Sharing Our Stories. What Are Yours?

Last year, I started the year off with a vlog detailing the thinking behind the spaces in our classroom. As my teaching partner, Paula, and I set-up our room, we spent a lot of time talking about every decision that we made.

  • Why did we put that item there?
  • How many materials should we put out?
  • How might we slightly modify each space to lead to some different learning?
  • How does each area connect with the Four Frames
  • How might we support literacy and math instruction — through play — in each space?
  • What might help our students self-regulate, and how have we addressed these different needs in our classroom design?
  • How do these areas support the building of relationships?
  • Knowing that Kindergarten students often come in at different developmental levels, how have we been cognizant of child development? What might we do to support children as needed?
  • How can we provide a welcoming environment, while still being welcome to kids designing their own spaces and making the room their own?

At the end of the day, it’s nice to stand back and look at the completed classroom (Jill‘s comment at the end of this post, has me editing this sentence now). And yes, I get that warm, homey feeling when looking at and walking through our room, but this isn’t enough for me. I want to share our story behind the decisions that we made, and the thinking behind where we might go next.

This year, in addition to creating micro-environments in our indoor classroom, we also carefully considered the layout and choices that we made in our outdoor classroom. Paula and I spent a lot of time setting the stage for learning. Our outdoor classroom space has largely been used for gross motor play in the past, and while the development of these gross motor skills is so important for kids, we think that this classroom area can be used for even more than that.

  • What are some different ways that we can address and support self-regulation outside?
  • How can we incorporate literacy and math into this outdoor classroom?
  • How can we address and build on the different interests of kids?
  • How can we create opportunities for social language and cooperative play, while also making space for quiet and independence?

This year is my T.P.A. (Teacher Performance Appraisal) year, and as such, I’m thinking about areas for professional growth. Further reflecting on the learning environment both indoors and outdoors — and creating an even greater connection between the two and the value in this for student success — are key things that I’m considering right now. I decided then to move from recording one vlog to recording two. I know that these videos are long, but I hope that they give you insight into our learning spaces and the thinking behind them. 

What insights might you add to our reflections? What are some thoughts on your classroom space? Whether done orally, through a discussion, or in a blog post, I think there’s something to be said for this kind of reflection. Our rooms are more than pretty pictures, and after sharing our stories, I hope that you will also share yours. 


10 thoughts on “Sharing Our Stories. What Are Yours?

  1. Hmmmm, just read your post. It left me with a “wondering” (as your posts so often do it challenged my thinking). You said “…at the end of the day it is….and look at a completed classroom.” And I wondered “how will Aviva and Paula include the children’s voices in their “completed”classroom?” Because for some, who read your post and don’t know you and how you work, it seems like everything is decided ahead of time, without considering the needs and interests of the children! I know this not to be true- but will everyone who reads this know how important the children’s voice is for you? Your blog has the potential to influence so many educators!

    • Thanks for the comment, Jill! Such an important point, and something that we do truly believe … hence the questions that I asked around how kids make the space their own. I meant more in terms of a set-up room to start, but not a room that will stay the same or stay without student voice. That voice piece is key to us. The kids really do need to own the classroom, and my words haven’t made this as clear. Such a good reminder about the power of words, Jill! Thank you for noticing this and getting me to think some more as well.


  2. Aviva,
    Thank you – for the terrific questions, for the thinking prompts, and especially for the comment about them being more than just pretty pictures of classrooms.

    I’ve been struggling with my new space, which is both my home room and the instrumental music room. It’s been defeating my non-spatial brain. I actually had to ask my very spatially aware husband to come in and look at it with me, and help me frame it some different ways. Inspired by you, and other teachers I learn from, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about “why” things are where they are, so one of the things I want to say to my students on Tuesday is that the room set up is a work in progress, and the only thing that is certain is that things will change. I struggled this week with people poking their heads in and saying “oh, still working, eh?”, as if there was a particular moment when they were going to be able to tell that I was done. I kept wanting to say “yes, and that’s okay”, which was what the voice inside my head was saying.

    • Oh Lisa! I can totally relate to how you’re feeling. I’ve had many of these same thoughts before. I love your last sentence. If the environment really is the “third teacher” (a Reggio idea), then it will keep changing to meet the needs of the kids. I think it’s great to communicate with kids that the room is a “work in progress” and it always will be. Give them permission to change the environment to meet their needs. What a wonderful way to connect with your students and truly show them just how much they matter! I’m very curious to hear how different educators make sure the kids know that this is just the
      “start of the set-up,” and not the end of it. What an important message to share!


  3. I love that you’ve considered the 4 frames & how the environment supports learning in each frame. I’m wondering what the grade 1-3 equivalent would be. This year one of my goals is that my classroom reflects the sense of wonder I try to incorporate in everything I do. It’s been a good guiding question for me as I set up.

    The challenge for me in the last two weeks has been that I’m leaving a lot of blank space & have to keep reminding myself I want it to stay blank for now. I need the students to arrive and fill it up! Great post, Aviva.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! Your wonder about the equivalent of the Four Frames for Grades 1-3 has me thinking. Technically, I guess the equivalent are the subject areas, but I don’t know if all of these would be a consideration in classroom design. I wondered about some of the Learning Skills, and if the design would allow for things such as independent work, collaboration, self-regulation, and initiative. I also liked your thinking around a “sense of wonder.” Does the design support inquiry? Curious to know what other primary, junior, and intermediate teachers consider with their design.

      I know what you mean about blank space. All of our bulletin boards are blank, and I have to resist the urge to put anything up. Soon though, these areas will tell Learning Stories and share student work. Have a great start-up, Lisa!


      • I definitely have space to display our writing and art, and a space for putting if the cool things we figure out in math. This year I put up a wonder wall. I have tables not desks, so collaboration is part of our everyday work. I have lots of self regulation “routines”, but other than a snack table and a calming corner, im not sure how this is reflected so a new person walking in would see the value I put on these. I’m going to think more about how the learning skills are reflected.

        • Thanks Lisa for sharing! In terms of self-regulation, I’m wondering about the 5 Domains. Would there be areas to support different social needs? What about cognitive stressors? This might even play out in our activity choices or the open-endedness of some learning environments. Your question really got me thinking more. I know that for us, having two people to talk it through and see the space in different ways really helped. This is obviously easier in Kindergarten with two educators in the room, but I wonder what would happen if all educators invited colleagues to come, see, and talk through their spaces together. How might that change our thought process? Thanks for continuing this important discussion! I’d love to hear more about how your learning space evolves.


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