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!
Super post, again. I also chose to eliminate using a teacher desk. I haven’t used it as a teachers desk for years (never sit there anyway!), and just took advantage of the drawers for supplies, and the surface for current materials — a “stand” for file folders for current items/jobs (Junior Division meetings, School Musical, After School Scholars, Classroom supply orders, Scholastic book orders). I kept the desk for this purpose (rather than another system) because I had painted it and loved the personalization that this brought to the space. Now, in order to make room for a much desired guided reading table, I have purged the desk as well as 3 other pieces of furniture…..I’m also a fan of the filing cabinet as workspace/double duty furniture — can’t remember, is there a table top joining the cabinets so you have leg room?
I like your math manipulatives cart – I’m currently using a shelf with bins (which is running out of space). Big fan of having a classroom supply of manipulatives! We have swung back and for several times in the last 10 years at my school between manipulatives in the class and central manipulatives in a central location. We have a nice blend of both now, which works well for classroom storage space issues.
I’m all for students having free access to supplies in theory – I agree so much with your idea about independence. For some reason, though, I have found that if they have access to 100 pencils, they will disappear in a week…but if I put out 20 pencils, no one seems to need that extra 80 pencils…haven’t figure that out!
Your home desk warms my heart <3
Thanks Michelle! Sounds like we’re on the same page in many ways. The leg room might be a problem with the filing cabinet. I sat there, and it was okay, but I’ll have to see what happens when the students arrive. We may need to make some changes. I do like furniture that does double duty though.
Your comment about supplies made me chuckle, as even though I don’t have boxes of supplies out, I did put a small bin up front on the ledge with 30 pencils. I think that I’ll fill this up if needed. Paper though is in the cupboards for students to get if they needed. Glue sticks are as well, but I may need to rethink this too. We’ll see what works.
Glad you liked my desk photograph as well! 🙂 A little glimpse at the real Aviva … 🙂
Aviva, sorry, but that home desk still counts as clean – because you can actually see the surface of the desk in the corner!! That’s just my theory, which means you probably don’t want to see MY office desk.
I meant to comment on your “desk obsession” – I hope I can do double-duty here by linking it to your goal for the students to be independent and responsible. I suspect part of the graffiti has to do with ownership; it’s a way for them to mark what is theirs, even if they only possess it temporarily. I had a conversation with someone brilliant who helped me understand why our students were not returning their team jerseys – they wanted a memento, a souvenir of their time on the team. (That hasn’t solved the problem but at least I understand it better now.) If defacing a desk or a textbook is a way of preserving that moment in time, how can students show ownership in the classroom while still preserving the tools and respecting the classroom?
Wow Diana! What an interesting comment. I never really thought of that before. Maybe I need to look at some of that whiteboard paint for desks. Then students could doodle all over the surface: making the area theirs, while still erasing it at the end, and making a clean, new area for future students. You have me thinking now! 🙂
P.S. Now I really want to see a photograph of your desk! 🙂
Diana, I like “…how can students show ownership in the classroom while still preserving the tools and respecting the classroom?” — I think this is the crux of the matter re:respect for desks, etc:. If students feel empowered and connected to the classroom/school they will take ownership and treat people and their environment with care. Supports the idea of students having input into class set-up….Looking forward to taking my “clean slate” classroom and having students help to personalize!
Thanks for the comment, Michelle! I think that student touch in the classroom will help as well. I look forward to seeing how they help change the learning environment and really make it their own.
Must be something in the air…I disposed of my teacher desk as well! Much like you, I was storing things in it and not ever using it. Oh wait, I sometimes ate my lunch there! The biggest challenge for me was where to put those things that were in the drawers. I have went with bins on a shelf, behind my guided reading table, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’s that sort of stuff (stapler, keys, epi-pen) that I need to access easily and quickly. And where to put my assessment/student info items…..
Great post and even better replies and discussion. Nice to see I’m not alone :).
Thanks for adding to the discussion, Adele! In the past, I’ve used those plastic drawers for supplies. This has worked well. Paper items I keep in a filing cabinet. I plan on doing the same thing this year. We’ll see how it goes. Looks like lots of people are getting rid of their teacher desks.
Great post Aviva! We don’t have teacher desks in full day Kindergarten and I love it because it forces me to continually rethink my ‘stuff’. What do I really need (one pen to write) as opposed to what was on sale ( a box of 30!). Supplies are meant for students to use and when I need a stapler or hole punch I just go to the writing or arts area and use the collective supplies. My focus with the classroom is that it really is FOR the students, and not storage for teachers or a trip down memory lane. I currently have a storage cabinet in the class for supplies and games/books/manipulatives that I want to introduce slowly ( well, you know since you saw it today!). I know that if I went through that, I could probably reduce it by half:) The things I have out that are for ‘teacher only’ are my laptop and one small shelf space with assessment binders and important student information. I have enjoyed the process of decluttering my physical space as it really has a direct impact on my cognitive abilities and I have no doubt little people are the same! Thanks again for helping me with this process and here’s to annual purging of our classrooms!
Thanks for the comment, Mubina! I think that decluttering a classroom is a great thing, and I love that your classroom is so child-centred. Thank you for sharing what you did and why you did it. Have a great year in Full Day Kindergarten!