Quick note: when starting this piece I really wanted to make it clear and concise for people. However, it became a little longer than expected…click here for Part One.
So, the battle lines are drawn. Us and our classrooms are now well and truly locked into the battle of Start Of Year Preparation, Prettifying And Laminating Anything Near Us.
During my first few years teaching I often used to get so caught up in the prettifying and laminating that I missed the opportunity to really think about what I was doing and why. I missed opportunities to really think about how to set up my spaces, expectations and resources so they could make a long-term impact on the students. (But my organisational labels on all those trays for scrap paper, coloured paper and lined paper were bloody amazing).
Don’t get me wrong, having a place that interests students (and let’s be honest, their parents on those drop offs throughout the year) is important, but it’s much more important to know WHY you have set things up. As mentioned in Part One, you can have the prettiest fonts, colours and pictures around the room, but if you don’t know why you have them up, there’s a fair chance you won’t refer to them…which means they will just become absorbed into the background of the room and become meaningless visual noise (which I have definitely done before).
There are a few assumptions being made with this piece:
Reading & Maths Strategies
This section in the room is another one that will evolve throughout the year. Based on the classrooms I’ve been in, I’ve used one wall/board split into halves (one for reading strategies, the other for maths) and I have also used two completely separate walls/boards for these spaces.
A key thing I do with this space is to make sure it is in an obvious position that is front and center, not only the class, but also for me. If I see these strategies in my face in the classroom it reminds me to continually model these to my students! Personally, I think if you have the space keep them next to each other (reading strategies definitely fit into maths…especially during problem solving).
It’s important to keep making the reading and maths strategies you are using clear and explicit to the class, take the time to add them up to the strategy board… and keep drawing students’ to them whenever you can!
Independent Thinking/Learning Space
This final part of the room doesn’t need to actually have a name or title – what it does need is a lot of consideration. These spaces become safe havens, free from distractions, where students can settle and focus on a task, or practise regulating their behaviours and emotions whenever they may be stressed and overstimulated, or just need some time out.
When selecting where this space should be, consider how students will be moving through the space. Is it near a doorway and thoroughfare that will cause unnecessary distractions? Are there windows near it where the sun will shine through most of the day? Will it become too hot throughout Terms One and Four (for us Southern Hemispherians)? Do you want a desk as a part of this space?
Try to find the area in the room where you can fit your requirements and minimise people impacting the space – think of it like a hidden cave away from the world!
Here’s some examples you might consider:
Obviously, this isn’t always possible. In the past I’ve been in a remote community school where my classroom was the school’s ridiculously tiny, old archive rooms (future post about my adapting and going with the flow as a teacher in a remote school coming soon).
There wasn’t much choice with creating independent spaces within the classroom, so instead I used cushions I found at Kmart and around the school (soaked, washed and then soaked and washed again!) and placed these just outside our classroom next to the doorway area. Utilising this space took longer than usual to introduce and implement as we had to heavily invest in building up trust, expectations and norms in how we learn and work in groups and individually…but it did work!
We don’t all have amazing budgets and resources. Something that has worked well over the last couple of years has been asking if families have any spare cushions for us to use in this area. Having these cushions set up really separates this space from the other areas in the classroom.
Even if it is only three cushions, it really makes a difference and the class will love opportunities to get onto those cushions throughout the year (plus, each year you can build up your collection).
What have I missed?
Feel like there’s another space or resource that is a must have? Add a comment below and share the knowledge!