In the previous blog entry, Designing Your Classroom Space, we mentioned some things to think about while designing your classroom before the children arrive. Once the children come it’s time to talk with them about the various spaces – what they are for, how the children will participate in keeping each space neat and organized, and so on. Perhaps they will have suggestions for areas you haven’t thought of. One year my first graders asked for a Lego building table so they could keep their creations intact and continue building each day when they arrived in the morning. What a great idea! We moved tables and immediately set up that space in our classroom. Once your children arrive you will be able to see if your classroom works. Do you have enough whole group area so that the whole class can sit and not be crowded? Is your library big enough for many kids to browse books? Is your small group area really out of the way so you and the children you work with are not distracted or interrupted? Teachers need to be responsive to what the students need and how the classroom can work best for them.
After the first few weeks of school, we suggest you consider the following questions:
- Walk around your room – does every space have a purpose? Talk about this with the kids. Are they able to explain the purpose of each space and use it effectively?
- Does your environment help or hinder what you and your students want to do? Some years most of my kids like to work on the floor with clipboards – some years most like tables or desks. I adapt to what my class needs that year.
- Do your walls tell the story of children’s learning journeys? Consider charting your year of learning through shared writing monthly, photographs of children at work, photocopies of book covers, etc. – all of this sparks conversation and tracks your year together.
- Do the children have ownership of all that is displayed – do they know WHY it is on the walls? Does it reflect their learning? Are your anchor charts created with the class – and able to be added to or changed as new learning occurs?
- Do you have children’s work and photographs displayed? Artwork, family photos, field trip photos, self-portraits, photos from recess or reading workshop, and more – all of these add a sense of community to your space.
- Do your available resources encourage curiosity, creativity and communication?
- Is your personal space uncluttered? (get rid of things you do not use or love; find ways to organize things that constantly look untidy; file away things that are not being used.)
- Is there an area that isn’t working as well as it can? If so, plan to discuss it with the children and come up with solutions.
Chapter 5 in Catching Readers describes in words and photographs how to set up an environment to support students in a comprehensive literacy approach, as well as provides a list of professional resources to help you design your classroom space. Your classroom is home for you and your students 8 hours a day, 180 days a year. Make it a warm and welcoming place that encourages learning, creativity and self-expression. And never be afraid to change things as you continue to reflect on your year with your students. What are some ways you create a fabulous classroom space? Please share your ideas!