Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Beginning of My Classroom Transformation

This summer, I blogged about what plans I had in place for my classroom this year. I promised I would write again with the results of my work. Tonight, I'm going to finally do that! 

In my original post, I listed three main goals. They were:
  1. Create flexible seating
  2. Work on the classroom decor
  3. Improve the lighting
What I've done so far can only be described as baby steps, but I'm still excited about them. The way my classroom operates just feels better than it did last year. There are many factors involved in that feeling, but I'd like to think the way I've set up the classroom makes some of the difference. 

Goal 1: Create Flexible Seating

 The kiddos love this old moon chair of mine. This is a favorite spot for Read to Someone and blogging. We do move it around the room from time to time to enjoy its comfort in different locations. Since it is purple and sparkly (What can I say? It was a high school graduation gift...), I'm thinking about making a slip cover for it so it fits in with my color scheme and is a little less distracting.

 This is our loft, which is another favorite spot for my kiddos. Last year, I had my library up here, but it was too difficult to use when that was the case. I moved the library down to my main floor, and this space has become a place where kiddos can curl up and dig into books, writing, and math games. The purple pillow (another high school graduation gift...) needs a slip cover, and that beanbag has seen better days, but they work for right now. Like the moon chair, we move these around the room to find the perfect place to work.

This was the only purchase I made in terms of classroom seating so far. The students are using this in ways I hadn't expected. I wanted to give them a space where they could sit in a different way to do their work, and that's exactly what they do. Frequently, I'll see students laying on the pillows and reading or working on their bellies. They also use it as a place to work on their knees. My favorite way they use this, though, is to create caves for private work spots. They lean the pillows up against the side of the coffee table and slide in with their feet sticking out. This always makes me giggle, and I definitely appreciate their creativity.

This is the area I'd like to work more with. Investing in seating options can be expensive. The few additions to my classroom have increased the number of places students can sit, but one of the biggest changes for me as a teacher this year is to eliminate my seating chart. It took my students a few weeks to really understand that they could choose where they'd like to sit on a daily basis. At first, they sat in the same places everyday. When someone asked if they could change and I said yes, they began to explore the room more. Now, there's rarely a day when the students choose to sit in the same seats they sat in the day before. I do have a few who find comfort in routine and they often choose to sit at the same table, but they are the exception.

Goal 2: Classroom Decor

The first thing I did to make my classroom decor less distracting was to get rid of all of the store bought materials on my walls. I took down my shape posters, alphabet posters, and number posters, and worked to create my own. The posters in my room are all done in various shades of brown. They make the classroom feel like home without being super distracting. I also added plants. I have a plant in each window which adds a little bit of nature. One thing I'd still like to change is my carpet area. I currently have one of those classic early childhood classroom rugs with the bright primary colors and alphabet animals. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and I'd like to put that in storage and to get a nice brown rug. 

 My plant! It's bigger and more full now, and I enjoy looking at it each day. Hopefully my students enjoy it as well.

 It was not difficult to get rid of the old alphabet train posters I had. Before I used this cupboard space to showcase the students' work, but this year, it's my word wall. It's useful and way less distracting. 

I gave up my regular rotation of bulletin boards this year. Instead, I use this bulletin board to showcase pictures of our learning. The Welcome First Graders! banner will stay up all year.

Goal 3: Classroom Lighting

The last step in my classroom make-over was to see what I could do about the lighting. We, like many many classrooms, have the bright florescent lighting. All of my research this summer talked of the distraction this type of lighting can cause, and I wanted to see if I could find some lamps to use instead. I currently have four lamps in my classroom. They allow me to leave off two of the three sets of florescent lights every day. I always have the blinds on the windows pulled up to let the sunshine in, which helps as well. I've had many teachers comment on how home-like my classroom feels as a result of this lighting. The students, too, make comments about how they like using the lamps instead. If I turn the lights on for any reason, they'll ask me if they can shut them off. 

I didn't take any of these pictures with the lights off. What a silly choice! Here's my library area though. The lamp makes it bright enough to see in while making it feel more like home. Notice the cozy brown rug, which was a new addition this year, and the pictures on the bookshelf too. This is my favorite part of the classroom.

I didn't take a picture of my classroom as a whole when I snapped these, but hopefully you get a fairly decent feel for what it looks like now. Like I've said, there is still a ton of room for improvement, but I am excited about these changes and I can't see myself ever going back to what my room was like in the past. 

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