My classroom is humble.
It is an all-beige, boxy space. It has holey ceiling tiles, horrid fluorescent lighting, and a SmartBoard that only cooperates 35% of the time. It’s the warmest room in the building (the temperature hovers between 23ºC and 27ºC on any given day), and it is not well-ventilated—not the greatest combination when you think about the way junior high kids smell. If I could open a window to let the air circulate, I would, but my classroom is an interior classroom: no outside windows = no circulation or natural light, which isn’t ideal. Be that as it may, this room is cozy and fun, and let’s face it: it’s my haven five days a week.
When I first moved into my room, I was immediately struck by how much furniture it contained: teacher desks/chairs; student desks/chairs; five tables of varying sizes and shapes; three study carrels; some soft chairs; a crude, wood-frame couch; two filing cabinets full of empty food packages and random papers; and a medium-sized bookshelf. The entire back wall was a built-in shelving/cupboard unit, albeit a musty-smelling one, and most of the shelves were full of odds and ends, boxes, and plastic bins that resembled those magazine holder thingies that people like. Needless to say, I did a lot of cleaning up and cleaning out. In the last year since I moved in, I have gotten rid of a bunch of stuff, moved a lot of other stuff around, and tried to make the space more conducive to learning/productivity—as little “dead space” as possible.
If you liked the prints on my door, you’d like the rest of the prints and posters I have throughout my room! I have invested a lot of money into quality art prints for my classroom, which I admit might be considered a frivolous way to spend one’s paycheque, but there are benefits that I think are worthwhile. For starters, I have the coolest classroom posters. That’s not a subjective statement, it is a fact. Secondly, and more importantly, attractive posters are a fantastic way of tricking kids into reading. I know this sounds trite, but if you actually read every single poster in my classroom from top to bottom, it might take you an hour or more. There are various posters with fun/random facts, I’ve got charts and graphs, typography-based prints, visual prints (usually referencing literature, though some were purchased because they are just plain awesome), and of course, posters from the Oatmeal grammar pack.
A view of my posters from my desk. To orient you, you can see that the door to my classroom is on the far side of the right wall.
Here’s a sampling of some of my popular posters. If you like any of the prints below, click on the image; I linked each one to its online ordering page!
This print is so much fun. One of my previous students in grade 10 actually adopted the phrase, “By the beard of Zeus!” after reading it in this print.
I spot kids tracing their fingers along this whimsical map several times a week. Good thing I laminate all my prints!
This print is a hit with the lads. They find the part about chewing rocks “until some teeth fall out” particularly amusing.
A super cute print. The worms’ books include Harry Wormer and The Little Wormaid.
My favourite place to shop is Society6 (an affiliate of another of my favourite companies, Threadless) because there are SO MANY punny/lit-nerdy/game-nerdy/regular-nerdy prints to look at! Where else are you going to find a Harry Potter herbology reference guide or an Alice in Wonderland print of the Mad Hatter’s tea party? I’ve also scored some gems from Level Up Studios and Alison Rowan. One of the most popular posters in my room is this one from the Sheldon Comic Strip. Little do they know it, but when my students are reading that poster, they are also learning how to read a flow chart. One of my favourite things to do when I see a handful of kids congregating around a poster (and literally, I see kids standing around reading my posters every. single. day.) is to sidle up next to them and triumphantly declare that I have caught them in the act of reading for fun, which always amuses/surprises them. I buy new prints every year, and whenever I announce that I have new posters coming, the kids actually get excited to see them.
As you can see, I prefer for my kids to sit in pods. Depending on the class, a pod may hold as few as three or as many as six students. I love having desks/tables configured in different sizes, angles, and “shapes” because I think it challenges kids’ perceptions of what a classroom should look like. I even have a wooden dinette set in my room (and the kids love sitting there because it’s homey). Sometimes, when I open class, I drag my stool to a back corner and greet them from there just so that they understand that “the front” doesn’t always have to be where the SmartBoard is, and that learning can happen even if you’re facing the back of the room. Sure, when we’re using the SmartBoard or if I’m doing some random etymology lesson on the whiteboards, some kids end up having to turn their chairs or what have you. But I think that kind of situation offers an opportunity for kids to problem-solve and figure out how to negotiate their learning space, which is a worthy skill in and of itself.
And in case you were wondering, yes, seating plans are indeed harder to make when your classroom is as randomly configured as mine is—even harder if you’re anal retentive about making a printed copy. Case in point:
I blurred out all the names in editing, obviously. FOIPP.
Another note about seating plans: if there is a kid who is assigned to an EA, I always include a spot for that EA to sit in my seating plans. I hate when EAs end up pulling up a chair and sitting awkwardly at the edge of a kid’s desk, like they are an afterthought rather than in integral member of the classroom community. I don’t always have a seating plan, by the way. My only rule for free seating is that the front fills first. During reading blocks, I let my kids sit wherever they want. Some of them even sit and/or sprawl out on the floor, which is a little gross, but hey, I love reading while laying on my stomach, too.
The “Cause of Death” poster is another student favourite. Each scenario depicted has a caption describing a way that Mario can die in any of his namesake video games: being eaten by a Piranha Plant, drowning, falling, being “Chomp”ed, etc. The print on the right is of a little Darth Vader frolicking with a Death Star balloon.
One piece of furniture that I could not do without is my resource table.
My resource table is a space that is 100% devoted to student productivity. The document organizer, a gift from my best friend, is usually filled with handouts (though I don’t generate those as much as I used to), graphic organizers, resources, and blank looseleaf/white bond/graph paper just in case. On top of the organizer are yellow pencil cases filled with washable markers and felts, a clear box filled with pencil crayons, a grey bin containing staplers and three-hole punches, and of course, there is Kleenex. I keep 17″x22″ sheets of paper on the resource table in case kids are working on posters or need them for projects. The two soft chairs are there in case kids want to sit there during a reading block, or if another teacher has a kid who needs to write an exam in my room, or whatever.
Sometimes my EAs like to sit there so that they are near their assigned kid but not so close so as to be suffocating, especially if we are doing a task where the EA doesn’t need to be fully involved.
Underneath my resource table, I have some pretty bins that contain all the random shit that I like to keep close by but not visible: cleaning stuff, bulletin board borders/fabric, etc. I also have a rolling bin containing solar lamps that I picked up from Ikea. The lamps are great to bust out during a film study because you can put one at each pod and the kids can still see their work. They only hold a charge for about three hours of continuous use, so I occasionally have to roll the bin to the staff room and charge the lamps by the window over the weekend (Ah, if only I had outside windows!).
At the back of my room, I have a reference section containing thesauri, dictionaries, and ESL resources (picture dictionaries, handouts, and practice pages). Immediately next to this section are a set of shelves that I reserve for student portfolios, ongoing projects, etc. I moseyed down to the dollar store and picked up a bunch of bins, slapped together some labels, and the rest is history.
Each green bin “belongs” to one of my core classes and is labelled accordingly; I have two classes of 7s on the left, two classes of 8s in the middle, and two classes of 9s on the right. Very convenient. In the bins, each student (ideally) has a duotang that s/he will put assignments and projects into after I have returned them. The duotangs do not leave my classroom. Then, whenever kids want to reference their past work, they can, and it’s super handy when parents come to visit. I always like to “harvest” some of the outstanding portfolios at the end of the year to keep as student exemplars.
The blue bins are for assignment collection; there is one for each grade level. This prevents students from giving me the old standby excuse: “I gave my homework to the sub. S/he must have lost it! I swear I handed it in!” Instead, kids come to class and know immediately to put their homework into the blue bin and I empty the bins at the end of each day. I indicate this process to all of my subs in my day’s plans. And yes, I trust the kids not to filch or sabotage each other’s assignments.
The remaining cupboards mostly contain things like seasonal décor (my little Christmas tree, the Halloween garlands, etc.) and my old papers/exemplars from my old school. I don’t like to keep student stuff in the cupboards because the cupboards have an unappealing, vinegary/sour glue/old smell to them.
As for my work space, here it is, complete with that horrible TV/VCR get-up that was popular in the late 90s. Wish I could just rip that thing down. I strung up that lantern with the husband’s help this summer. I like it because it’s soothing and homey, but it also serves a practical purpose because I can see everything on my desk and do my work, even with the classroom lights off. It’s especially useful because during Film Studies, I often pause the film to discuss with the kids and I like for them to be able to see me. Also, towards the holidays, I like to give my kids a few days of free time to watch movies/relax a little bit, and then I can still do my marking while they enjoy a film.
You can also see that I’ve got a homework board behind my desk, and it’s seriously an act of God that I manage to keep it remotely up-to-date. I’m terrible at issuing reminders, but I’m really trying this year. I also have another WordPress site that is devoted to my classes and which includes a “Live Homework Board” page, and everyone at my school uses Remind101 (which is a great tool for people who, unlike me, are good at remembering to issue reminders). I mean, what ever happened to students paying attention when the teacher said, “Hey gang, this thing is due on Thursday,” and being accountable for that? I feel like just keeping on top of all the reminders I’m apparently “supposed” to give my kids is a fulltime job!
Behind my desk, I’ve got a nice little nook where I keep my classroom mascots, films, teaching resources, sub plans binder, staff handbook, tea, coffee, hairspray (you never know!), phone charger, candy, etc.
I also keep stuff like permanent markers, spare pencils, spare rulers, and my “annotation baskets” (which I put out on an as-needed basis with the kids; the baskets are filled with sticky notes, highlighters, index cards, etc.) behind my desk because while I’m more than happy to let students use them, I’d rather not just leave them all out on the resource table where they would assuredly go missing. By the way, my desk is never this tidy. I was prepping for a sub to come in the next morning. 🙂
Anyway… yeah! That’s my room! I was intending for this to be a brief tour, but it turned out to be far from it. In any case, if you stuck through this whole post, you deserve a medal.
Thanks for stopping by!