Teaching Tip: Making Your Classroom Work for You
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Organizing the essentials
When students enter my classroom, they find a table where I house many of my organizational tools and supplies. Students are invited to place instruments for band or orchestra underneath the table by the door. This helps them to remember to take the instruments with them at the end of class. Also by the door are two crates containing hanging file folders, one for each student. Students file tests and other major assessments to complete a record of individual learning. This method is very helpful for teachers so that we're not left to complete all the filing ourselves.
On the table, you'll also find a crate that sorts different colors of construction paper -- another great help when the students are completing in-class projects. In front of the crate you'll find a roll of paper towels and Kleenex tissue. Most of us remember to stock Kleenex in our classrooms, but I've found that I need paper towels more often. By keeping the roll on the table, I don't have to spend extra time looking for towels when I need them right away.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_1.jpg Caption: One Table Holds It All
I have a large bulletin board on one of my walls that always has blue background paper. This year, I teach Language Arts and Social Studies. Students use blue notebooks for journals in Language Arts and Blue Binders for notes. By using the blue paper on the board, I signal students to look for Language Arts information and displays in these designated areas. I further organize this board by displaying reading activities on the left side and writing activities on the right.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_2.jpg Caption: My Language Arts Bulletin Board
I LOVE the new line of Scholastic decoratives! I use this banner that says, "Look What We're Reading!" over a bulletin board on the back wall to encourage students to communicate with one another about reading. Students take a half sheet of construction paper, fold it in half, and choose books they recently read and enjoyed. On the front of the paper, students write the title and author of the book. On the inside of the "book," students write their names and a paragraph explaining their reason for recommending the book. This board has been a hit since students can find suggested reading without relying on the teacher.
I have also duplicated this board in the hallway of our building. On the board in my room, all the book suggestions come from my students. On the board in the hallway, ALL students at our school are invited to post favorite books. Students enjoy suggestions from students on other grade levels and interest groups. This idea helps build a community of readers!Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_4.jpg Caption: Using Scholastic Decoratives
I place all my computers on the back wall. This helps me organize my lesson plans, since I can have one group on the computers and one group working with me on skills, and they're not in each other's way. You'll also see that I have desks facing in different directions. To be honest, I change my seating arrangement almost every other day in order to maximize the different objectives of my lessons. I face all seats towards me when that's the focus of our whole class instruction. Sometimes, I arrange seats in a circle to promote student discussions. At other times, I arrange seats in tables by placing the desk surfaces together. This is for when students will need to work cooperatively in small groups. My students enjoy the constant surprise, as they never know what my room will look like until they enter that day.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_3.jpg Caption: My Computers
I have two reading areas in my classroom that adjoin each other to form one big reading nook. Because I have big armchairs, I purposely put all the reference books that are not used as frequently behind the chairs in this area since we would only use those books when students aren't reading quietly in the chairs.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_5.jpg Caption: Reading Area #1
This is the second reading area in my classroom. As you can see, I have use less bulky chairs to place in front of my reading library. I invite students to sit in these chairs during reading time while other students may browse the library without disturbing the readers.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_6.jpg Caption: Reading Area #2
Once you have accumulated many books for your students, it's imperative to come up with a system to keep track of them. In addition to compiling the list of books into routinely updated database, I rely on students to check out books honestly and efficiently on a clipboard kept on the countertop of this area.
In past years, I've used a system where students bring me the clipboard when they check out books. I write the return date and initial that I've witnessed the book's return, then students shelve the books. If you have a small classroom library, I would recommend this method, as it's virtually headache-free.
Now that I've collected a vast number of books, I like to organize them by topics that are interesting to students. For example, one entire shelf is devoted to sports books arranged by subject. I have also collected The Series of Unfortunate Events titles, Harry Potter books, and other popular collections. I like to shelve them together so that students can easily see which ones I have and which ones I need. Because students are have trouble shelving the books accurately, I provide a labeled bin for my official book return. Now, whenever the bin looks halfway full, I sit down, highlight the books being returned on the clipboard, and shelve the books myself. This has not been as much a hassle as I thought it would be, and now my students can find the books when they need them. Notice that I keep all my Scholastic book orders in a tray by the book return so that students know where to find them.Insert picture: images/articles/l/lessonplans_images_nov04_unit_jc_7.jpg Caption: Managing a Reading Library