To start at the beginning of this book study with me:
- Buy the book Teaching With Intention
- Make a Book Study Journal
- Read about Chapters 1 & 2
- Get graduate credit here
Don't forget to make your Book Study Journal! This will come in handy when you go to write your culminating summary!
Chapters 3 & 4
I think it is important to have a carpet area in my classroom. At my previous school, my mother-in-law generously bought a carpet for my room. I brought it to Hawaii with us when we moved and was so glad we did, as no classroom in my school had one! I couldn’t imagine teaching without it! In other classrooms, students would gather on the regularly carpeted floor, but it wasn’t the same as a colored, plush, and inviting rug. As I move over to Maui, I was so lucky to review a rug from kidcarpet.com. When I went to my new classroom to check it out, I noticed that there was an existing rug in the room, but it was solid burgundy color, old, with tattered edges. Time for that one to go! If you are like me, in a room without a rug or with an old tattered one, go look at kidcarpet.com. The rug I got was only $279 for a 7.5’x12’. They are made in the US and are really nice. Almost $300 is a lot of money, but a quality rug is such a wonderful investment for the comfort of your classroom.
In my last classroom, I had 42 book baskets: a combination of the large ones from Really Good Stuff and locker bins from The Dollar Tree. Having a lot of books is really important to me - and in a wide variety and level. I probably have over 1000 books in my classroom library alone. When I taught 3rd grade in Portland, I had 2 students who read at an ending kindergarten level and some who read at a middle school level. I needed everything from high-interest phonics readers to age-appropriate novels!
During my first year of teaching, I was like the new teacher in the book, Katy. I didn’t have a lot of high-interest books for my students to read, so I worked really hard to fix that. I used Scholastic bonus points to buy books and spent my own money each month to buy books. Back then, you needed to have $20 of orders to get free shipping, so if only a few children ordered books, I would order enough to make $20. My grandma was also an avid reader and usually gave away or donated books when she was done with them. She started giving them to me and I made an arrangement with a local used bookstore where I would trade her novels straight across for children’s books. The bookstore was happy to help a new teacher! I went to library sales where I would find books for 50 cents and I always accepted books from other teachers who were cleaning out their rooms. I’m not a big garage-saler, so I didn’t usually find books that way, but I know lots of people who do. Craigslist and eBay are also great sources for finding retired teachers who want to sell all of their books for a cheap price.
I organize my books by genre, theme, and author. I used to laminate my book basket tags, but then would sometimes have to wait until there was laminate at school or when I had something else to laminate with it if I ever wanted to add a new label. A few years ago I started using clear, plastic ID covers instead. They are way sturdier, and I can slip a new label in at any time. I’ve always labeled my books with an address label that matched the bin label, as well. I found this system is especially helpful for kindergarteners and first graders. I always have a word and a picture that they can match the book to a bin. I find this easier than a color dot system. Sometimes I want to change the bin that a book goes in and it can be a pain to peel the sticker off, but it’s doable. I usually just bring a stack of books home that I want to change and do it while I sit on the couch and watch TV. I’ve even had responsible students help me do it!
When I taught kindergarten and first, I also had a separate lending library. It had books for DRA levels A-20. Students would bring one book home everyday to read and write on their reading log. I stopped doing this when I moved up to 3rd because I didn’t have enough higher-level titles. I’m excited to start it back up, though, as I move back down to first next year!
For the purposes of this chapter, I’ m going to talk about my old classroom, as I haven’t set up my new one yet and I’m not sure what is all there yet. I like that I have a large carpet for gathering, tables in groups, materials organized so students can find what they need. I have a second table that an assistant teacher uses during reading groups, but students can work at it during other parts of the day.
Even though I gave up my big desk last year, I still feel that my “teacher stuff” takes up a large corner of the room. I have a large filing cabinet, a small computer desk (I wish I could get rid of the teacher desktop computer, it’s so huge), a kidney table that is essential to teaching small groups, a shelf for my teaching materials, and two big bookshelves for my guided reading books. In my ideal world, those would all go to a book room for teachers to share and check out. I think freeing up this space would make my room less cluttered looking and would look more student centered.
- With my large rug, I feel that shows that I value classroom community.
- Students can work either at the large carpet, at their table groups, on a small carpet, at a rectangle table, or even with pillows. This shows that I provide options for students to work in large groups, small groups, partners, and alone.
- My student desks are in groups to promote collaboration. Student supplies are in their desks. There is also a tall shelf for book boxes and reading materials.
- There is a small writing center with stamps and different kinds of paper. The math area is in a closet where the children have access to the math center supplies, extra dice and money pieces, and other manipulatives. The science stuff is all put away and I bring it out as we are learning certain concepts. I wish I had more room for it to be out, but I don’t.
- My books are in shelves along the large carpet area. It made more sense for them to be in one spot so they would be easier to find.
- I have 2 classroom computers with math game CD-ROMs in them. They do not hook up to the Internet. I also have an iPad that small groups use.
- I got rid of my teacher desk last year and couldn’t be happier about the decision.
- I have painted bulletin boards in the past and I really loved it. But in my old classroom, I used black sheets to cover my bulletin boards and I loved it even more! Everything that I put up popped off the black background and the staples left no marks at all!
- I also painted my bookshelves black so that my colorful book bins and books would pop. I didn’t want people to walk in and see color and patterns; I wanted them to see student work and tons of books!
- To fix the trash cans, instead of replacing, I would spray paint them! As well as filing cabinets. Spray paint is my best friend when it comes to the classroom. It’s cheap and makes such an impact. Make sure to look up some YouTube videos so you learn the proper technique.
- Whenever I got rid of furniture, I either sent out an email to the whole staff, or I put it outside my room with a note that said “FREE”. Someone always picked it up!
- I’m lucky that I didn’t have a harsh fire marshal when it came to rugs, pillows, and hanging from the ceiling.
- I made an Amazon list last year for the classroom and shared it with parents. No one bought anything for the class, but we also didn’t have a PTA and parents were not very involved in the classrooms. I hope that this would change as a new PTA-type group just started up.
I don’t have students help organize books because of the sticker system I use and love. I know I should just try it, but the system I have works and I don’t see a need to trying to fix it. I could have kids help me organize math manipulatives, science materials, or even where to put the writing center. That might be some fun first day activities! When I first moved to my old school, the room was a complete disaster: Math manipulatives were scattered everywhere, dirty dishes were left in the sink, and ripped books were in the corner. I had the kids help me sort all of the math supplies and put them into buckets. They did a great job and I really do feel that it helped them realize this was OUR classroom. If I find my new room is a mess like that, I would definitely have the kids help me again.
As Debbie was describing how she would think about other things she needed to do while she was teaching, I was reminded of myself! These are my ideas for how I can try to be less of a multi-tasker and more present in my teaching:
- Be a better list maker
- Use my planner more so I don’t have to worry about meetings, etc.
- Get a desktop planner
I post math discussion stems around my calendar wall to help facilitate math discussions. I got the set of questions from a math training I went to from The Math Learning Center years ago. But after reading this chapter, I want to incorporate them in other areas of my classroom, too. I’m not sure right now if a simple teacher cheat-sheet is going to work best, or having the questions posted around the room. I made a little freebie if you want to use these more in your classroom, too! Like Debbie said, the answers are already inside us, we just need to practice being present, thoughtful, reflective, and authentic. Having a set of questions for us to practice with and to teach kids to use while discussing with each other seems like a great first step for making this type of questioning habit.
I know that I am not the most perfect and encouraging teacher at times. I try, but I am human. Something I say when students ask me silly questions that I know they can figure out themselves is "Use your brain." It seems to work, but I often wonder if it's not the most positive thing to say. Even though I'm conscious about it, it still slips out of my mouth almost everyday! I need to find a phrase to replace it with that would be more encouraging, like "Hmm, let's think this through and see if you can figure it out." That doesn't have the same conciseness as "Use your brain", but it's a start.