My classroom is a portable and so I have to think about all the furniture in my classroom and ask myself, “Does it have storage?” Since there are no built in cabinets or shelves I have chosen items that have these things and how can I make them look good. I tend to think of my room in quadrants. I have a reading quadrant, a computer quadrant, a math quadrant, and a work quadrant for myself. I try to limit clutter and stacks as I feel that these things interfere with the flow of positive energy. Everything in my class has a purpose even the more than 60 Snoopy dogs I have. I think it is important for teachers to have something students will notice and immediately feel a connection. They know something about me before I ever say a word. On the first or second day of school, I read them my “book” about myself. I show them a couple of books I wrote and made in third grade, and a little about my growing up years and my family.
During this time I am spending most of my time getting to know my new students. We spend lots of time learning classroom and school procedures. I introduce my classroom rules, give students an opportunity to think about them, ask questions, then decide if they can follow them, then on the first Friday, they sign my poster, then I post it under our guidelines for success which for this school is GROW.
My reading library is divided between nonfiction and fiction. I have divided the non-fiction into topics and authors. For example, I have bins for Seymour Simon, Gail Gibbons. My fiction section is divided into topics like poetry, folktales, authors like Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Peg Kehret, Gary Paulsen, Jerry Spinelli. Mystery, dog stories, and then leveled bins.
At the beginning of the year, I like the students to sit in rows because it helps with talking and it helps them learn classroom and school expectations. I also like desks because it gives students something to take care of and practice being responsible for their school materials.
My desk takes up one corner of the room. I like to sit by a window to get some natural light. I have a slightly bigger area behind my desk so I can have a small group work with me, or I can call students back to do assessments with them.
I make sure I write the schedule for day on the white board every day. It helps students know what is going on and helps me to stay on track, especially when I’m learning the new schedule as well.
I like to use pocket charts because you can change them so easily. I always have one for math vocabulary we are working on. One for the monthly calendar, and I use one for behavior and jobs. I have a large pocket chart that I can put magazines in and I switch them each month. I have used monthly themed books as well. This year I bought a magnetic pocket chart to use for my CIA vocab word of the day, the turn and talk stem, and response stems. I use two small pocket charts for the vocabulary words and I put the words in after we talk about them. I have written all the vocab words on sentence strips. I also have all the turn and talk stems written on sentence strips, I put the lesson day on the back and number them so I can tell right away the order they go in.
At the end of last year, I bought the CIA charts and the genre charts, which I love because they look so good. Since we just started our first 5th grade unit Earthquake Terror, I put up the C chart and I will wait to put up the other charts as we get to those quadrants. I think that it is important to focus on one at a time for this first book. I really want to draw attention to each quadrant and how important each one is for building our understanding. I will do the same for the genre charts. I have posted the Realistic Fiction. I find the charts very valuable because I refer to them almost every day and I like them posted so students can read them anytime.
Last year I used the composition books to collect our reading work. However this year I am trying something a little different. I took all the handouts and put them in a packet. We are trying to help students to learn how to use their binders and practice keeping their materials organized in an efficient way and to help them get ready for middle school. Since it is similar to the vocabulary packets I think it will work. Some students are neater than others and are good at putting their papers away. Last year I made co-constructed charts for everything, but our time is more constricted this year, so I have decided it will be better if I use the document camera to help students complete the pages in our packets. Over the last week and a half as I have gotten to know my students, I now know the ones that will need help with the writing parts and I can copy it and tape it in to help them stay with the class. For these students, I try to pick the things they can experience success and help them with the longer things that will only cause frustration.