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Setting Up the Classroom

August 16, 2014

As I drove past schools this week, I could see the parking lots were filled with teachers giving up their last free days to set up their classrooms.
Setting up the classroom use to be a stressful time for me, until I realized that less is better.
A beginning resource for me at the time was Spaces and Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy by Debbie Diller. My school closet use to be packed with items that had not been used in years. I turned it into a functional closet that stored items that were used and easily accessible.

My principal was also a resource. He provided the opportunity for me to visit other schools with the purpose of looking for efficiency and student centered rooms. This principal also provided me the opportunity to have furniture on wheels. Mobile furniture is more conducive to setting up a  student centered classroom. It was exciting to see that there were mobile furniture booths at the TCEA convention.
Hopefully, more principals will elect to furnish their schools with mobile furniture.

The mobility factor in furniture, led to a more mobile and differentiated view of setting up the room in learning areas. There are six areas needed to set up a student based learning environment.

1. Class Library: This is a comfortable area that contains leveled reading material and books of different genre. Most of the books are my personal collection, but I also check out school library books for seasonal or unit topics. Students are encouraged to recommend books they would like to place in the class library.
Students are involved in setting up the library and organizing the books in tubs that they label.
They have ownership of the library and know where to look for the books and where to return the books.

2. Community Center: This is a carpeted area that is the gathering point for class meetings, routine procedures, small group, and other similar purposes.
Students may also choose to utilize this area to work in a group, with a partner, or individually.
(I provide portable lap tables and small pillows for the students to use in this area or in any other area of the classroom.)

3. Peace Pad: This is an area for anyone who needs to regroup, reflect, or just take a break. It is not a punishment area. Books about feelings and emotions, landscapes, and places are provided. I recently purchased a Buddha Board for myself, and I highly recommend that this be included in the Peace Pad.
I had my iPod with soothing music available in this area.

4. Resource Area : Instead of setting up stations for each subject, I use mobile utility carts that have 4 drawers. Each drawer has the resources necessary for students to work on subject area tasks, projects, and activities. Students take the drawer to their workstations or wheel the cart to a central locality for others to use. I also have the iPads on a utility cart for student access.

5. Supplies : A mobile utility cart is also used to store a range of supplies for all subjects. Different types of paper, pads, pens, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. Students may wheel this cart around to any working area, or just pull a drawer.
A small shelf is used for math manipulatives and supplies. Construction paper is stored in a construction paper storage sorter.

6. Work Stations: If mobile tables are not available, I recommend asking for rectangular or round tables.
(Arrangements can be made for seating during state testing.) If individual table desks are available, I recommend that they are arranged in work clusters. The most efficient cluster is four desks, but sometimes it is necessary to arrange six in a cluster. These are work stations, and not individual desks, so students get to choose where they sit each morning when they arrive. The seating changes as they begin their tasks and are working in groups that have been formed according to differentiated criteria. The desks are turned so the opening is not available. This helps in keeping the room organized and clean. As previously mentioned, students may choose to work on the floor using the lap tables.

It was a personal choice to remove the teacher desk in order to provide more space in the classroom.
I did use one of the mobile tables for small group. My personal teaching supplies were stored in a utility cart with drawers. The top of the cart had a flat surface that was used as my desk.
I also used the bottom shelf of utility cart that held the teacher lap top computer to store other items that were needed for instruction.
Large file cabinets are a thing of the past, since curriculum and lesson ideas are all stored online.
I used a small rolling file cabinet for any private documents. This was locked in a closet.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Cullen Shope permalink
    August 19, 2014 11:33 pm

    From a teacher who has had the honor to work alongside Mrs. Cunningham, I can attest to her dedication as a teacher and her passion for this profession. Watching a class of 21 first graders work together using technology, manipulatives, and peer instruction is truly an amazing feat!!!
    I concur with Mrs. Cunningham that a classroom needs to be a work in progress that is created by the students within that room!!

    • teacherthinktank permalink*
      August 20, 2014 6:32 pm

      You are a super teacher and I loved working with you!

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