Making a Classroom For My Students

I'm about to enter my 5th year of teaching. I've been in the same classroom for all 5 of those years. As I worked in my room a bit this summer, I couldn't help but to have a few thoughts that kept swirling around my head. Some may not understand why I put so much energy and effort into my room, especially since I've gotten to stay put and haven't had to move. I even feel at times judged and feel like I have to defend why I'm putting so much into the space. The truth is, I really like to recreate the space in some scale for a new group of students. I like to challenge myself to use a space better, to make it more functional, to make it more appealing. Some may think I go overboard or I should spend my energy in other things in the summer months, but my classroom is a place that I love to be and I hope that those who share it with me love to be there too. So even if I didn't change a whole lot this past summer, I did make some changes that will hopefully impact my students for the better.

But first... a little tangent.

Even with the same room, I'll be starting a new adventure in a new grade. If that wasn't a big enough change, I've also felt a shift in my teaching focus... one that I attribute to my time working as a teacher these last 4 years and with what I've seen in our communities and world. I'm finally finding that shift away from me being the ring leader and putting it on my students. I'll admit that when I first started, I of course liked to think that the choices I made were because of what I thought worked best for my students. However, if I'm being honest, some choices that I made were more so based on what I wanted to make work for my students because it worked for me personally. I think it's a fairly common approach when you are first starting out. You are trying to figure SO much out and juggle everything. You want to be student centered, but I have found that it takes time to understand what that really means and it takes courage and confidence to make adjustments that might make you, the teacher, uncomfortable. Now some may think at times that some of my ideas are out there... setting myself up for failure or trying to follow a fad. But as my instructional coach once said to me, "When you get an idea in your head, you run with it." I sometimes think to myself that I may run with an idea and I may go in the wrong direction, but if I think it's going to make a better change for my students, I'll go for it. I am so excited for this school year to begin, even with all the changes and the bits of fear of failure. Here's a glimpse into my room this year where I will welcome 20something 4th graders in less than 2 weeks.


I kept the same colors as last year- I really like the blues, greens, and teals. I'm trying flexible seating this year. One thing I want my students to focus on for flexible seating is picking a space that students feel successful in during a particular learning experience. I still have desks and tables- since some like that. I still have my normal chairs- since some like that. I added some stools, some wobble stools, some floor seats and some exercise balls. But where students sit will change throughout the day for most of them since their reading spot may not work for them writing. Some of my students may want an assigned spot to call their "home." I already know that for at least one of my kiddos, they will have an assigned seat since the anxiety of "claiming" a spot numerous times a day would not be beneficial for her learning... I personally feel the same way- I need to know I have a space- so part of being flexible is knowing that is what some students benefit from best. I'm going for options.  But, we will have lots of materials that need to be stored so one of my first goals for the classroom is to be well organized and that everything has a place.


I'm using a "home base" concept for things such as notebooks, name tents, pencils, etc. I've spread them out throughout the room so that we don't get traffic jams with 25 students all in one spot sifting through bins looking for their personal writing notebook. At these home bases, each student will have a drawer. The drawer will hold their reading notebook and their just right chapter books. When it's time for reading, they can pull out their whole drawer and take it to wherever they are reading that day. Whiteboards are leaned against the drawers as well. These will have their Plicker cards attached to the back so we know who they belong to. Math and writing notebooks will be stored in the book boxes. 3 kids per home base, so each book box will have 3 notebooks. On the top, there's a spot for extra post-its, scissors block, a cup for dry erase markers, highlighters, pens and pencils, name tag holder, mini- pencil sharpener, eraser caps, and mini- stapler. 


I also have water bottles for my students. Right now, I have character traits labeled onto them. Once they pick the water bottle they want, I'll add their number to the top cap so they can easily grab them from here when not in use. I got these water bottles in packs of 3 from the Dollar Tree. I used them last year and they held up great!


On the left, you can (barely) see hanging Ikea garbage cans. They hold folders perfectly, so our word work groups will use these to store their word work items. On the right is my drawer tower from Michael's that I got last year. There are 3-4 students per drawer. Inside these huge drawers will house our take home folder and our miscellaneous folder (that also holds our journals). On the top of the drawers are bins for extra homework and handouts and Friday Folder items. If things don't work out, I've cleared cupboard space and have room for bins or crates to hold folders... we'll see what works best.


I want people to walk into our classroom and be drawn to the work of my students. I'll be honest and say I've always struggled with displaying student work and changing it often. Because of that, I've given up my cupboard doors and have given them to student work displays #4thgradefridge. I added the swinging metal command hooks (my favorites) so that I can punch a hole and hang student work easily... as well as layering it. I took the Target square adhesive labels and put one next to each hook. Inside these pockets will be a picture of that student. We'll also add their hope and dream under their picture. Each student will have their own little fridge space to display their work and be proud. 
 

I also changed out one of our bulletin boards to showcase photos of my students inspired by Learning in Wonderland. I just put some background pieces of paper right now on the board so they act as natural frames. I want to be able to change pictures out and wanted to save $ so I didn't do actual frames this year. We got a brand new beautiful playground that I can't wait to take students out to and snap pictures of them playing the first week. Even better- the new playground matches our classroom colors haha. I'll stick the pictures using ticky-tac and print them from my home so I can control the size.


I like adding homey touches that are relatable to students. Magnetic letters, lightbox, and note station are set here for students to interact with. I let students write me notes about anything. You can find my templates for free here.



Our major bulletin boards are labeled for easy reference. I have one that says Language for our reading and writing charts, one that says Math for math charts, and then this community board where we display our rules that we create together and our welcoming classroom lesson charts. 


Our math vocabulary cards are posted here. I'm changing the way I do math this year thanks to Ladybug Teacher Files. To better meet my students' needs, I'll be doing a math rotation between 2 groups.  Our curriculum has different resources to help support differentiation so I am going to make it a goal to use them more (hence the triangle and square).


Our math rotation materials have proper storage in the same area to make planning and accessing materials easy for both me and my students.

Our control center here helps students get situated in the morning. They do lunch count and attendance here, our jobs are displayed, and our morning routines will be posted here too (after we learn them). Our interactive graffiti wall happens here also inspired by Miss 5th and her whiteboard prompts.

That's my classroom for the year (mostly). I hope students who had me last year feel enough change to make it exciting and I hope new students feel welcomed and supportive. I also hope that I can keep this positive outlook knowing that these changes won't be easy, but that if I maintain a positive attitude, we can get through the hiccups of learning new systems and routines.

What classroom changes have you made this year?




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5 comments

  1. Your room looks AMAZING!!! I would love to be a student in your classroom! Good luck with your new adventure teaching fourth grade!

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    1. Thanks so much, Deb! I'm excited for the change but obviously a little nervous too to experience the times of clueless again haha!

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  2. I love, love, love the color coordination! I like how you mounted the baskets to the wall on the teacher counter. I would not have thought to do that, but it sure is nifty. Did you use command hooks to hold them up? I have a super long counter in my room and it would work perfectly for a storage solution similar to this. Right now I just have typical teacher "stuff" on it! Your room looks great. Thanks for sharing.

    Jamie
    Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie

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    1. Thanks Jamie! And yes! I used 4 of the swinging metal command hooks per basket (which were from Dollar Tree last year). I attached one to each back corner of the basket. Last year, I had students turn in their Reading AZ books and that worked awesome too. It helps getting *a little* clutter off the counter top haha. Hope you have a great year!

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  3. Do you have your brain busters for math in your TPT store? Thanks! I love your room!

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