down with my coffee this morning at the beach I realized that I never read this post of yours!! I will have to dig out a picture of the day we had over 100 adjectives on the board last year…. it reminds me SO much of your picture!! Goodness I would love to teach with you, #bloggybestie!! Hope you're having a great week!!

    Ashley
    Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd

    Reply

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Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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