Thursday, September 20, 2012

Classroom Environment...It Matters!

Welcome Readers!
I love classroom design! I love that every year presents itself with another opportunity to refine and reconstruct the learning space.  I firmly believe that the way a teacher lays out and decorates their classroom space is an important part of motivating and engaging students.  A classroom that is comfortable, friendly and colorful naturally creates a positive learning and social environment.  During the month of August I start going in a few hours a week to begin the process of creating a space that will welcome my new learners with open arms. 

Last year I moved into a classroom that used to be a science lab. With that move came a bonanza of new floor space and storage. After reading Aidan Chambers book, The Reading Environment several years ago, I began to arrange my classroom library around the outside edges of the room. My students and I loved the cozy  feeling of being "surrounded" by books. The  increased space last year presented a small problem to that cozy feeling. I know what you're could more space be a problem right?  Well, the space was feeling too "wide" open. After "living" in the space for a year, I spent time reflecting over the summer and decided that I needed to make some adjustments to the classroom arrangement and give the room a "make-over" for this school year.  And so the fun (read as hard work) began! I was feeling pretty happy with the way the room was shaping up but I knew I'd hit the target when my new group of students arrived on the first day of school. I thought the the collective "ooh" as they entered the room was pretty darn cool...but then one of my boys...yes you read that right...boys remarked with awe "Wow! This is some classroom!"  Yay!
So come on in...take a peek our learning space!

The view from our doorway...welcome to our Reading Zone!
View from the back right corner of the classroom.
View from the back left corner of the classroom.
 View from the front left corner of the classroom.
My Work Space
I stopped using a desk years ago but this year I got rid of my
worktable also. I think this makes better use of the built in counter space.
A close up view of my work space.
Our Reading Nook
Don't you just want to curl up in one of those butterfly chairs and read? do the students! Also in the top right corner of the picture you will see the beginning of our "Reading Time Line". I add a picture of the cover of every book we share together as a class. This becomes a wonderful resource throughout the year and a gentle reminder that we are a community of readers.
Our Class Message Center
This space includes our Planner where all of the homework and weekly events are posted. On the left side is our daily schedule. On the right side is the "Where Will I Sit Today" chart. I use this organization chart to help expedite where students sit during "Read To Self" time.
A closer view of the "Where Will I Sit Today" chart. A huge shout out to my husband who
spray painted the clothespins for me! He's a keeper!
Our Meeting Area
The Meeting Area includes our Calendar Math board, Cafe Menu, and Vocabulary Building board. The books displayed underneath the bulletin boards are 2012 of fthe presses! You can also see our "Schema File" on the left side. We use this file to record our thinking before, during, and after reading non-fiction text.
Making use of every display space I can, we use this space which located to the right our Meeting Area to keep track of common themes we identify in the books we share together.

My version of Donalyn Miller's "Reading Door" idea. I want my students to know that reading is important to me...I am a reader! These are just some of the books I read this summer. Not surprisingly, students have spent a lot time perusing this display and asking for some of these titles.
Adding a little "sparkle" to the window shade (we aren't allowed to hang curtains or valances) has been a big hit! I know...I'm so subtle with my "You will read" message!
We'll use the class Twitter door this year to compose "tweets" about our reading and writing. We have a class Twitter account so this will help the "Tweeter of the Day" have "tweets" ready to go! I still need to add the students' "Avatar" pictures.
Our Classroom Library
I was fortunate to inherit these four wall shelves from a retiring teacher in our building at the end of last year. These shelves house baskets of books that are a part of a series 
and books by particular authors.
I feel like I've finally come up with a system that's going to help students keep the baskets organized this year! The series baskets are organized in alphabetical order by title. I created marker cards that are placed behind each series so students will know what series are in each basket. By just labelling the baskets as "Series" I can move books around as I add to the collection without having to make new basket labels for the fronts.  The author baskets are also organized in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Some of our author baskets include Tom Angleberger, Sharon Creech, Jennifer Jacobson, Gordon Korman, and Kate Messner.

Books in these baskets are organized by genre. Each book has a corresponding sticker on the back so students know where to return them when they are done.
Picture books are housed on these shelves. There are two more shelves on the backside. Picture books are organized by genre and/or theme. Each book has a corresponding sticker on the back so students know where to return them when they are done. Graphic novels that aren't part of a series or that I only have a few in the series are located in the spinner rack on top of the shelf.  Graphic novels series such as Amulet, Babymouse, and Lunch Lady are located on the Series shelves.
The non-fiction section is organized by topic. The basket labels include the general Dewey Decimal number and topic title. As I did with the fiction section, each book in the non-fiction has a corresponding sticker on the back so students know where to return them when they are done.
The Poetry Collection has it's own shelf. The baskets on the top shelf are by specific authors and/or editors. The rest of the books are housed on the bottom shelf from tallest to shortest covers. I scientific! The white basket on the right for returning library books.

Thanks so much for taking a tour of our newly updated learning environment. There's still a lot of work to be done...but that will be done by the students. I feel good about the learning environment I've created for my students. I know it's going to be a fantastic year of learning and growing together as a community of learners!