Last night, I blogged about the reasons behind my classroom set-up, but when conversing with some teachers on Twitter and through my blog, I realized that I forgot to include some of the whys. So here’s a follow-up post with some more explanations:
1) I chose not to have a teacher desk. As a primary teacher for the past 11 years, I’ve never had a chance to sit at a teacher desk during the day, so I always chose not to have one. This gave more classroom space for students. I like having space in the room. In the past, I’ve noticed that students thrive when they have room to relocate to quieter spaces, or even different work surfaces than a desk (such as a comfortable chair or the floor), and eliminating a desk, gave me more room to provide these spaces for them.
While my students are older now, I think that they will still benefit from this additional space in the classroom. I also try to keep the classroom uncluttered, and desks have a habit of collecting clutter. Below is a shot of my desk at home, and this should be reason enough why I choose to not have a desk. (Warning: This photograph’s a scary one! )
Instead of a desk then, I have the filing cabinet that’s holding two computers. Now my “desk space” can be both for storage and for working: a win-win.
2) I organized a math cart full of the different tools that students will need for math. This summer, I read a lot of Dr. Marian Small’s work, and she looks at how the different strands overlap in math. She also speaks about the importance of problem-solving in math, and the use of manipulatives for all grade levels. While it’s wonderful that many students know the basic math facts, I also want them to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I want them to explore multiple solutions. I want them to see the benefit in making mistakes and trying again. The tools on this cart will help the students throughout the year. They are all labelled, and students can then take what they need, and return everything later. This will help students build the independence that I think is important for Grade 6!
That being said, if there are students that need their own buckets of manipulatives, then we’ll make these buckets together. If, as the year goes on, these students can start to choose some of the tools from the cart and have some of the tools in their own bin, then that’s great! I’m definitely in favour of making changes to this system to best meet the varied needs of the learners.
3) I chose not to put supplies out in the classroom. Instead, I organized both large cupboards in the room with a myriad of supplies that students might need. Since I want the Grade 6′s to develop independence, I’m going to give them independence too. I’ll show them where the supplies are located, and if they need something, they can go into the cupboard and take it. The only rule is that the items in the cupboard need to remain organized. Then others in the classroom can find what they need when they need it.
Just the other day, I blogged about the importance of respect and responsibility, and this plan should hopefully allow students to develop both. This being said, I do have textbooks out on the shelves that could easily go into the cupboards, as they will not be used every day. If my current plan works in theory, but not in practice, then we’ll change things around.
While I have numerous reasons for why I did what I did, I also know that nothing in a classroom needs to be permanent. I think it’s important that teachers model for students the willingness to change. I’m sure that I’ll be making many changes this year, and I’m sure that the Grade 6′s will be changing a lot this year as well. Here’s to a wonderful year and a great new adventure!