I am currently a special education paraprofessional at a school, while I earn my early childhood certificate, and am very lucky to be able to see a variety of classrooms throughout my day. Some rooms are empty, while other rooms are overwhelming. I hope that when it is my turn to build an environment for my classroom I am able to create an engaging room for my students to thrive.
I have always wanted to make my classroom feel like a home. I want to bring in chairs, lamps, rugs, table clothes, curtains etc. I think that if I can provide my students with a calming environment I will be able to provide them with Ellin’s three key components, which create culture engagement. In rooms that I have long term subbed in in the past I almost always have relaxing music playing in the background. I direct my student’s noise level by how much of the music they should be able to hear. In my experience it has worked well for classroom management and I have actually had students come up and request the music be put on because it helps them concentrate.
There are two things that I will change in my future classroom because of reading this chapter. One, I will provide the students with fewer books in the library so they are not overwhelmed. When a young student is overwhelmed I feel like that is a recipe for disaster. I think that I will change my books out by units and seasons to minimize choice and focus on my goals for the given week or month. Second, I want to let students be problem solvers by themselves. I am learning about this technique because I am spending part of my day in Kindergarten and if a teacher lead every argument during the day nothing academic would get done! I think that as long as I have posters around the room to remind students how to problem solve I will be able to simply redirect them to the posters.
I like the idea of playing music in the background. It would be very soothing and would definitely cut down on the level of talking/noise going on in the classroom. I'm sure the students love being able to request music too!
The kids really enjoy it. They know it has to be quiet music during work but during times like snack they are able to request any song they want - obviously school appropriate :)
In my first grade teacher we use background music daily during writer’s workshop. It has served as an excellent signal for students to differentiate between collaborative moments of our day and independent writing time. By this point in the year students are so tuned to the signal that the second that background music starts to play all the sounds associated with getting situated immediately stop and we start to focus on writing.
I have not used background music (yet!) in writing class, but after reading how well it is working for all of you, I would like to give it a try:) I would love to have students settle down more quickly into independent writing time, and the music you all are suggesting might just do the job in my room. Thanks for sharing!
I agree, music, as you described, is a great idea. The cognitive benefits of music for concentration and academic purposes has been fairly well documented. It’s encouraging to hear that music is being used successfully for young learners. I hadn’t considered the additional benefit of music as a potential classroom management tool. Thanks for sharing!
I also like music in the classroom. It calms everyone. And you are so right about problem solving in kindergarten and beyond. I find myself constantly saying, "Work it out. You don't need me for this."
The past few years I have been working hard to make an engaging, accepting, and interesting atmosphere for students. I have been working on collecting books with all kind of people in different family situations as characters. I have noticed that I had to work hard at finding and displaying books with children of different races. These past two years, I especially was looking for books that included African American kids that were not limited to the topics of slavery, civil rights, or discrimination.
I also had been working, while teaching fifth grade, on having students share their independent reading titles. Every day a few students shared what was happening in their books. We talked about book choices and how to choose books that are a good fit. And, of course, shared books with each other!
I had also worked on having students share their writing that last few minutes of writing workshop. Sometimes a few students shared whole group, sometimes we pair-shared, sometimes I shared a particular piece. We talked about how the sharing was to help other students raise the level of their writing and to get ideas on how to raise our own level of writing.
What I would change... well, I like the idea the author suggested of infusing JOY. I would like to infuse more JOY into the classroom.
I really like the idea of having students share their own books that they are reading for pleasure. I think that this will definitely create a great classroom relationship and will allow students to be exposed to new genres and series!
I love that you are looking for more books that feature African Americans. It reminds me of the episode "Black History" on Blackish. Walter Dean Myers is a popular author
I read your post about having a hard time finding books for your classroom that are diverse in nature, especially African American books. You should try Scholastic Book Club. I know my sister, who is a first-grade teacher, has acquired a large volume of diverse books from Scholastic Book Club that she has included in her classroom library. A plus to purchasing from Scholastic Book Club is that the books are reasonably priced. I like your idea of having students share their independent reading text, as well as their writings with the class. I agree with you that having a student share his or her independent reading text with the class may prompt other students to read the book shared. It may trigger their interest. In addition, sharing a student's writing with the class has advantages in that it may provide students with topic ideas that they can write about and share with their class.
I'm not currently teaching, so I will blog about how I envision my classroom will look in the future. If I had an unlimited budget and large classroom space, I would first buy a bunch of bookshelves that are student height. On the first day of school, I would take pictures of each student and later post them on a bulletin board with their names under them. The bookshelves would by arranged in a way that creates several learning areas: large group work carpet, reading corner with beanbags and carpet squares, tables for writing and guided reading, and classroom work tables for whole group work or independent work. The materials on the wall would be student height so they can read and use the visuals as they need them. Students would be allowed to have conversations to discuss problems, books, share writing, and science and social studies content as well as math word problems.
I would change how we interact with one another, allowing lots of discussion and wait time so each person will be heard. Students need to be encouraged to accept diversity and challenge former thoughts and ideas. There needs to be a place where children feel safe to share ideas, and they need to feel safe enough to tell an adult or a friend if they are having problems at home or with other children. I would not intervene so much when children have problems with each other. After reading the chapter, I see how adults need to restrain themselves from becoming the sounding board for problems between students, unless, of course, the children become violent. These are some of the changes I would make in my classsroom.
Having had your own classroom for many years before, do you feel that teachers are given more freedom today to be creative and comfortable in their decor? I'm curious if there has been a shift in that area or if it has always been pretty much up to the individual teacher.
I think that classrooms today are more home-like and geared toward literature and writing. Mostly, in the past, individual teachers made the decision about what their classroom looked like. I continue to believe that teachers have a choice as to how the arrange the room; however, I've been reading about ways teachers make more room for group work, stations, big carpets, reading areas, and writing centers. Book shelves seem to be a necessary item in today's classroom, although my classroom never had any due to budget costs.
I liked how you mentioned that your posters and decorations would be student height. I think this is so important and sometimes can be forgotten when creating our classroom space.
I also agree with you, after reading the chapter, that teachers should practice not intervening right away when a conflict or problem arises. We should observe and assess how our students are handling the problem and then intervene when necessary.
As I read this chapter and highlighted items from figure 3.1, I realized I already have some of these elements in my classroom and there are elements that are missing from my classroom.
Creating a structured environment is something I've always done. The students know what to expect when they walk in each day. I have always tried to make my classroom inviting for students. I want to make it look fun and get them excited for learning. I also make sure every student is heard while we have discussions. Giving students the opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas helps to build their confidence and let's them know it is important for them to be heard.
There are definitely things I would change. If I could make more reading nooks for students I know that would be inviting and comfortable for them. Problem solving is always an issue with our second graders. They feel they need to tell you just about everything on a daily basis. I try to teach my students how to solve their own problems and we discuss the difference between "tattling" and "reporting." This is a very common problem at their age. I feel like this is something I work on every year.
Having different "rooms" within the classroom as discussed in the book would really make students feel at home. I know this would be a daunting task to take on but maybe it is something that I could work on over time.
Classroom environment is a huge part of their learning experience and I know it is something I work on every year to make sure my students are comfortable at school.
Problem solving is an important part of the day in younger classrooms. I had the same problem in my second grade classroom. The book mentions that when adults step away from the situation, the kids fix the problem themselves. I've seen this work in some situations and not in others.What are some ways you teach problem-solving?
Shelly-if students bring a problem to my attention and I know they can solve it, I will have them tell me how they could solve the problem. Most of the time, students are able to verbally tell me how they are going to solve the problem. Then I remind them to make sure they solve the problem on their own, because they can. I also do a lesson on reporting vs. tattling and the difference between the two so the students are aware. Problem solving on their own definitely gets better throughout the year. However, some students just always feel the need to tell you every problem and I'm not sure how to change that. I think some students lack the confidence needed to solve the problems and they want your reassurance.
I am currently subbing but for two years prior to that I worked in a kindergarten room. The teacher I worked for really had a nice balance of decor which she changed often for the theme or season. She also had a rotating imaginary play center that would change to be a pizza ship, house, flower shop, post office, grocery store, etc. The kids loved this area. She even had name tags so they could get used to the words of whoever was a part of that setting.
She also would often play music in the morning and as kids were doing independent work. They found it soothing so I often will connect my iTunes to an Apple TV if available and play my own soothing playlist when subbing. Most classes are surprised as they have never had that in their classroom.
One first grade teacher I sub for has a reading garden. It is a fenced in area with green carpet, fake flowers, and garden chairs and pillows for reading. It's so cute and creative. There is even a garden gnome.
These creative classroom ideas are what I would hope to have in my own class someday. Areas that just make kids happy to be in them for whatever purpose they are serving.
When I was subbing I always played music! They kids really liked it (some kids gave a little push back) but they often would see me in the hallway and ask when I was coming back with the special music. I really like that idea of the reading garden. There are so many metaphors that we can use as teacher to cultivate our young learners :)
I am currently working as a sub and think the music would be helpful. How did you play the music? Often when I'm in the classroom, I do not have access to the computer/audio system. Thanks. Great idea.
I really like the idea that Kindergarten teacher and the changing decor and play activities. You want to bring creativity into the classroom and I think that is awesome. The fun, child-like environment will speak to the children and show them how learning can feel that way too!
In the schools that I’ve worked at as a substitute, I’ve seen audible and visible conditions for engagement. Most elementary teachers post a visible schedule for students to follow along with. Usually there are projects the kids have done up on the walls as well. In one school, the have what is known as Direct, Independent and Collaborative stations. These are often used during reading and math, but can be for other subjects as well. Students are given an agenda each time and follow a rotation between stations. This is a routine that students get in to and follow. I often see lots of books, pictures, posters, color, fun seating, and toys. In the classrooms with the rotations, desks and tables are set up to create a work space. These children can move around between stations when the teacher directs them. It is up to them to follow the agenda when they are not in the direct station and gather materials they need and complete activities.
In my future classroom, I would make sure to emphasize both the visible/audible and the invisible/inaudible environment. After reading this chapter, I will describe “well-being” to my students and make sure the classroom is set up to allow for students to do what is best for their "well-being". I will give my students the independence to think and learn. They can explore and create. I want them to develop critical and abstract thinking skills through the activities they do in the classroom. Class discussions will allow for students to share ideas, and learn about the importance of what they have to share. Ellin Keene mentions that activities should convey a sense of purpose. I want these students to feel empowered and engaged during activities. They see a purpose in everything they do. I want to make sure that I include these invisible/inaudible elements into my classroom. I want my students foster these feelings and emotions and will create activities and discussions that will help.
It’s encouraging to read about the audible and visible conditions for engagement that you have observed personally. It sounds like the classroom environment has made great strides since my time as a young learner. I really like the idea and simplicity of having the Direct, Independent, and Collaborative stations. I believe this example supports agency, learning stamina, and conflict resolution. In regard to your goals for your future classroom, I especially appreciate your desire to empower and engage your students in creative ways.
What a gift for you to be able to experience something that so many teachers don't...You get to be a guest in their learning environments. I think we get so acclimated to our own reality, that it's sometimes difficult to really "see" what's happening. You, being part of other teachers' classrooms, allows you to have this wonderfully unique perspective!
Not having a classroom of my own, I considered my own elementary school experience. As an elementary school student in the early 1990’s, I don’t recall experiencing the visible and audible conditions for engagement that I read about in chapter three. For example, I remember rules, not rituals, and collaborative learning goals were non-existent. Rather, the teacher set the expectations for learning and I was often left wondering about the necessity of the objectives. Much of my time as an elementary school student was spent daydreaming as a result of teachers who spent too much time talking and not enough time posing thoughtful, open questions that encouraged deeper thinking.
Classrooms lacked defined learning spaces. Our assigned seat is where we spent the vast majority of the time learning. I fondly remember SSR as an opportunity to read, something I always loved to do. SSR time wasn’t spent reading around the room, as is often something afforded to students in today’s classrooms. Rather, we sat and read in our assigned seats.
I believe that much has changed from my learning experience. I’m encouraged by the effort, time, and research that educators put into creating an optimal learning environment. Personally, I’d like to believe that I’ll be able to establish a learning environment that is marked by trust, independence, and healthy conflict. Setting the physical stage within the classroom to nurture these elements, is a welcomed change from my experience as a student.
I had a similar experience (and much earlier than the 90's) so I think the changes to classroom management and decor have been a long time coming. I only remember being in a different seat during certain grades for small group activities. No wonder so many of use have stated we were compliant and not engaged in elementary school. There was little thought on how to engage us.
When I was in elementary school in the eighties, the situation was very similiar to yours. When I was in first grade, we didn't even have a classroom library to choose books in which to read. I used to pick up the basal reader that was the next level up and read it from cover to cover. Then, when I used it in reading group, I was bored because I had already read the stories. Classrooms have definately changed over the past thirty years.
Like you, I was an elementary student in the 1990s. I totally agree with you that during my elementary years I do not remember my classrooms containing visible and audible conditions for engagement. There were no different learning spaces, and we definitely had assigned seats. We were required to remain in our assigned seat until the teacher dismissed us for gym, lunch, recess, etc. There were set rules, and we were expected to abide by the rules, and if we did not obey the rules we were sent to the principal's office to pay him a visit. I also remember the teacher constantly stepping in if a conflict arose between the students. The teacher never permitted the students to try to work out differences on our own. My how things have changed over the years! In thinking about my elementary years versus elementary years of today, students today are given so many more interesting oportunities than we were given to become engaged in the classroom. After reading Chapter 3, I am excited to some day have my own classroom where I can implement many of the suggestions we read about in Chapter 3 in an effort to provide an engaging environment both visually and audibly to our students.
I was in elementary school in the late 70s and after reading about your experiences, I realized mine were very similar. I don't remember being able to read around the room if we had time to read for enjoyment (SSR). I do remember being at my desk. We did get to move to the side table when our reading group was called, that's about it. I've always been a daydreamer at least in school and I wonder how much of that had to do with the room being teacher centered. I also don't remember the classrooms being very warm or inviting and they were definitely not like home. I tried to make my first classroom warm and inviting. Now I have small rooms since I work with small groups - I still do my best to make them kid centered and inviting.
I do not have my own classroom at this time. Therefore, I am going to post about how I visualize my future classroom in hopes of teaching either first or second grade. I hope that when my students enter my classroom it produces a warm, safe, and friendly atmosphere. I agree with Keene that engagement can occur based on what you feel and sense. I feel that in order for students to perform to the best of their ability they need to feel safe and secure, which will be a major goal that I will strive for. I also agree with Keene that it is extremely important for students to have specific designated meeting places. A separate area of study for the entire class, a small group of students, and a place for independent study is essential in every classroom. I love the idea of having areas set up to intrigue a student's imagination, such as an area set up as a park, music area, garden, living room, etc. In my classroom, I will also try to display books in an orderly and attractive manner. I think placing books in labled bins according to topic is one way to attempt to keep the books organized and easily available. As a teacher, I plan to ask questions to make my students' think and discuss outside the box with his or her classmates so that I can expand their knowledge and so that my students learn that not everyone thinks and feels the same way. I have found that Chapter 3 of Keene's book has provided me with numerous tips as to how a teacher can produce a learning environment to engage students.
I agree with you about having different areas set up in the class to intrigue a students imagination. I often see students gravitate to different parts of the classroom that are the nontraditional areas. This is especially evident when students are allowed to work on an activity where ever they want. Very few students remain at their desks. I think this is a reminder for us that we are working with young students who find joy and excitement when working in nontraditional spaces and should be something we remember when creating our future classrooms.
At the present, my classroom environment includes regular rituals such as how we take lunch count/attendance, how we handle the Star Spangled Banner and Pledge of Allegiance, gathering reading supplies from bins upon entering the classroom at the beginning of the ELA period, celebrating birthdays, etc. These rituals have become ingrained in my students to the point that they can lead these activities themselves, as well as explain them to substitute teachers when I am absent. The daily schedule, date, and lunch choices are on display at all times. Besides the big purple carpet gathering place, another small rug, two smaller tables, beanbag chairs and cushions are available to students to use when they are working independently away from their desks. Many, many baskets of assorted books are available for students to peruse and read. The books are sorted by genre or author, and are displayed in baskets so that they can be thumbed through with the front covers of the books visible. The curtains at the window are not particularly attractive, but work very well when the afternoon sun streams in and blinds students who sit facing the windows, or when it becomes hard to watch movies on the front board. We purposely turn one set of lights off when we are using the Smartboard for a more comfortable setting that makes it easier to see and focus on the screen.
I like the idea of adding photographs around the room of the students at work, perhaps from our Genius Hour when students are happily engaged in projects or research of their own choosing. Offering choices of writing topics, not just reading materials, intrigues me as well, as does providing children the chance to teach each other, not simply share with each other, whenever it seems appropriate.
I also like the idea of adding student photographs. I was thinking of maybe adding photos of students that "were caught reading" or "solved a tough problem." It could encourage those behaviors that we are trying to foster while also adding a home-like feel to the room.
I'm currently an elementary reading specialist. I work with small groups of kids during Intervention & Enrichment time (30 minutes per grade per day). I have K-6. I have 2 rooms in which I work with students. One is a 1st grade planning center, primary guided reading library, as well my room to work with small groups from K - 2. I don't have much control over the environment of the room. However I try to make it as kid centered as I can. I hang up any stories or poems we write, word lists we make, and even their own word lists so they are surrounded by their work. I work harder to create the invisible and inaudible components of a classroom. I try to make it a safe place for all students to try. I want these students to fee safe and encouraged when they are in my groups so that they can focus on learning/reading.
As I read through the descriptors of the invisible/inaudible, I see things that may be more difficult to create as it is not a traditional classroom setting. For example, "Children have a sense of awe about the "mysterious" workings of the human mind, but also a sense of clarity that "smart" is not something you are; it's something you get." I'm not sure if I feel this way because these students are so young and they for the most part are feeling "smart" or if I have created that environment and don't realize it. In other words, my kindergartners are so proud of themselves that they are reading books. They don't realize these are the simplest of books and some of their classmates are reading higher levels. Is this because they are in a small group in a safe environment or is it because they are 5 and don't know better. My current 2nd graders feel the same way even though I have one reader who is struggling more than the others but she doesn't show any signs of given up or not feeling smart. After reading this chapter I want to observe these students more to see if I am creating a space where "smart is something you get" or if they are just feeling "smart" because of their age.
I like that you surround your students with their work. I think that can be a great way to encourage students and show them their progress. It is also a great way to decorate since you don't have a lot of freedom in that regard.
Currently I am subbing in different school districts while taking classes to earn my teaching certificate. I go into many different schools and classrooms and I am able to see a variety of setups. I personally enjoy classrooms that are neat and organized, that are not too overstimulating yet are still vibrant and colorful. Every teacher has their own twist on their classroom so it’s good to see what I think works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, I think it can be overwhelming for students if there is too much visual stimulation with posters and decorations. They may not know what to read or where to look because every inch of the classroom is covered. But then there are some classrooms that are very bare, and it reminds me of a high school classroom instead of an elementary room. I think elementary teachers have a great opportunity to create a welcoming classroom where students can relax and feel comfortable. But, I think there needs to be a balance between bare essentials and over stimulation.
I love seeing students gravitate towards the nooks and crannies of classrooms where they can hop on a beanbag chair and silent read. I think creating these learning coves in the classroom can help engage and encourage students in the learning activity by inviting them into a cozy environment.
I haven’t noticed many audible elements in the classrooms, and that may be because I’m subbing. However, that would be one thing that I would definitely implement into my classroom. Singing jingles and little songs can help students focus and remember content but can also help with literacy and phonemic awareness. I would also like to have some background music playing during different activities to create a warm environment and help students focus on the activity.
Yes, children love the nooks and crannies of classrooms to read and do their work. It is very important to provide them with it.
3/5/2019 10:57:38 pm Matthew's comments/response.
Matthew, I'm not in a classroom either. I'm in a high school library. We have tables and chairs and a couple of small lounging areas. The tables are consistently used by classes. The lounge areas are often the first choice of kids visiting the library. By and large, it's a good mix. I confess, however, when it comes to work, I find it easier to attend to the tasks at hand when sitting at a table. And to the point of rituals over rules, this week one of our teachers shared that her method of allowing kids to ARRIVE to her class. She noted how busy they are rushing to school, off buses, and from class to class. To decompress and settle in she invites them (not insisting at all) to close their eyes and relax for a minute. Others who have tried the same said it takes a couple of weeks for kids to get comfortable with it. And because we were talking about the trauma and turmoil some of our students have to deal with...closing eyes is something that some would be uncomfortable with...and that's okay...it's an invitation not a rule.
To the issue of visible and invisible engaging learning conditions and our library, I have been thinking about our bulletin boards. We have 3 in the hallway. While we've been advertising books, genres, and technology, I talked with our principal about making one of the bulletin boards more interactive. Asking a question that invites student responses. After reading Chapter 3, I feel emboldened to continue that line of thinking and action. My principal was supportive...we just have to find the right questions...ones that engage our students constructively. To that end, I appreciate the suggestion of book quotes that Keene was suggesting on pages 37-39. In fact the trauma workshop we had offered up and interesting quote by Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms), "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." I couldn't help but think of my daughter and the excellent speech and language support she began to receive as a 3 year old. She went on to become a French major! Her weak suit became a strength with the talented, informed help of her teachers
I'm happy to hear about your daughter's success!
I also love the idea of interactive bulletin boards. One of the things that is a part of many ESL/ELD classes is the I Am poem. I can see the possibility of this as an interactive bulleting board inviting all students to write and post their own I Am lines to a class wide or school wide I Am bulletin board.
Here are some sources for I Am poem ideas:
This link includes Mary Pipher's original I Am From poem found in her book, THE MIDDLE OF EVERYWHERE.
Mary's book can help any teacher consider individual backgrounds of students and how that affects potential engagement:
In my classroom I try to give my students and my fellow colleagues a sense of being a team. I let them know that we are here to work together and that they're never in this journey alone. I want my students to always know that they are safe in my classroom, they are cared for, and that we are a team if not like a "family" since we spend so much time together. I may tell them that but I also want them to know it internally that I genuinely care about their well-being. If students do not feel safe physically, emotionally, and socially then how can learn?
I will definitely try to allow students to work the problems themselves before I offer my help. I find myself offering my help before I give them the opportunity to try it themselves. I want them to know that they are more than capable at completing the task asked of them. It just may be completed in a different perhaps longer way.
I don't have my own classroom yet, but I spend a lot of time thinking about how I'm going to set up and decorate my future classroom. I spend a lot of time on instagram looking up classrooms that teachers post. I love seeing all the creative ideas. I visualize soft lighting, and a quiet "nook" where students can take a break and read. I love the idea of my classroom being a sanctuary for my students-a space here they feel safe in every aspect.
One thing I really loved from the reading was the idea that teachers create rituals rather than rules. I love the idea of teacher and students working together to create a routine and guidelines that will be predictable and help students.
Best wishes to you as you prepare for your own classroom, Abby!
One of the things you'll love is the variation from year to year. You'll build and change. One of my wise college professors advised us not to teach the same year twenty times. Each year and each group of students is new and unique. I like Keene's acknowledgement that each group of students will help create meaningful routines and features that are unique to them.
In my classroom I try to create the predictable daily structure Ellin talks about. I feel like when kids feel comfortable in their learning environment, they are more willing to take risks as learners.
I also work hard to create the team mentality that she discusses. My students are encouraged to seek the help of their classmates, but also to take pride in their own abilities as well. I feel like when kids feel supported and connected to their classmates, they learn better and are not as worried about making mistakes.
One thing I would like to work on after reading this chapter is what Ellin referred to as access to regular thought provoking conversation. Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of content to cover and it can be easy to stifle these conversations in an effort to save time. However, some of our students greatest learning and thinking skills can be developed in these conversations. While I feel like I plan for these, I find when they arise in the moment, I feel pressed for time. I hope to shift my mindset to allow more of these kinds of conversations that aren't necessarily planned to occur.
The two special education classrooms that I have worked in these last few years have a lot in common. They are both set up in sections. Both have quiet reading areas with area rugs and pillows. Both have a rainbow table for small group lessons and activities. Both are decorated with cheerful and bright colors: the bulletin boards, the word walls, and the calendar areas. In one room the books are sorted by subject. In the other area, the books are not sorted, but a select few are pulled out and displayed every month to correspond with the season/holiday. Both have class pets and both usually have soothing music playing in the background. The teachers have both deliberately created these inviting environments for their students.
Before working as a paraprofessional I was a substitute teacher. I have noticed many different classroom environments over the years. There were classrooms where the lighting was dim with task lamps set up at the different work centers. Some classrooms eliminated the desks and the students were seated at tables, instead. I have been in a classroom where half of the room consisted of desks closely pushed together and the other half was a super hero decorated library with a large area rug, curtains, pillows and an accent wall (yes, the teacher painted it herself!).
Without a doubt, all of the classrooms that I have described are doing what the author encourages in Chapter 3. In the future I would like to teach in my own classroom. I plan to incorporate many of the ideas of some of the teachers that I have worked with, as well as my own ideas. I prefer brighter lighting, compared to dim lighting. I would have special times when lights could be dimmed to accommodate those who like. I would try to make my classroom as cozy as possible. Possibly incorporate real furniture if possible and hang artwork, pictures, and curtains. I would also use bookcases to create different spaces.
The recommendations in the book for the layout of the classroom are not practical for me. The author recommends cordoned off spaces and cozy spaces for reading as well as spots for independent learning. I have always had at least one student in a wheelchair and/or walker. I need to have large open spaces. My entire room is wheelchair accessible. We also keep the room very neat and have large tables rather than desks. I do have bookshelves where each student can store his/her belongings. I do keep a lot of posters on the walls and I also have all the students' birthdays on the board which we celebrate.
One thing that I am changing because of this chapter and another book that I recently read is incorporating more pleasure reading in the classroom. I also want to incorporate choice more into my classroom.
Ashley, I think you bring up an important point. Not all of us have the luxury of being able to have those small, cozy places built into our rooms. I think that keeping a neat room is SO important - I am currently observing many teachers in my district who struggle with that. It sounds like you are doing what is best for your students, which is always important!
Totally agree on the neatness factor. I've been in some rooms as a substitute that I've spent the entire day cleaning and organizing just so I can function. I know that has a huge effect on the learning and general overall feeling of the classroom. Having lots of "stuff" id great but creating a welcoming and safe environment involves organization and cleanliness.
I feel that I have a really challenging classroom to create visible and audible engagement. I share a regular sized classroom with another reading specialist, and we both teach at the same time. We have a large, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that separates our teaching spaces, but it is very difficult to create the sense of our own room. Along with that challenge, we also house books, files, and resources for the Title I program. With that being said, I do feel like we have created a routine for students collecting and returning books, as well as added cozy nooks and comfortable places to read within. We trust that the students are able to move about the room with their goal in finding a just-right book.
I would definitely like to change the overall set-up of my room, and I would like to de-clutter. There are many resources and professional materials that are stored in our room. Next year, I want to try to relocate these items in hopes that we can create a more focused, engaged space.
I have the opportunity to see multiple classrooms working as a sub. I've seen some amazing examples of engaging and welcoming classrooms. Specifically, I was in a pre-k classroom that was so the most inviting room I've been in. The teacher had multiple rotating stations everything in the classroom was labeled, the stations were inviting, clean and organized. Her reading nook was an exact replica of a mini library complete with chairs, pillows and decorated walls. The students were so used to her routines they basically ran the day! The most interesting technique she used for behavior tracking was a bulletin board titled "we are all champions" every child was working toward putting together their face which was attached to the body of a superhero. Below the board were folder with each child's name and prices of their picture. Each day if they showed champion behavior they would take another piece of the "face puzzle" and put it on the board. I really liked this idea and the kids were so motivated by it.
One of the key features of our school that sets students up for engagement is the personable, caring, and committed staff. I joined the faculty as an LTS two weeks into the school year, and I'm enjoying the camaraderie and dedication I get to observe and take part in as I work alongside them. Choice, respect, and independence are clearly valued and offered to the students.
One of the things we can work on is to improve classroom space to promote for more cooperative, collaborative, and independent learning. Happily, in my classroom we do a lot of rearranging of furniture already. The students enjoy the variety and the opportunities that this flexibility provides. We are starting an international student literature library, and the students have enjoyed sharing posters they create related to topics we study through slides in our morning announcements. They are beginning to see that the language they are learning is something that benefits the school and builds connection with other students. They are not writing and creating for a grade or for me, but for our school community.
In my classroom, I prefer having the students sit in rows/desks. However, they have additional seating options when it is time to work independently (yoga balls, wobble stools, bench, cushions, carpet, etc.). I have sparkly lights that surround the book shelf and pretty much everything is decked out in purple colors (my favorite). There is a table for small group work. All student materials are organized and the students know where they are located. I have modeled, practiced, and established routines for morning arrival, daily routines (lunch count, morning announcements, etc.), independent work times, early finishers, dismissal, etc.
My library is one of my favorite areas of the classroom because I spent a lot of time building it up over the years. All books are organized in baskets and sorted by genre, series, or author. The students use it on a daily basis and encouraged to find books that are just right for them.
This year, I added a few new elements to my room that seem to align with the engagement strategies mentioned in this chapter. I added some book display stands so that I could highlight a few book recommendations or new arrivals for students. I also added a comfy cozy bench for students to work at. It also doubles as extra storage space! Finally, I began incorporating gentle background music during independent work times (mainly instrumental music of popular songs). It seems to really calm the class.
In the future, I would like to continue to experiment with various seating options. Also, I would like to continue exploring student-led problem solving and "tough discussions." Upon further reflection, I think I have a tendency to jump in too soon to help (not because I don't believe the students or capable, but because of time contraints. I need to allow the lengthy problem solving process to play out.). Also, I tend to shut down controversial or sensitive debates/conversations. However, allowing the conversations to play out a bit more may open students' minds and allow them to hear other points of view. A respectful debate can be a great learning experience.