Tuesday, August 16, 2011

setting up a classroom

Can you believe it? You have a classroom! For those of you who have been fortunate to land a job, you are likely anxiously and excitedly setting up your first classroom. If you are lucky enough to have a space all to yourself, you get to make all those classroom decisions yourself. Often times, setting up the classroom ends up being a primary focus the weeks leading up to the first year teacher's opening workshop week. This is a natural result of your excitement and need to control something, when you don't really know what to expect once those kiddos show up. So, we'll talk classrooms today, and then I'll have some other issues for you to consider leading up to starting school. Besides, looking prepared can help you feel prepared!

First of all, consider your layout. Are you going to have different areas for students to work? A small group area, partner areas, individual work spaces? Will you want a space kiddos can gather on the floor together? Space for a classroom library? Do you have computers? Do you have a window? Where and what time will sun be coming through, and will it affect students' view of anything? What about a chalkboard/whiteboard/smartboard? Determine what makes sense for these areas and the flow of traffic. Also think about spacing so that when you're working with the whole group, kids have unrestricted views of the smartboard or whatever space you'll be using to put up materials. Desks in rows? Pods? Pairs? Horseshoes? This will come down to your preference. Think back to classrooms you've visited, your practicum and student teaching classrooms. What worked in those classrooms, what did you like, what didn't work and what didn't you like? Think this through to help you decide how you want to layout your classroom.

Supplies. All of you will have specific supplies that students will use regularly, whether those supplies are calculators, reading response journals, markers, dictionaries, whatever. Where will you keep these supplies that make them accessible? What about extra copies of homework (cuz goodness knows kids will need extra copies)? Tissues! You will go through so many tissues (but they are often on your students' supply list, so don't worry about that)!

Let's talk bulletin boards. There are tons of cute borders and posters in all sorts of teacher stores. I spent a lot of money on those (one tip I learned for my second year of teaching was that cheap fabric works fabulously as backgrounds for bulletin boards - it doesn't rip or fade, so you don't have to change it like paper. I raided the clearance bins at fabric stores). And those are great. But don't forget to leave space for your students to put up their work and for you to display new materials early in the year. Some givens are a calendar with announcements, an assignment/homework wall, a word wall. After my first year of teaching, I usually only prettied up a couple bulletin board in my room. For the rest, I put up background paper and then left it to the students to produce the content of the boards. But some principals will want something on all the bulletin boards, so that's just something you'll have to find out. The most important advice I can relay is to consider the distraction-quotient of what you're putting up. We all remember those classrooms where there was so much on the walls you had a hard time paying attention in class. Make sure that your classroom is inviting but not so chock full of stuff that kids don't know where to look.

Your desk. You're unlikely to have any time to sit at your desk the entire length of the school day, so put your desk in a place that won't get in the way of your teaching space. The caveat is if your computer is connected to your LCD projector and you'll want to use it for teaching.

Bottom line is that your classroom should be friendly and inviting and allow students to become part of the room. Make sure resources are available to students. Have an organized system, as you'll be so busy during the day, you won't have time to reorganize until the kids leave for the day and you collapse at your desk to plan the next exhausting and thrilling day. Teaching is so wonderful. Your classroom will be too!

What about your new classroom are you most excited about?
Any cool bulletin board ideas or layout plans you're proud of putting together?


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