Category Archives: Classroom space

Another year, another classroom.

And this one’s got a ton of bells and whistles, folks!

Boom. Airy and fresh.

Boom. Airy and fresh.

 

Sirius Black + Safe Space posters = winning view. I don’t know really what to do with that big clunky word art down by the filing cabinet on the floor. Doesn’t really go anywhere in this room. Hmm.

The thing about affluent schools is that the things are really shiny and nice. I am 4.7% magpie, so of course this stuff is appealing to me. My classroom in my new school is just… fabulous. There are so many things I am excited about, and yet, it’s the simpler things like having exterior windows for the first time EVER that really make it feel luxurious. Oh, and my school doesn’t block 8tracks. Life is good, man.

I have a bunch of fancy clickers and remotes, a barcode scanner for taking attendance, Apple TV, a shiny FM mic system, new furniture, and great keyboard (seriously, very important). It’s all very pretty.

The basic tenets of my classroom set-up remain the same: create collaboration-friendly, flexible learning spaces for my kids. Provide resources that stimulate and assist creativity and spontaneous moments of curiosity/discovery/whatever. Maintain a colourful and welcoming atmosphere full of stuff to read and things to provoke conversation. The belief system behind this new space is still the same, and yet, it manifests so differently when it has natural light and student tables (no desks, no desks!) behind it all.

(Note: If you want a more elaborate look inside my head when it comes to classroom physicality, you could hop over to my classroom tour from last year, at my old school!)

Student resource centre is still alive and well! Cabinets contain literacy-focused board games and my films. Hoping to grow that meagre collection of novels eventually! And yes, that is a District 12 salute foam finger immediately above a Hunger Games poster.

I flopped into my chair today and surveyed my two weeks’ worth of cleaning, arranging, organizing, and setting up, and lo and behold, I realised that in terms of the perfect classroom I always imagined in my head, I’m pretty much there. If there were anything I would add, it would be bookshelves full of books and a few more beanbags. But it’s close. Really close.

It will be interesting to see how thirty or more kids fit into the space, but I’m hopeful. While the tables don’t give as many configuration options as individual desks pushed together in whacky patterns, I think the size of the kids’ workspaces like this is pretty darn amazing. I’m interested in seeing about a fishbowl configuration down the line, too.

Amazingly, I think I finally have enough posters and prints up — the walls are well-covered! Last year, I had some sheets of cardstock-weight paper laminated and then they kind of got ignored, but this year I’m using them as posters and maybe also for other purposes as time goes on. For now, four of them have become book talk-like excerpt posters! I wrote, “An excerpt from ______________ by _______________” at the top of each one and included an excerpt that I think is thought-provoking and/or beautiful. My hope is to change the posters every couple weeks, but, you know. November happens. The four books I chose to open my year are The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Decoded by Jay-Z, and The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha.

Anyway, I gotta get back to my planning for tomorrow (First day of school, wooo!), but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy these little peeks into my new home away from home!

Zen Pencils’ offering of posters is on. point. Love the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by my door.

You can sort of see my excerpt DIY posters in this photo. More importantly, you can see my new favourite poster: The Thesaurus. Raaarrr!

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Ye olde workstation, complete with photos of my beloveds, a cheerful shelf, and some cute plants!

PLANTS! I CAN FINALLY HAVE PLANTS! YEAH, WINDOWS! 🙂

Catch you later!

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Filed under Classroom space, Learning spaces

A favourite way to read

In an ELA classroom, there is often so much on the plate, we don’t always give our kids enough time to read. I try to offer a mix of opportunities to read out loud, to be read to (by me), to read at home, and to read in class. I admit that in the past, I probably didn’t give my kids quite enough chances to read in class, but this year I’m trying to give them that time.

What I love about in-class reading blocks is that the kids get a chance to unwind a little and just be with a book. Some of my kids aren’t usually readers outside of the classroom and offering them this time is so important. And yeah, it’s not like reading blocks aren’t enjoyable for me, too. Having a reading block gives me a bit of time also to read my own book (Modeling! So important!), to do a bit of marking or answer emails, and so forth. But ultimately, the reading block is intended to serve the students.

Basically, my approach to reading blocks follows this basic premise: if we want our kids to learn that reading can be enjoyable, we should offer them opportunities (as well as tools and strategies) to enjoy their reading experience.

When I was in school, reading blocks were set up so that everyone was sitting in a desk, facing forward in rows, in complete silence. Because the way we were expected to read in school felt very regimented and forced, the act of reading—which I normally would freely choose to do for fun, even as a child—was now drudgery. Compare this reading experience to the kind I’d have when I was at home. When I was home, I would never sit in a chair at a table and read in silence. My favourite way to read involved grabbing a snack, putting my favourite cassette tape into my Walkman (!), and settling into one of my preferred reading positions.

My favourite reading position has always been laying down on my tummy — on a couch, bed, or even on the floor — with a cushion propped up under my chest. Second favourite: sitting with my right side body pressed against the arm of a chair or sofa, my right elbow propped up, and my right leg curled under me. Neither of these positions are easily offered by a regular student desk/chair. So, when I decided to start implementing reading blocks in my school schedule, I took all of this into account. Many of my kids — aged twelve through fourteen this time of year — are just being able to figure out how (and if) they like to read and how to be comfortable with a book. Some of them are like me: book lovers who seek out opportunities to read, but whose favourite way to read is not at a desk. For all of these reasons, I give my kids complete freedom within the classroom space during reading blocks and let them engage as organically as possible in their reading experience.

When I first moved into this classroom, I inherited a decrepit, wood-frame couch; while the frame eventually fell apart, I decided to keep the cushions. During reading blocks, some kids like to sit on them, others like to lay a cushion on the floor and sprawl out on their bellies or backs (exactly what I would do) or curl up in fetal position. Some kids like to stay upright in their usual seats. Some slouch in their chairs and put their feet up on a vacant chair next to them. I’ve seen students retreat to a pod of desks as a group just so they can read in the company of their friends. There are two girls in my grade nine class who curl up each in her own corner of the classroom to read in relative solitude. Others sit against the wall and some students even sit/lay under desks (and yes, I permit this). A few of my kids like to try out different locations/positions from block to block while others find their favourite space and predictably choose it time and time again.

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Three of my grade nine girls who grabbed cushions and got comfy. I kind of wanted to join them!

I allow my students to snack/drink and listen to music while they read, too, because like I said, I like to snack, drink, and listen to music when I read. I often will play soft music in the background while they read; my favourites include instrumental tracks from Disney films (“King of Pride Rock” from The Lion King, “Short Hair” from Mulan, and “Transformation” from Beauty and the Beast are fantastic), any softer tracks by Jesse Cook, John Williams, the Vitamin String Quartet, and other music that kind of “fits” this mold. I try to avoid upbeat songs or songs with lyrics during reading time because some kids have a hard time processing two streams of language simultaneously and my goal is for them to focus on their reading.

“You play music while they read? But what about kids who don’t want to listen to music?” you ask. Recently, I purchased a few cheap sets of ear plugs to give to students who prefer complete silence. They aren’t expensive, and I don’t mind giving them away (who wants to reuse someone else’s ear plugs anyway?). I provide these because I believe that kids who crave silence have just as much a right to read in an environment that is comfortable to them as the kids who crave music.

At literacy PDs, they’ll tell you that many young readers and non-readers come to dislike reading because they aren’t exposed to books that are relevant or interesting to them. While this is definitely true, I think that while we are on the hunt for great stuff for our kids to read, we should also be mindful of exposing them to reading experiences/contexts that are relevant, engaging, and comforting.

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Two boys sitting in the comfy chairs at my resource table.

Above all, my hope is that my students learn that a reading experience should be something they can choose for themselves, and that with a little freedom, they can discover their own favourite way to read, too. 🙂

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October 25, 2013 · 9:25 am