Classroom Spaces

Aside from the content knowledge and student learning objectives, classroom design ranks pretty high up there when it comes to planning and designing your year.  Not only are classroom spaces important but they set the mood and tone of your classroom.  Benches, rugs, unique chairs, stools and crates, can turn simple into a center.  I was inspired by Jessica Meacham's writing center so I created one similar to hers {picture below}...the great thing about a fun writing center is that it's very motivating for reluctant writers....and a "stocked" writing center makes it so easy to "fix it and fancy it up"!

  I was inspired by all the lamps in Debbie Miller's classroom that I searched one summer for as many cute lamps as I could find and even made a candy lamp myself.

  Well designed classroom spaces make students feel important, and teaching students how to care for and clean up those areas teaches them pride in their workspace, giving them a sense of accomplishment, safety and a warm classroom culture.  

Keeping your classroom neat and organized sends a message to children that everything is special and important.  If we value keeping the books in the classroom library straight and orderly, then students will see the value in books...if we don't care what the classroom library looks like, with books backwards, upside down, out of place and disorderly bins, then students won't care either, sort of like this one below.

Even adding a simple rug creates another cozy classroom space.  In the spirit of Montessori, have a basket full of rolled up rugs/mats that students unroll to create their own classroom space or "just right spot" and put away when finished. 



PNG Doodle Borders

I found these cute doodle borders online a while back...they make a cute border for booklets, signs, nametags, labels...the possibilities are endless! Download them here, resize and use to make everything cute!


Reader's Workshop

Although this post could be a novel, as Reader's Workshop encompasses a lot of different aspect of reading (student and teacher), teaching and learning, and classroom environments and materials....I am going to use the KISS method today....(Keep It Super Simple).  If you know me at all, you know I am a huge fan of Reader's Workshop.  Like the Daily Five, it's just a structure...a way to teach reading.  It doesn't do the teaching for you and it doesn't write the lesson plans for you.  In many ways, Reader's Workshop and the Daily Five are the same, but in one small but very important way, they are different.  Reader's Workshop, embedded in the workshop model philosophy, the genuine reading & thinking struggles of the teacher, the teacher's metacognition shared out with the students, and the willingness to model this vulnerability in front of the students is critical to the success of the students in a Reader's Workshop format. 

In my humble opinion, the previous three books are all you need to teach reading comprehension in a Reader's Workshop format.  Mosaic of Thought is a not a step by step how to book, instead it's the book that gets your brain wrapped around your role and expectations as a Reader's Workshop teacher.  I created a glog book review on this book. 

Debbie Miller's book, Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades, is an easy to read, easy to follow book that is written in sequential order.  The first few chapters are about setting for a Reader's Workshop.  Then, each chapter is a strategy, in this order, Making Connections/ Schema, Visualizing, Predicting and Inferring, Questioning, Determining Importance in Non-Fiction and Synthesizing.  If you do a 6-8 week strategy study with mini-lessons, this book's content will cover the entire school year.  When I first began teaching in the Reader's Workshop format, I created daily mini-lessons for each strategy based on the book and linked them on my original website, Here are the mini-lessons.

In addition to the mini-lessons written for each strategy, I created a Reader's Workshop newsletter for parents explaining each strategy.  I would send each one home at the beginning of each new strategy unit.  Parents were grateful to have the background knowledge behind their child's new language.  Here are the newsletters, a series I named, Parent School. 

This year in my current position as the Curriculum and Instructional Resource Teacher and reading interventionist, I am fortunate to have a high group a sixteen 3rd graders for 90 minutes...I plan to teach in a Reader's Workshop and look forward to experimenting with the mini-lessons in Harvey and Goudvis, The Comprehension Tookit, grades 3-6.   



Teaching Web 2.0 Tools for Higher Level Thinking

This year, in addition to my reading intervention groups and my IRT duties, I teach one special a day...all first grade classes rotate through by the end of the week and the name of this special is 21st Century Learning.  In addition to Technology projects and covering the NC Essential Technology Standards, we incorporate the 4C's...the Super Skills of the 21st Century, with grade level content and cross-curricular projects.  Since Wordle is one of many useful and easy to use Web 2.0 tools on the internet, it's one I want to learn and use a lot by the end of first grade.   Today, I found a wordle in the public Wordle gallery...the one shown above ( did not create it nor do I claim to have created it)  Mrs. Butler's class is also working on learning what the vocabulary word, "attribute" means...below is a picture of the anchor from that vocabulary it was a word they were familiar with:

After displaying the red, white and blue wordle, I asked them to describe everything about it and it's attributes like word color, word size, word shape, word direction, background, word they brainstormed, I recorded students (in front of the class in real time) on Audacity, a free download, exported the audio file and a screenshot of the wordle into Windows Movie Maker.  It's 50 seconds long, but you can watch it here.

Identifying Characteristics of Wordles

Here is our finished product.

Because this special isn't just about playing fun games on the iPads or typing words into wordle to make a pretty display of words, we work hard to incorporate the other initiatives we already use at Lake Myra like Marzano's Classroom Instruction That Works, Building Thinking Skills, Daily Analogies and Bloom's Taxonomy.  Below are some posters and books we use schoolwide at Lake Myra Elementary.  

The five thinking skills outlined in this program are:



Marzano's Six Steps for Vocabulary Instruction

Click here to download poster

Click here to download Descriptors of all Six Steps
Last year we had Mark Fosseid of Marzano Research Associates, in for some high quality professional development on Academic Vocabulary Instruction.  After two days, we had developed essential vocabulary words in science, K-5.  See below:

Click here to download Lake Myra Essential Vocabulary

Vertical PLT's are also in the process of developing essential lists for Math, Language Arts and Social Studies.  The way words end up on the list is based on a set of criteria recommend my Marzano & Associates.  Vocabulary Notebooks are also in practice in all K-5 classrooms and is an academic accountability component of our School Improvement Plan (SIP).

Using "tights and looses" language, vocabulary notebooks are a tight, the physical way they look and kept are classroom looses...teachers and grade levels decide this piece.  Teachers at our school mostly use two options for the notebook itself...a composition book or xerox templates.
Here is an example of pre-made templates from the Fresno Unified School District.

Here is a first grade example from Lake Myra last year, most teachers use composition books as we are "going green" schoolwide and reducing the amount of paper and xeroxes we use.

Other vocabulary resources:



Lake Myra Behavior Flow Chart

At Lake Myra, we believe all children can learn and we also believe all children need routines and structures in place schoolwide so all children know and understand the expectations.  This year our PBiS team created a Behavior Flow Chart.  This is posted in all learning areas of the school and this language of consequences is spoken by everyone.  As we all know, consistency is the key.  


Bounce & Stretch Sound Posters

Often when students are learning sounds associated with each letters, it's helpful for them to classify the type of sounds they are...these posters help students listen for if the letter sound is a stretching sound or a bouncing sound. 



"Super Skills" of the 21st Century

In addition to technology, teaching students how to be 21st century citizens involves teaching them the 4 C's...what the Partnership for 21st century education is calling, the Super Skills....Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.  Read more about the Above and Beyond initiative here.

I'm also a teacher contributor for our district's Parent Matters newsletter...and this spring I wrote an article outlining 21st century learning to parents....what it is, what it isn't and how it's different from the way it was when we were in school.   Free free to use it when explaining 21st century learning to parents or school stakeholders.  Here is a public link to the article. 

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