I got a text from a great friend last week to help with a “set up” for her classroom. I’m super psyched that she’s moving to second grade – more chance for us to work together again! We were moved to different ends of the building after teaching in the same room together…it was an amazing year with really cool things happening – learned so much from her…hmmm, wonder if we were “put in different corners” for having too much fun! I missed her terribly, but we found ways to reunite, brainstorm, and problem solve! Now it’ll be easier to
cause trouble collaborate with her.
A few years ago, I made a leap to really change the environment and my approach to teaching - moving from “teacher” to “lead learner” in my room. It was a big leap since my room looked and felt V-E-R-Y different from colleague’s rooms – although it has been said more than once, I always seem to think “outside the box”. I wanted a “homey”, comfortable setting where everyone met with success, risks could be taken, and learning was not threatening…THAT was most important. I wanted the “feel” of the environment to be noticed right away. As I've said before, I’m not terribly traditional – the kids work in teams (unless they choose to be independent), we collaborate on projects, work on inquiries together, work on the floor or at tables, etc. It’s my passion that every kid loves to learn and is prepared to handle any challenge that’s thrown at them. Learning becomes intrinsically motivated, almost contagious, and is guided by me, but led by the kids – it’s so cool to watch. It’s been one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Anyway, I went in and spent some time helping S. My first comment to her (as she nervously paced and I giggled with excitement!) – "pick an important place"… she started with her “book nook” – which is where I would have started, but she had to own this. You need to make the areas you value most be noticeable, work the best for you and feel comfortable for what you want to do with them…those areas are always noticed first. We pushed tables, desks, and other items out of the way - this area is really important to her, so we had to make sure we had plenty of room. Once that was done, we moved and pushed until we had the perfect set up for her whole group/rug area – going so far as to tape off the floor where the rug would go – the space had to include a rocking chair, a CD player, and a few other “necessities” for whole group instruction. Happy with that, we moved to the instructional area/table. There wasn't a ton of room, so I got a “little creative” and moved a few things (remember, asking forgiveness, rather than permission, is my motto – my poor principal knows this too well!!)……voila! More room made for that table and lots of extra space for kids! We moved furniture away from the door, pushed her
tchotchke holder desk (which I wouldn't be surprised if she got rid of soon!) against the wall, made “visual access”
across every angle of the room to make it more open and inviting.
After we finished with those “big 3” it was time to look at “home bases” for kiddos. The room felt a little cramped, so I questioned how the kids will work – teams? alone? Knowing S well enough, I knew the answer (teams for SURE!), but it's her space and she had to decide this for herself. We ditched two tables and it was decided that the instructional table/area would be home bases for kids – it would only be the place for the kids to land or grab a pencil, but learning could take place anywhere in the room. The room felt AMAZING – boxes, crates, and piles were still on tables, but the atmosphere felt great! At this point S was concerned with where to house student supplies – I shared that my kiddos put their things in the tops of their cubby – sacred space for learning supplies, makes less clutter in the room, and demands organization for a small space! My philosophy is extremely similar to S, so I think this will work great.
It’s really important in set up to be sure your room feels the way you want it to – as soon as someone walks in to your room, the environment speaks volumes without you saying a word. So, ask yourself:
_ What’s most important to you? Does your room show that?
_ How does your space feel to the kids and colleagues?
_ What are you willing to change?
_ Which space will be used most? Does it need an "upgrade"?
_ Is there anything you can risk doing without? Then ditch it!
_ Is there something you should risk bringing IN?
I’m getting ready to head in to my room in the next week or two, but in the meantime I’m grateful for the time to keep creating. Here’s my latest .... sanded down old paint, added new cherry red, a whole bunch of Modge Podge, and a few Archie & Jugheads! Thanks to Dear Hubby and Maisie Doo for helping to cut apart all the comics! (daily giggle - Veronica and Betty had MANY censored pages!)
Love it, love it, love it!