Monday, August 20, 2012

Busy Days: Prepping for the School Year

The school year really never ends, instead it is a year of seasons devoted to student learning.
Classroom prep takes a lot of time for classroom teachers as there are many steps involved.  The prep begins late in the school year when we meet to order supplies for the following year.  The prep is also impacted by summer reading and study which then leads to changes in lessons, revising the learning environment plan and a need for new supplies.  Finally, the prep involves organizing the physical environment and preparing for optimal school year routines and lessons.

I started prepping the physical environment on a rainy Saturday. It was a good day because my children were cared for, and the school was quiet so I could work steadily without many interruptions. I made many changes to last year's school design:
  • Old shelving was replaced with new wire shelving that is easier for students to access and move from one place to another.
  • Additional small group study areas were added to the room to complement our RTI (Response for Intervention) efforts.
  • The math tool center was reorganized for better access and use. I am about to add the Math Word Wall and hang up useful guiding math posters too.
  • Many mini-libraries were placed around the room so children can access wonderful books throughout the classroom. Books will be organized by genre, author and topic in buckets on shelves in these mini-libraries.
  • Hard copies of all professional books and materials were tossed if that information can be easily accessed online.
  • My small tech table at the front of the room was replaced with a larger table so that I can  easily host small learning groups there when needed.
  • I set aside a small shelf for tech materials and will create an area there so that students can easily access iPads, iPods, computers and other tech equipment.
  • I will also create a small writing center with easy-to-access tools such as writing guide books, thesauri and dictionaries.
Since the onset of increased technology use in my classroom, I find that the room is becoming more and more child-centered.  Tech means that I need less space for teacher books and curriculum materials.  Hence I was able to get rid of my desk, outdated shelves and cabinets which left more room for small group learning centers, mini-libraries and exploration centers.

Sometimes I wish I could snap my fingers and the room would be complete, but that's not the case.  Prepping the learning environment is a very important part of the overall job--one that takes many days and lots of effort.  When done well, the work serves to teach children well. 

What changes do you find in your classroom design efforts?  How do you create cozy, welcoming centers and nooks for student learning?  Does your classroom environment mirror your teaching intentions?  How does the environment inspire student learning, independence, pride and confidence?  Thanks for sharing your ideas.