We are about to begin a new school year, preparing our kids – wherever they are on their learning journey – for their next steps. Every year, it is a fresh start, with new students, fresh goals for the year, and inspired ideas to help us on our way. My first step in preparing for my new first graders is getting our learning environment ready.
It all began when I walked into my new room at a new school. Here are some “first-look” pictures of the room as I loaded in my personal teacher things.
Some things I noticed right away – two walls are floor to ceiling bulletin boards and chalkboards, and there is little shelf space for storage. There is a dry erase board on one wall, and just out of view, on the left side of the whiteboard, was a coatrack with 4 hooks on it. There are also two doors in the room, one to the outside where kids line up for class and go out for recess, and one inside, connecting us to the rest of the building.
After talking with several great teachers in my new building, I found out that fabric is the best way to cover up the bulletin boards, and I decided to paint over the brown chalkboards with black chalkboard paint – still magnetic and still usable as a writing space for the students. So, here’s what I did with the walls. I had the coatrack removed, and covered the bulletin board with black polka dots. I have a lot of polka dots in my room:) For the concrete walls, I am using command strips to hang things, as well as fun tak.
I measured the walls and got blue and green coordinating fabric. I made one side the wonder wall , for students to add what they are wondering about, and a word wall – (I need to add the word “Writing” to the top). There are two chalkboard in the middle for math, and a cozy corner with books and reading tubs on the other side. These wall will be for reading, not yet sure what will go on the walls yet. Then, next to the inside door, I used a red pattern for the end bulletin boards and painted the chalk boards black here as well. There is plenty of space for students to record their thinking around the room on the chalk boards, as well as on the table. For the table, the legs were cut off to lower it, I had my mom paint the surface with chalkboard paint, so kids can write on it as well, and I added low seating. The cushions are made of 2 – inch foam on top of plywood cut for the top, and covered with fabric. The best part is they are storage – I keep their extra supplies inside, as well as teacher supplies, and some files we need.
For my meeting area, I used our cushions to create an area for all of us to meet in the morning for CREW, and then to be used as a learning space for kids. This faces our white board, which I will use to project onto. All of the spaces in our room are flexible. Different seating, a standing table, a kid sized table and chairs, and low tables for sitting on the floor. I have yoga mats if kids prefer to lay on their bellies to work, too. We share supplies, so each table had their own for all to use, and there are no assigned seats. If there is a child who needs their own space, I have individual tables for that. There are also noise-canceling headphones if someone needs quiet. They can use the cozy corner and the giant FATBOY bean bags there to relax as well.
Along the wall, next to the whiteboard, I have two high tables set up for technology, and other work. It is also a place for me to meet with my students in groups or individually.
First graders come to school filled with curiosity on how things work and want to create things. So, we will start the year by introducing our classroom Maker’s Space. It is equipped with recycled materials, such as cardboard, paper, and plastic. We also have many tools , such as legos, Kiva blocks, K’Nex, and Goldie Blocks, for us to use for showing our thinking. We will start with a design challenge in the first few weeks, using cardboard and tape. In our Maker’s Space, we have many tools to create something new from a box.
Once the kids come in and we get into our routine, we will talk about our room – what’s working , and what we need to fix. They will also help decide what we hang up around the room.
We are still a work in progress.