Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mid-year Update: Alternative Seating

It's hard to believe that the school year is almost half-way over!

I spent some time over winter break re-arranging my classroom. Ever since the school year began, I have been toying with the idea of alternative seating. I first heard about the concept about 5 years ago after seeing The Sisters at a workshop. They mentioned that they do not have a desk or seat for every student. As an adult, how often do you sit at a table or desk to read, scrapbook, plan lessons, etc.? (Personally, I love to lie on the floor with a pillow under my stomach.) Our students may feel more comfortable, have longer stamina, and focus better when sitting at some place other than a table or desk.

In November I began allowing my students leave their table spots, and work on the floor. I allowed them to sit anywhere for Daily 5, so I began to expand this option to math, writer's workshop, spelling, etc. They could just grab a clipboard and sit or lie on the floor. I noticed immediately that they were more focused and quiet. I'm not sure if this was because they were spread out around the room, or because they were allowed to choose their own spots. Either way, it was working!

I began looking at other seating options. At one point I was considering doing a Donor's Choose project for a classroom set of stability balls. There is a lot of research supporting the use of stability balls to help children focus. However, after experimenting with them a bit, I have realized that they are not a good fit for all children, and I would hate to ask for (and store!) a bunch of stability balls that weren't being used.

So I began to look at other alternative seating options. Here is what I came up with.

Looking straight into the room:

View from the door looking left:

View from the door looking right:

2 saucer chairs from Walmart:

2 bean bag chairs (I have been using these all year):

Our PSA purchased stability balls for teachers to share. I checked out 2 for students to try:

My students have shown a lot of interest in the low table that holds our mailboxes, so I lowered 2 of my regular-sized tables.

I purchased 8 pillows from Gordman's. (I looked into making them, but it was pretty pricey!) I found a variety of sizes and shapes in my classroom colors. The only bad thing is that they are spot-clean only. I figured if they get really dirty, I can always make washable vinyl covers. They can sit on the pillows when sitting at a low table, or when lying on the ground. My one rule for lying on the ground is that they can only lie on their stomachs. I don't want them to put their heads on the pillows (lice!), and I don't want them to lie on their backs and fall asleep. :)

The bad thing about pillows is figuring out how to store them. They take up so much space! I think I'm going to put the yellow ones away for now, and store the others in these bins. Students can take them around the room and use them as-needed.

I used to have all of my mini laptops set up at this built-in counter, and it drove me crazy!!! Students were VERY chatty during Listen to Reading time. They would actually click on the exact same stories at the exact same time so that they were all listening together. (The things they come up with!) I also didn't like this setup because of the wasted counter space.

So I decided to put the minis in plastic drawers. I drilled a hole in the back of the drawer for the charger, and used a binder clip to keep it from slipping through the hole. It's a pretty tight fit in the drawer, so I'm hoping it works ok. Students will just take out a laptop, and use it anywhere in the room. The bins on top hold wireless mice. This also opens up the counter space for another student seating option. For some reason, they LOVE to sit at the pull-out shelving that is intended for computer keyboards.



Because of the way I moved my tables around, I had to figure out a new arrangement for my bookcases. I even considered other options for student supplies, but the bookcases really do work well. I decided to set them up in the back of the classroom. There is still plenty of room for me to open up my cupboards.

A few of my students love to stand, using the cop of a bookcase as their writing surface. They even choose to do so during independent reading time! With the bookcases set up this way, they can stand in the back of the room.

When we return from break I am going to spend a lot of time going over expectations with my students. We will be making charts that show the expectations for the different types of seating. I also plan on making a rotation schedule for the saucer chairs, stability balls, and bean bag chairs, because I know they will be the popular seats.

I'm a little nervous to try alternative seating, but I'm also excited to see how my students will do!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classroom Reveal 2013-2014

Open House is over, I met my new kiddos, and my classroom is full of new supplies! Now that I have them all organized, I'm ready to show pictures of my finished classroom.

First, I would like to point out a few things. Although I started this blog to track how much time I spent setting up the physical environment for my students, I did not blog to point out how "unfair" it is that teachers are expected to do things outside of their contracted hours. However, I think the numbers are interesting, and I don't think the general public realizes how much time teachers put into preparing their classroom. With that being said, here are the stats:

-It took me 130 total hours this summer to move into, and set up, my new classroom. Only 3 hours of this work was completed during my contracted time.
-Teachers went back to school this past Tuesday. We attended many required meetings and in-services during this time. I had approximately 12 contracted hours to work in my classroom, most of which was spent planning. This means that the work I did in 130 hours (and actually more, if you count time spent planning) was actually supposed to get finished in 12 hours.
-I did not keep track of how much time was spent on planning, curriculum development, and reading professional texts this summer. Those hours definitely exceeded the hours spent working on my classroom.

A few details about classroom decorating restrictions in my district:
-We are not allowed to bring in anything that has to be plugged in (refrigerators, lamps, etc.).
-We are not allowed to paint.
-We are not allowed to have items made from fabric (couches, throw pillows, etc.) in our classrooms.
-We may only cover approximately 20% of our wall space.
-We may not hang anything from the ceiling.
-We may not hang anything on our doors.

If you have been following my blog, you may have seen many of these pictures, but I'm recapping everything here.

The hallway:

View to left when you walk in:

View to the right:

View to the left from the opposite corner:

View to the right.

Calendar/mailbox area. The basket is for finished work, and the little container to the left hold fish sticks for choosing students at random.

I'm keeping it simple with birthdays this year, and taking pictures like this to place on this chart.

CAFE menu (with 2 columns for comprehension), word work shelf, and document camera:

Class schedule:

Writing area: this will contain anchor charts, mentor texts, paper, and work on writing options. The binders below will store student assessments and tests throughout the year.

Alphabet line:

Social studies/science board, and student computer area.

I did away with my teacher desk this year, so this is my new "teacher desk area."

My listening center, complete with the Ikea spice rack idea that is all over Pinterest:

Daily 5 anchor charts:

Student book bins, and small group area (I keep all of my small group materials hidden in the cupboards):

This is the other part of my "teacher desk area."

These baskets hold teaching materials for the week:

The cupboards contain my "math word wall." (To see the post about the inside of my cupboards, click here.)

This is going to be my author study board. We're going to be celebrating Dot Day in September, but I didn't get a chance to pick up more Peter H. Reynolds books from the library. So, I put back to school books in the rack instead.

This will be the home for our class frog, who should be arriving soon! I set it up early to keep the kids wondering what it will be for.

Genre board (posters are from One Extra Degree):

This board is going to to contain ELA anchor charts.

My PBIS board. The pockets contain my classroom jobs, and the puppies move from pocket to pocket. Later I will add the "Top Dog" poster for the student of the week.

Classroom library:

Doubles posters and number line:

I try not to keep a lot of supplies on the tables-just pencils and erasers. I place student names on the back of the chairs with Velcro. The extra spots in the bin are for any "fun" pencils that students bring.

Each table group has their own bookcase to store supplies (the idea came from Dandelions and Dragonflies). The container on the left is for headphones. The basket on the right is for art boxes (crayons, markers, colored pencils), and the bins on the bottom contain notebooks, folders, and take-home binders.

That's pretty much it! I didn't go into tons of detail, but if you want to learn more about the different areas of my classroom, please click on the various blog posts on the right.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Almost There!

I spent a few hours at school tonight, finishing some small projects. As I have mentioned before, I have been at school A LOT lately, but my time has been spent planning, and I'm not counting those minutes. Maybe next summer. :)

The first project I worked on was for my school's PBIS program. Students earn "paw points," which are small laminated tickets. Teachers have to collect the paws, and transfer the points to each child's paw card. The card is how the teacher keeps track of how many points a child has. I had an ok system last year, but it was sometimes difficult when I would pick my class up from lunch, for example, and 7 kids would hand me a paw to record on their card. My teammate came up with the great idea to use Carson Dellosa's Positive Reinforcement Pocket Chart to help keep paw points organized. This pocket chart is awesome, because it contains a small clear pocket in front, and individual pockets behind. Students will simply put their paws in their individual pocket, and I will record the points on their card when I have time.

I haven't decided if I want to add a title in the top pocket. I kind of like it plain and simple!

Here is a picture of it hanging by my PBIS bulletin board:

I also finished my Dot Day board. This area is going to be used for author studies. I need to make a visit to the public library to check out more Peter H. Reynolds books.

My laptops were ready to be set up, too! I have 6 total, but they do not all fit on the built-in shelving, because I am using the 6th spot for my teacher desktop computer. The 6th computer will just be unplugged and taken to a student's desk when they want to use it.

Finally, I worked on writing names and number on student materials.

Teachers go back to work this Tuesday, and Open House is on Wednesday night! I should have my "reveal" pictures ready on Thursday!

Time spent working on classroom today: 2 hours
Cumulative hours: 127