Sunday, January 29, 2017

Classroom Makeover: Making a Space for Learning

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
I've been spending the last few days in a small school district in our state. We got the idea to do a Classroom Makeover for a teacher while I was visiting. Evidently, there was a lottery for all interested teachers and Jessica Watts was the winner. She was excited and I was, too. 

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!

Before

She was excited and so was I. I was in her classroom Thursday to lead small group instruction and demonstrate whole group writing. She was more than open with what she wanted from her classroom. Jessica and I met in her classroom at 9:30 yesterday morning and walked around the room and talked about what areas in the room were working and what areas were not. She doesn't spend a lot of time in the whole group area, but wished it was better organized. She wanted each desk to face the front of the room, so seeing the Smart Board wasn't a issue. She also wanted a writing center that the students could use.

Word Wall 

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Although looking at the first picture, you can't tell how big the blue pocket chart is, but it's a three-sided pocket chart stand. It stands about 4 1/2 feet tall. When I was doing a whole group writing lesson, we were going to write the word "everything." I asked the students if the word "every" was on the word wall, they all looked around to see. The funny thing was, they didn't all look at the word wall immediately, they looked around to find the word wall. Jessica was quick to say, this was such an a-ha moment for her. They obviously weren't using it because they didn't even know where to look for it. Some of the students in the front corner of the room couldn't see the word wall (because the blue pocket chart stand was in the way), so they had to stand to see it. When we found the word wall and found the word every, I asked them to spell it out loud for me. Another thing we realized during the writing lesson is that her words were too small. The students had a hard time seeing the word. I also talked to her about not laminating the word on the word wall. When we sat at the student desks there was a glare on some of the words and they were hard to see. During our re-do, we added black paper to wall between the bulletin boards, so we could expand the area. We also looked at spacing the letters strategically. Don't get me wrong I'm so type A, I like things spaced evenly, BUT all letters are not created equally on the word wall. There were going to be ALOT of words under F, H, S, and T. We had to make sure we could use that space well. Likewise, there aren't any words under Q, X, and Z. The words on the wall now are just unit 1 for Journeys, their reading center. She will add more later. ***This is just a thought. The words provided by Journeys(C) don't all have to be put on the word wall. Word walls should be used for high frequency words. Some of the words provided aren't necessarily "high frequency" words. I just ask that you are selective about what words are on your wall. I believe when the word walls are too busy with too many words, students don't use them.*** We also moved the whole group area under the word wall and moved the color and shape posters above the word wall. Now, all our anchor charts for words are in one place and she can use the word wall in her whole group lessons easily.

Small Group Area

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
The small group area was in the back of the room. We wanted to be able to post the fix-it strategies behind her desk. She also tried to use the small table behind the desk for reading supplies, but it wasn't quite big enough. We also needed to have a place to store their independent reading book bags. We moved the table to the side wall of the classroom between windows. She has a place for fix-its, a place for book bins, and a clear line of sight for the whole classroom. We also moved the small white shelf to behind her table and rotated the file cabinet to the side, so they can use magnet letters on the side easily. As she starts to use this space, she will make the shelves work for her.

Center Storage Area

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica already had center buckets for her student supplies. Students had all their materials for that bucket in one place, but they bucket were all over the place. Some on shelves. Some on the floor. Some on tables. We moved all the center supplies to one place. The built-in shelf unit was out of the way, so the students wouldn't trip over them when it wasn't center time. She already had labels on the buckets and we discussed adding labels to the shelves for easy clean-up. She will be changing out two of the buckets (on the table) because they didn't fit on the shelves. Jessica also made the decision to take down the big pocket chart stand. It contained 3 pocket charts, 1 for reading center rotations, 1 for math center rotations, and 1 for a pocket chart center. We married the 2 center boards into 1...students in the red group will use the top row for reading centers and the second row for math centers. The students were used to this type of center rotations, so we wanted to have some consistency for them. We moved the third pocket chart to the back of a book shelf.

Writing Center

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica had great hopes for her writing center this year. She thought she had a place for anchor charts and writing supplies, but she quickly found it wasn't big enough. Students tended to get their writing journals and leave the area for a bigger space and then the anchor charts weren't as easily visible. We had moved the small group table from the back to the side. She had a rectangle table used for interventions where the whole group area is now. The rectangle table was now in front of the two doors and the rotated file cabinet. This opened up the counter next to the sink. We decided to move the writing center supplies and anchor charts to the back of the room. Students could take their journals to the rectangle table and have full access to the writing center anchor charts and the word wall. We were excited about this change.

Student Seating

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
An interesting thing about Jessica's class is that this is the third year they are together. Jessica has looped with them since their Pre-K 4 year. The great benefit to that is building relationships, consistency, and knowing what students have done and what they can do. She has seen growth beyond the average teacher. A downfall is that they are all VERY familiar with each other. They will talk to anyone beside them, no matter who is beside them. They are family. Jessica currently had students is rows because she wanted to make sure they all could see the front board. She said finding a way to organize them was the biggest game of Tetris. We moved her students to groups. They could all see the front and had the benefit of collaborative learning. Because this the real world and students have different learning needs, she has two students who need more space than usual. These students were strategically placed at the corners of the two front groups. There desks can be easily rotated for collaboration.

A New Look

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
We were happy with our day. 5 hours later we had made a difference. Some things will need to be crafted as they are used. Jessica will make the area her own. As she knows what she needs handy for small group, they shelves will be made more purposeful...some things can't be "designed," they have to be created. I was happy, but what I liked didn't matter. It was all about Jessica.

She loved it.

Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!
Jessica sent me a message later that night: "I'm putting a big bow on the classroom door Monday." I'm glad she liked it. I had a BLAST. Wonder if HGTV would consider a Classroom Maker show? If so, I want to be the host.

If you would like the Journeys(C) Word Wall Words for First Grade, click the link or the picture below.
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Classrooms need to be spaces created to optimize student learning. It's our first line of defense. This classroom got a make-over in January. Let's make this space work!


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