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August 26, 2015 5 Classroom Items I'm Glad I Ditched By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Each year I think about and look for inspiration on how to make my classroom arrangement work better for students and our daily flow. Using trial and error, and research-based findings, I've learned that we can live (much better, in fact) without many common classroom items. Read on to see my top five list of things I'm glad I've ditched in my room.

    1. Teacher Desk

    Everyone knows the type of teacher desk I'm talking about here . . . not the U-shaped table you use for group time, and not a small side desk/table you might need to put your device on to connect to your interactive whiteboards. I'm talking about the mammoth, incredibly heavy, intimidating-to-students desk that Ralphie's teacher sat behind in A Christmas Story.

    I know we all have tons of important stuff and junk we need to store. I know as teachers we already dedicate the vast majority of the rest of our classroom space to students, but I have found I neither need a behemoth desk to function daily, nor does my class suffer at all in its absence. In fact, the flow of our room is much better. Ditching my desk allowed for infinitely more space and more student area arrangement options, and I'd bet money that I pack-rat much less stuff since I don't have a tanker truck to store it in.

     

    2. Overhead Fluorescent Lighting 

    I have always hated overhead fluorescent lighting. In dressing rooms they make even a super model look horrible and in a classroom, they've always made it feel too institutionalized for my taste. Besides that, they tend to give both my students and me headaches. Fortunately, my current classroom has an entire wall of outside windows, and gets great natural light. I've supplemented that with multiple, soft-light lamps around the room, to keep the room well-lit, but more comfortably. Additionally, since we don't have air conditioning in my school, keeping overhead lighting off really cuts down on the heat! To read more about the brain-friendly benefits of incandescent and natural lighting, read Erin Klein's blog post.

     

    3. Large Rug

    In the past, especially when I taught primary grades, I had a huge rug, centrally located, usually right in front of my white marker board or interactive whiteboard. For younger kiddos, this worked out fairly well and served a nice purpose for helping give them a tangible space within which to contain their bodies. However, I currently teach fourth grade, and while students still need reminders about personal space and appropriate body choices during floor times, I kept finding myself disliking the huge rug.

    For one reason, my whiteboard is smack dab in the middle of MAJOR traffic flow in my room, and kids were constantly tracking mud from outside all over the rug, tripping over the edge, or unintentionally displacing the rug due to it moving under walking feet. Additionally, my fourth graders need a bit more freedom with their space during group time. So, I've taken out the centrally located huge rug and have single industrial carpet squares (from my local dollar store) that students make use during group time or any other floor time during the day. These really define personal space, are much easier to clean, and can be put away and stored easily and instantly to clear the high traffic areas. Additionally, I have smaller area rugs in my library and reading sections of the classroom, which create a cozy reading area, out of the way of traffic. 

     

    4. Single Student Desks

    If you read my previous post about executive functioning, you already know that we ditched student desks (mine were huge, clunky, about 40 years old, and could have served as individual fall-out shelters in case of emergency) a few years ago and replaced them with moveable group tables. Executive functioning specifically encourages the use of group workspaces, but this change has brought with it many other benefits, too.

    Even our hexagon tables may be split in half for other group work seating options. Students now use the tables more as collaboration spaces, or for work other than typical seatwork. Because the tables split apart and are fairly lightweight, it's much easier to move and try new classroom arrangements based on student need or ideas throughout the school year. To learn more about classroom setup, read Kriscia Cabral's posts about setting up your classroom with your students in mind and flexible, open seating plans

     

    5. Multi-Colored, Busy Bulletin Boards

    I used to love finding the brightest, often multi-patterned fabrics and borders for classroom bulletin boards. Often these accent pieces were somehow connected, but not necessarily matching, resulting in multiple boards with various colors, patterns, textures, and more (OH, MY!) all around my classroom. Then, as we do with bulletin boards, I covered them with flashy, cute cutouts, lettering, and pictures, only adding more to the already busy spaces.

    Since those earlier days of teaching, I've read a lot of research and even had the privilege of attending a Highly Effective Teaching training session by Susan Kovalik and The Center for Effective Learning. What I learned was that these flashy boards were overstimulating to my students, and likely not really utilized by them for a meaningful purpose. So, years ago I revisited my bulletin boards; chose soothing, unified colors with a plain black border; minimized what I put onto the boards; and did not include items I wanted my students to be referencing, nor environmental print.

    Guess what? The entire demeanor of my class (and myself) changed. It was like a wave of calm spread over us all, and I was amazed. Don't get me wrong, I love cute decor, still decorate with a theme, and love a great bulletin board, but I just decorate with students and brain-friendly environmental design in mind. To read more, check out Erin's post for three more quick tips!


    Have you ditched any of these classroom items? Maybe you've swapped out other, different common classroom items for ones that work better for you and your students. I'd love for you to share so that we may all improve our classroom environments! Thanks for reading, happy back to school, and see you next week!

    Each year I think about and look for inspiration on how to make my classroom arrangement work better for students and our daily flow. Using trial and error, and research-based findings, I've learned that we can live (much better, in fact) without many common classroom items. Read on to see my top five list of things I'm glad I've ditched in my room.

    1. Teacher Desk

    Everyone knows the type of teacher desk I'm talking about here . . . not the U-shaped table you use for group time, and not a small side desk/table you might need to put your device on to connect to your interactive whiteboards. I'm talking about the mammoth, incredibly heavy, intimidating-to-students desk that Ralphie's teacher sat behind in A Christmas Story.

    I know we all have tons of important stuff and junk we need to store. I know as teachers we already dedicate the vast majority of the rest of our classroom space to students, but I have found I neither need a behemoth desk to function daily, nor does my class suffer at all in its absence. In fact, the flow of our room is much better. Ditching my desk allowed for infinitely more space and more student area arrangement options, and I'd bet money that I pack-rat much less stuff since I don't have a tanker truck to store it in.

     

    2. Overhead Fluorescent Lighting 

    I have always hated overhead fluorescent lighting. In dressing rooms they make even a super model look horrible and in a classroom, they've always made it feel too institutionalized for my taste. Besides that, they tend to give both my students and me headaches. Fortunately, my current classroom has an entire wall of outside windows, and gets great natural light. I've supplemented that with multiple, soft-light lamps around the room, to keep the room well-lit, but more comfortably. Additionally, since we don't have air conditioning in my school, keeping overhead lighting off really cuts down on the heat! To read more about the brain-friendly benefits of incandescent and natural lighting, read Erin Klein's blog post.

     

    3. Large Rug

    In the past, especially when I taught primary grades, I had a huge rug, centrally located, usually right in front of my white marker board or interactive whiteboard. For younger kiddos, this worked out fairly well and served a nice purpose for helping give them a tangible space within which to contain their bodies. However, I currently teach fourth grade, and while students still need reminders about personal space and appropriate body choices during floor times, I kept finding myself disliking the huge rug.

    For one reason, my whiteboard is smack dab in the middle of MAJOR traffic flow in my room, and kids were constantly tracking mud from outside all over the rug, tripping over the edge, or unintentionally displacing the rug due to it moving under walking feet. Additionally, my fourth graders need a bit more freedom with their space during group time. So, I've taken out the centrally located huge rug and have single industrial carpet squares (from my local dollar store) that students make use during group time or any other floor time during the day. These really define personal space, are much easier to clean, and can be put away and stored easily and instantly to clear the high traffic areas. Additionally, I have smaller area rugs in my library and reading sections of the classroom, which create a cozy reading area, out of the way of traffic. 

     

    4. Single Student Desks

    If you read my previous post about executive functioning, you already know that we ditched student desks (mine were huge, clunky, about 40 years old, and could have served as individual fall-out shelters in case of emergency) a few years ago and replaced them with moveable group tables. Executive functioning specifically encourages the use of group workspaces, but this change has brought with it many other benefits, too.

    Even our hexagon tables may be split in half for other group work seating options. Students now use the tables more as collaboration spaces, or for work other than typical seatwork. Because the tables split apart and are fairly lightweight, it's much easier to move and try new classroom arrangements based on student need or ideas throughout the school year. To learn more about classroom setup, read Kriscia Cabral's posts about setting up your classroom with your students in mind and flexible, open seating plans

     

    5. Multi-Colored, Busy Bulletin Boards

    I used to love finding the brightest, often multi-patterned fabrics and borders for classroom bulletin boards. Often these accent pieces were somehow connected, but not necessarily matching, resulting in multiple boards with various colors, patterns, textures, and more (OH, MY!) all around my classroom. Then, as we do with bulletin boards, I covered them with flashy, cute cutouts, lettering, and pictures, only adding more to the already busy spaces.

    Since those earlier days of teaching, I've read a lot of research and even had the privilege of attending a Highly Effective Teaching training session by Susan Kovalik and The Center for Effective Learning. What I learned was that these flashy boards were overstimulating to my students, and likely not really utilized by them for a meaningful purpose. So, years ago I revisited my bulletin boards; chose soothing, unified colors with a plain black border; minimized what I put onto the boards; and did not include items I wanted my students to be referencing, nor environmental print.

    Guess what? The entire demeanor of my class (and myself) changed. It was like a wave of calm spread over us all, and I was amazed. Don't get me wrong, I love cute decor, still decorate with a theme, and love a great bulletin board, but I just decorate with students and brain-friendly environmental design in mind. To read more, check out Erin's post for three more quick tips!


    Have you ditched any of these classroom items? Maybe you've swapped out other, different common classroom items for ones that work better for you and your students. I'd love for you to share so that we may all improve our classroom environments! Thanks for reading, happy back to school, and see you next week!

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