On this page I have explained how I have set up my classroom environment and some resources for more ideas. I think environment is one of the most important aspects of any classroom. If you want to learn more about my reading area go to the Reading tab.
On the Walls
When I first started teaching I had a bunch of store bought posters on the walls that stayed up all year long. I realized the students never remembered what they said. I usually didn't remember what they said! I took them down to wipe all the dust off them to store them for the summer. I realized two things about what I put on the walls. If it looks like clutter and serves no purpose, then it is probably clutter that serves no purpose. I have a few areas around the room I put items on the walls, and I refer back to them often. READING- Cafe wall with reading strategies I refer to during read alouds, as well as the focus wall which has the story vocabulary and the academic vocabulary for that unit. OBJECTIVES- I have students change out the objectives for the math, reading and social studies lessons which are written as common core standards. SOCIAL STUDIES- A map with velcro states that are put on the map any time we learn a state and capital. I also post timelines throughout New Mexico History. TEAM POINTS- I give students team points for different areas. For more information go to Classroom management page. ALL YEAR ITEMS- the classroom rules are posted as the different pillars of characters and the standards are also posted in the shape of flowers. They don't change but I refer back to them often. MATH- I make posters at the end of each lesson while I am teaching the lesson with students. Sometimes I allow the students to draw or label or color the different posters before I post them. SCHEDULE/CALENDAR- there is a student job for updating the schedule and calendar. DATA CHARTS- I update the data charts after every test so the entire classroom knows how they are performing. LITERACY CENTER- groups look to see what they have to complete for literacy centers. BRILLIANT BOBCATS- This is where I hang all of the top students in the classroom's work. JOB WHEEL- The job wheel is by the door, see classroom management for how it works.
Small Group Area
I absolutely love my horseshoe table. I have fought for a horseshoe table for 5 years! I almost gave up thinking it wasn't worth the effort but when I finally got one it was totally worth it. Over the years I have had to find a balance between "organization" and "efficiency" and that sometimes you can be too organized that you are no longer efficient, or you create such complicated systems to stay efficient you can't keep organized. I found an item that does both- "the apprentice" organizer from staples for my horseshoe table to use with small groups; I keep individual student white boards, dry erase markers, fluency tests, and annecdotal records. The only area that worked for my small group was against the wall full of windows, and not having a white board to write on was driving me crazy. I decided to remedy this by buying gila window tint and tinting my window frost. It still lets in natural light, but also functions as a white board for my reading groups. It commons off with ammonia.
Whole Group/Reading Area
One of the best books for classroom environment is Debbie Dillers Spaces and Places. In her book she gives advice on how to set up the whole group area, small group area and classroom library. Over the years I haven't had the need for a whole group area other than for read alouds or CAFE, so I combined my reading area and whole group area. This is where I model for students how to use the Cafe strategies for reading books. I have a large comfy green chair for me to sit in and I allow students with no behaviors to take turns sitting in it as well. I have really soft green blankets, which works out nice since I can take them home to wash them every other week. I have the book shelves facing in to create a secluded area, but open so I can still monitor them from my desk or whole group area.
I love books! When I first started teaching many years ago I knew the one thing I wanted in my classroom more than anything was a classroom library. I buy a set of books every year to add to my classroom library, I find most of the classroom sets on ebay. I have close to 2,000 books and I keep track of them with an intelliscanner, which has saved me a lot of money in the long run. Over the years I have organized my books by reading level, then by category (such as fantasy, realistic fiction, science etc.) and finally by genre. I got this idea from Beth Newingham and Angela Bunyi, two scholastic top teachers. The purple baskets are "sets" which have more than one book like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Eragon, the yellow baskets are picture books, the red baskets are chapter books, the green baskets are Science books, and the blue baskets are Social Studies books. I bought all my baskets from really good stuff. Each basket has a label that matches a sticker on the back of the book, printed in the same color ink as the basket and with the same icon as the label. This way students know where to put the book back. The book also has a circle sticker on it that has the reading level.
It’s a simple thing really, but artificial plants and trees are not only maintenance free, but add life and peacefulness to any classroom. Best of all they are an attractive way to hide unsightly cords or add dimension and depth to empty space. This idea was given to me by two extremely talented women who wrote the CAFE and Daily 5 literacy books, called the 2 sisters They also do classroom design and this was one of my favorite ideas.