Sometimes words continue to surface in your life and conversations. This, for me, is the word, intention. It’s a word that my teaching partner, Paula, and I have uttered in the past week. It’s also a word that we’ve heard during staff meetings and conversations with educators and administrators. Honestly, it’s a word that I love, as I think that it gives me both focus and perspective.
For the past 21 years, the week before school starts has been a week of setting up a classroom. As someone who’s taught at eight schools and seven grades, I’ve moved classrooms a lot and set-up a lot of different spaces. This year, Paula and I also moved. We’re at the same school, but we’ve moved to the last kindergarten room in the hallway. We ended the year packing up a space, and we started this year, organizing a new one.
For years, setting up a classroom always meant covering bulletin boards, finding posters to hang on the wall, putting up a new alphabet, and creating colourful signs and names for the desks, hooks, and individual materials. There was so much name writing to do, and then even more when a child moved or went by a different name than you expected. Now though, for us, setting up a classroom space is not about any of these things: it’s about the intent of the materials, furniture, and spaces in the room. And so, everything that you see in this video is intentional.
There is/are …
- The painting/art and sensory areas near the sink space for easy access to soap and water.
- A lot of sensory spaces — from painting to sand to Play-Doh or plasticine — as we know that many of our students find sensory play calming, and these choices will support Self-Reg as the school year begins.
- A tire table because young students are sometimes more drawn to a floor space than a table space. This allows for smaller group connections as well as larger group ones.
- A tablecloth on each table that will be used for painting/art, as this makes it easier to tidy up glue or paint. Then students can still be independent, but also freely explore new materials without worrying too much about a mess.
- An empty shelf near the eating table, as then students can put their lunches there for easy access. We can also look at the lunches on the shelf to determine who still needs to eat. Children become more independent at this throughout the year, but rarely, in the first week of school.
- A shelf, a table, or a makeshift wall to help divide the spaces, and possibly cushion some of the noise.
- A bin of clipboards, pencils, and/or markers at almost every area throughout the room, as this makes it easier to infuse reading and writing into play. We can also support the mark making that is so common is the early days of kindergarten.
- Paper over the table in our writing/drawing/mark making space, so that children can write/draw/mark make directly on the table. There are also alphabet books, number books, and word family books on the shelf nearby that students can easily access to even inspire some of this drawing and mark making. We can also offer small group instruction around this table — differentiated based on needs, and with the supplies available.
- A big basket of board books near the eating table. Students can then read and discuss text as they eat. This is also a great place for guided or small group instruction, as students are together and eager to connect with an educator in this area.
- No carpet. Paula and I vacillated on this, but we really liked the lack of a carpet in the class last year. Usually carpets become rolling areas or running spaces, and we didn’t want either. We can also be more flexible with this space — possibly even moving to some painting on the floor area, but with the addition of a taped down tablecloth or paper (with floor tape of course).
- The careful placement of furniture to hopefully reduce the chance of running. We do have a large class this year, so we want room for all of the children to move, but we don’t want a big open area, which becomes a “classroom racetrack.” It’s a fine line of adhering to fire safety rules, while not inspiring a classroom gym. 🙂
- Lots of open shelf spaces, which can be used for creating mini-worlds and saving items to return to — and extend — the next day.
- A few individual desks to create some more individual spaces around the classroom. Students were used to these personal spaces last year, and many thrived using them. They might not need one all the time, but we want to support these areas and the success that came along with them.
- Flexible spaces that can easily be modified as we meet the students. Our hope is that they will show us what they need/want, and can work with us to change these areas. This flexibility also means that we can slowly start modifying the provocations in these spaces throughout the day, and even create additional areas for eating as the day progresses.
- Many table spaces where students can begin their play. We wonder if play might be calmer if we have students start with a drawing/writing/mark making option, much as it was last year. Then we can support other choices as we also get to know the children more.
- A bucket of supplies to bring outside to support sensory play, measurement, dramatic play, connecting with peers, and writing/drawing/mark making. Having the covered bucket so close to the door, also makes it easy to bring out with us.
- Empty walls. We plan on adding documentation to these wall spaces, with students, so that they can also reflect on their learning and be inspired to extend the play. We really want the walls and bulletin boards for sharing various learning stories and artifacts that connect with them.
I’m fortunate to work with a teaching partner, where we can discuss this intention as we make the choices that we do. Together. But I wonder what this might look and sound like in other grades. Is it through respectful dialogue with colleagues, students, and families, that we can vocalize and reflect on intention? What impact might this have on our teaching practices and classroom design? I’m curious to see how the space evolves beginning next week, and the evolution of our intention as well. Students and families started to contribute to the discussion through the blog post comments, but next week, we can begin the in-person conversations. Intention makes us strive less for a Pinterest-worthy classroom and more for a kid-focused one. What about you?
I love your description of starting with the room as a blank canvas, waiting for this year’s class to fill the space with documentation and creations. Too often rooms are planned for children that were there last year, or are the same every year.
I wish everyone started their day in the outdoor classroom. So important for so many reasons! (and there as some things you just can’t learn inside 🙂 )
Intention to meet these children where they are and grow with them is so inspiring.
I’m looking forward to seeing your room evolve during the year through your blog and what the children do with it. Have a great week.
thanks for sharing!
Thanks for your comment, Monica! We’re really excited to see how the room evolves — indoors and outdoors — with the insights of the kids and families. Wishing you a wonderful year!