2014 marks a new school year and a new school for me -- which means I have a new classroom! Here are some pics and highlights from the classroom that I designed and created (with lots of help) for 2014.
Choice and ComfortMany years ago, I moved a way from desks to tables to reflect a more collaborative learning space, and this year I wanted to create spaces for students so that there was more than one place for them to learn. The fixed size of my classroom and the growing number of children in a class are two variable that make this a challenge, so I had to get creative.
Here is a quiet reading corner where students can relax and read. I wanted this corner to somehow feel like a room inside the classroom -- while still allowing for supervision. I purchased two floor tri-folds, one of New York and the other of London, to provide some sense of a room inside a room. I think as many as 10 grade 6 students could sit in this area.
The carpet is a durable indoor/outdoor rug that I will have to monitor for cleanliness. Not sure how long it will last, but it looks cools and offers a different feel for students to sit on. The green boxes are cushioned and open up where I will cycle a variety of reading materials -- I'm starting with magazines.
I brought the baseball chair from home and the blue chair was my mom's. Thanks mom!
I can turn the fluorescent lights off above this reading corner and turn on the floor lamps which offers some warmer lighting for reading. The change in lighting also adds to the feel that this is a special place.
I will introduce this reading corner as a place to read. It's not that students can't talk here, but if kids want to use this space, they primarily need to be reading. There are other places in the classroom for discussion.
Pictured above is a space for small group work that might include peer editing and literacy games with word tiles (think Scrabble or Bananagrams).
My TV is hooked up to an Apple TV. I use the schools public Wifi to access YouTube, Netflix, etc. and airplay from student devices. The TV will be used by me and the students to share stuff that we find on the Internet and stuff we create on our devices. Plus, baseball's post-season starts soon, and the children need to learn about baseball. The TV was from my mom and dad -- Thanks mom and dad!
The black bulletin board will be used to display stuff the students create.
The small table has the computer that is attached to the SMARTBOARD. You'll notice that I do not have a teacher's desk. I tossed my teacher desk four years ago, and I don't miss it. Without a teacher's desk there is way more room for the students. Teacher desks are like a virus, if left unchecked, they grow and grow and grow until one day there is no room for anything else.
Using push pins and yarn, the students will identify where in the world their family came from. The yarn will run to a recipe card that will have the students picture and a short description of their family's past. Students may come from more than one place, so multiple strands of yarn can be run. I have a two bulletin boards like this at the back of the classroom -- one for my grade 6s and one for my grade 8s.
Books, Supplies and Shelving
I love books so it goes without saying that I love that my entire north wall is a bookshelf. However, the shelving was pretty beat up (read: it looked like crap). I thought about painting but decided to use coloured duck tape to cover just the shelve's edge. I think it worked!
All of the books and all of the classroom supplies are available for all to access. The kids don't ever need to ask my permission which frees me up to teach.
Durable fish (read: hard to kill) will find a home here. Some students love to look or listen to a fish tank. It offers a calming effect to a classroom that can sometimes be best described as organized chaos. Some students love to care for the fish which helps make the classroom feel like theirs. Thanks Tamara!
I love quotes almost as much as I love books, so I dedicated a bulletin board to a wall of quotes. Using permanent marker and small canvases, I display my favourite quotes that I inevitably refer to through out the year. Some of my favourite include "Mistakes are our friends", "Progress NOT Perfection", "Think for yourself, your teacher might be wrong", and "The best things in life are not things". As the year goes on, I invite students to create their own canvases with their favourite, insightful quotes.
As for technology, I have limited access to school supplied devices. There is a computer lab and there laptops on carts so I will use them as much as I can while sharing with other teachers. I will invite students to bring their own devices. To be clear, there are huge equity issues around technology.
It's going to be a great year and I think my classroom will provide a safe and and inspiring learning space for students to learn and for me to teach.
I'm always looking for more ideas, so please feel free to leave a comment or email me with any of your ideas.