Monday, September 7, 2015

Classroom Tour 2015

*This is mostly for Susanna who requested it.It's not that exciting. If you're not a teacher, I would probably just move on with your life to a more exciting blog.*

School started about two weeks ago, and thus's been a smooth start. It helps to know the school and culture a little better. I still have miles to go in terms of learning how to teach the way I am expected to teach, I think, and miles to go before I've got the classroom management down, and many other things - but less miles than last year. There's not much to report - life is getting very busy very fast, and so this might be the last post for a while (not that I'm the most prolific writer under normal circumstances). I'm starting grad school (finally) this semester, officially, which should mean I'll be busy writing papers, and not have much time for blog posts; in addition to grad school, I'm a lot more involved in things at school this year.

I snapped some of these pictures before school started so things look a little more finished now (and by finished, I mean messy...), but here are a few little peeks into my home-away-from home:
"Panoramic" view of Room 304.

Before you enter the room, this is the display in my little alcove. It didn't turn out exactly as I envisioned, but it gets the idea across. I won't leave it up there all year (especially because kids love to budge themselves in this alcove while they wait for me to let them in the room - so annoying!) but I think it's welcoming and fun to start the year.

As you enter the classroom, this is the bulletin board you'll see immediately to the right with all sorts of useful info and items, like, what to do if you're absent, the sixth grade schedule with those pesky mods broken down, coach class, and a calendar (it's not up there yet in this picture). Also featured: the ever important sign-out binder (which has my emergency folder tucked in the cover so I can grab it on the way out the door and know who is out of my class).

(It's probably a good idea to take the envelope full of student ID cards off the desk before snapping the picture.)

The crate is for picking up and dropping off absent work. I'm trying a new procedure this year. I didn't really have one last year, was idiotic and extremely time consuming and stressful. I've tried so many systems over the years - basically it comes down to needing to be extremely organized in both your record keeping and in your paper handling - I am nothing, if not extremely not well organized...

I'm terrible at keeping track of absent students and their work. I'm going to try this system. My plan is to have a hanging folder for each day of the month. I have a cover sheet explaining what the student missed. The cover sheet will be stapled to their worksheets. I will also photocopy the cover sheet so I have a record that I gave students the work. Will it work? Probably not, but a girl's got to try.

Last year, I had students using the hand-sanitizer as their perfume, so I felt the need to make this little sign...

Different angle. I just love this corner - think it's my favorite of my classroom. It's bright and colorful and just happy and also very useful. All the bulletin board backgrounds except one are sturdy vinyl tablecloths from Walmart or something. They've held up one year, and haven't faded. I tried to find similiar ones this year and didn't have any luck.

One last thing - I stuck this quote up there, as a good reminder for students and for myself (I am the first to admit that my tone can get quite sharp, especially at the end of a long day or a long week). Here's hoping they pause to read it while they're sharpening their pencils or checking for their make-up work.

My little desk "alcove." I just procured a nice filing cabinet and that helped to expand the space a bit. I had the desk oriented around the other way last year, but I'm liking this a lot more. The paper lanterns will hopefully hang from the ceiling above my desk, but I just have to get a tall person to come and hang them for me.

Objectives at the front of the room this year rather than the back. And the Bard...staring out at my students from the front of the room. It's always good to have Shakespeare keep a watchful eye on your class if your back is ever turned.

My bulletin board with "Writing Must Haves" posted - students must have these elements in anything they write.

View of the classroom looking towards the back. Please notice the numbers hanging from the classroom - I'm particularly proud of these and I love them. I made them with large stencils, black acrylic craft paint, and two squares of scrapbook paper. They're double sided and laminated. Here's hoping they last. How could they not last? You ask...well, imagine boisterous sixth grade boys who think jumping up and hitting things hanging from the ceiling is the coolest game ever, and there's your answer.

Two weeks in, numbering my table groups is basically the best thing I've ever done. I can call out "Table 6" instead of individual student names if there is noise coming from that group. All my groups' desks are lettered A through D, and so I can say "If you are a D, collect the papers for your group and turn them into the turn-in bin." These are not ideas I came up with, by the way, but gathered from other teachers, or Pinterest.

My wordless word wall. There will be words up there eventually. Relax.

Also, my classwork folder crates. I'm keeping all classwork handouts in class, in an effort to help students not lose, well, everything. I'm worried that this is too much hand-holding, but I guess I'd rather have hand-holding and my students actually have their work, rather than the alternative (disaster, etc.).

Each crate is devoted to a mod; in each crate is a hanging folder for each table group. The first person of the group to arrive gets the folders, the A-seat person always returns them. We're still working out the kinks...laziness has reared its ugly head, and I'm finding folders stuffed wherever, even in other crates.

Don't worry. This will stop. Soon. Or else.

Student work bulletin board. It might be a little too busy, but hopefully it will get filled up with exemplar student work! The background is just 12" pieces of scrapbook paper stapled in a hodge podge. I've learned over the years that if something is supposed to be straight and it isn't, it drives me crazy, so I just do everything at a tilt or an angle and I keep my sanity. I wanted to do a sort of quilt-work pattern but that lasted about twenty-seconds.

And some student work - mini-posters from the 1st day of school about our school pledge.

This rolling chalk board is sort of inconvenient, but I don't want to get rid of it, so I am actually using it as my homework board - but I took the picture before the first day of school, and I didn't assign homework the first day of school for once in my life. There's a bulletin board on the back, but I haven't used it. I also sometimes use it to put a student desk behind it when a student needs peace and quiet to work - it creates a nice little partition.

Bathroom hand signals. This is to help reduce the interruptions in the classroom, and it works! I'm very committed to using these; if students fail to use the signals, the answer is no. I'm hoping that putting them under the clock will help solidify them in students' minds. If this seems a little elementary to you, it is...but these are sixth graders and they don't know that it's elementary. Also, until they can hold it like older kids, I don't feel bad about having elementary-style bathroom procedures.

Noise level signs. I sort of halfheartedly had these posted in my room last year, but I didn't use them. I'm using them this year. I streamed lined them from 5 different levels to just 3, to be used during work time. I think it should be implied (as in, I don't need to make a sign - not that I don't need to state this and teach this) that there's no talking during direct instruction unless directed to talk, ask a question, etc.

Boys and Girls restroom passes and drink passes - a coworker has them on the door frame, so I'm going to try it out. Notice how much time is spent thinking about the procedures for going to the bathroom when you're a teacher, especially a sixth grade teacher? Ridiculous. Procedures and routines are essential in middle school. A beautiful lesson plan can quickly go sour with poor procedures.

My classroom is always a work in progress - there will be home-made posters and student work and giant post-it note posters and other things put up and taken down as the year progresses. My classroom really does become my homebase, more so than my own home. I used to keep a half-dozen pairs of shoes in my classroom, as well as half the dishes I owned in the world...I'm a little better about that now (I keep it to one mug and one set of silverware, generally...), but it's still my space and I spend a lot of time making it look welcoming and also thinking about the flow of traffic and procedures.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour. Come visit sometime!