Archive for the ‘Great classroom spaces’ Category

Last week in Republic, MO I did training on Spaces & Places. We reflected on classroom essentials. We mapped out our classrooms and even set up two rooms as a group.

Here are some of the things K-5 teachers there said they would give up this year….

  • glitter! (much of it in the cabinet was dried up)
  • big birthday cake display on the wall (takes up too much space)
  • twirly stuff hanging from the ceiling (that distracts some students)
  • my big “Hoppy Helpers” frog chart (takes up more space than needed)
  • the 6 ft. tall chart with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division symbols on it (it serves no purpose except to cover up a wall)
  • my teacher desk (I just pile stuff on it)

One teacher told me, “I slept so soundly last night knowing that I don’t have to spend all that time decorating my walls before school begins!”

What will you give up this year, so you can leave space for children in your classroom?

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In my office

For much of this past week, I have been working away in my office. I’m finishing the photos for Math Work Stations. Yes, I’m near the end of it! I thought you might like to see what this process looks like– or at least the space in which it’s being created.

Yesterday I was getting frustrated. I had piles of stuff (math manipulatives and papers) everywhere and couldn’t find what I needed. So, I thought about my advice in Spaces and Places and did what Julie Morgenstern calls, “Equalize.” I put everything (almost) back where it belongs. And then I could think straight again. It’s amazing how our space can affect our thoughts!

With the end of school, things often look bad (or worse than normal) before they look good. Stay tuned for a special post coming soon. My friend, Mary Brown, is moving to a new school next year to become a Math Recovery teacher. Several of us are going to help her pack up her room later this week. I’ll post pictures to show you how we did it. Are you moving? Packing up your room? Check out the chapter in Spaces and Places called “Organizing Your Stuff.” There’s a whole section called “Packing and Moving.”

Part of my messy office with math manipulatives everywhere!


Aaah! A clean space. The corner with my paper cutter. Think I'll hang out here.

Or maybe I'll use my organized crayons to finish making that card. A few years ago, I labeled this big box of crayons I bought for my kids. I was tired of not being able to find the color I needed, so I added labels.

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Here’s some inspiration for getting organized! A first-year 4th grade teacher at Castro Elem. of Denver Public Schools in Denver, CO has been part of our CORE Matters training all year. Recently I had the privilege of visiting her classroom. Wow! Look at the ways she’s organized. (And you should see her teaching!) This school is using the Packing & Moving chapter from my book, Spaces & Places  for ideas on how to pack up their rooms. They’re getting new carpet this summer and must pack and move their whole classrooms!

Organized cabinets with sticky note labels so she can easily find teaching materials

Well-organized materials for math

Little books and questions from http://www.readinga-z.com are color-coded and stored in small boxes on a countertop for easy access

Organized guided reading materials are found in the small group teaching area

Clever storage in the classroom library- seating cubes that double as storage from WalMart


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Often when I visit schools, teachers explain that they have too many students and don’t know how they can possibly do stations. Last week in Denver Public Schools (Denver, CO), I found folks that have overcome this issue at Valverde Elementary and Castro Elementary Look at how they’ve done it!
A kindergarten teacher took my advice, and cloned some stations. She has TWO listening stations, as pictured!

Listening station I

Listening station II

A first grade teacher has 35 plus students in one small classroom! He has some students sit at his small group teaching table; others sit at low tables (with table legs removed for the illusion of more space). There are no assigned seats. Here are some photos of his room (Those two adults you see are a student intern and his substitute for the day.)

35 kids in one classroom with tables for everyone!

Some kids use the guided reading table as their desk

Low tables create the feeling of more space

How have you solved similar problems in your classroom? Leave your ideas in the comments section!

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Recently I worked with teachers in Indiana. When I got to the room where we were meeting, I didn’t pay much attention to the space… until teachers came in and began to sit down. I looked at the room arrangement and thought, “What does this tell teachers about how we’ll be learning today?

Teachers sitting in rows

So, I asked teachers to help me move the tables before we started instruction for the day. I could have done it myself, but many hands make light work! We were done in just a few minutes.

Teachers help to move tables

Throughout the day, teachers worked collaboratively in groups. What a difference the arrangement of furniture makes in a classroom! How has your furniture arrangement affected learning in your room?

Teachers work in groups

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My recent travels have taken me to Denver Public Schools where I’m working with CORE Matters teams. Educators there are so dedicated to improving instruction for their students. It is a delight to be a part of this project! Teachers have used my book, Spaces & Places, to set up their classrooms and are using literacy work stations and small group instruction.

Here are some photos from January 2010:

"I Can" lists help children remember exactly what to do at stations and independent reading. This one is in a classroom library.


"I Can" list for independent reading

First and 5th grade teachers wear something on their heads to remind students to work independently of them- It works!

A cowboy hat works too!

Dedicated educators from the Force Elementary CORE Matters team

Teams examine leveled books together for guided reading instruction

Teachers make comprehension anchor charts

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While working in Arkansas recently, I talked with kindergarten teachers about finding the right kind of text for shared reading. I look for books and poems that are close to the guided reading level of most of the class. We read the booksand poems together for repeated readings and then move those same materials to literacy work stations for practice. Here are some samples of text that is just right for kindergarten shared reading and stations.


Sentence strips in a pocket chart include students' names and short sentences using high frequency words

Another pocket chart holds a simple 5-line poem where students can print match and fill in a few blanks

Children can build sight words with magnetic letters at this station- not too many words or letters are available at once- these same words are used in the big books and poems kids are reading

Short 4-line poem includes lots of high frequency words and can be easily managed by kindergartners

Another short poem that's just right for kindergarten

After teaching with this big book, kids can easily read it on their own at the big book station.

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