I have unshakable faith in children. They always show me the way. ♥

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

books and the heart of our classroom...


So, one of the dangers of being a classroom teacher is that you never quite have enough of the right books, and often you get donations of lots and lots of other books and then what happens is that you have TWENTY boxes of books and they're only sort of organized and you can't always find what you need. Or, like me, you had NO BOOKS in the classroom when you were hired, and so therefore you spent thousands of dollars over your first five years of teaching building up your library.

So, the nice thing is that I have a lot of books. The hard thing is that I don't have them organized well enough to a) always find what I need right away (sometimes I can), or b) store all of them. I also have multiple copies of many books and some that have just been so well loved that they're falling apart, and some that have been through two (!!!) floods and really need to be retired.

I spent many hours sorting, organizing, and filling boxes of books to be given away/donated. Here is one picture of my progress. The books on the lower left are boxes to give away. go me!

[click on an image to make it bigger]

I still have about two-three more hours of work left on books, but I did a lot today, so yay. :)

I threatened in my last post that I'd talk about some of the different areas of the classroom. Today I wanted to mention the circle/meeting area...

For the past two years, this area of the classroom has always been rich and wonderful. It's always one of my favorite areas because we read aloud here, we practice, we discuss hard things, we have morning meeting, we have visitors, we learn about each other, we cry and laugh and dance and sing.

It's like... well, it's the heart of our classroom.

Last year I regularly felt like we were outgrowing the space. The kids would develop a really deep interest in something and we'd fill a book basket and then have nowhere to put it. The projector cart that lived in the middle of the room (that I connect to the laptop to project images/videos/powerpoints/demonstrations, and etc...) was always in the way. When we would have a lot of visitors to our circle, we wouldn't have room for everyone to fit comfortably. And, really? That can't happen.

If the essence of what I believe is 'less is more,' well, then I have to practice what I preach. So, I've modified things a lot. Here is a shot of the meeting area from the windows:

[click to make larger]

Here it looks really empty. Really empty. But what I really see is the freedom for movement, the areas that we will be able to fill with book baskets (at the base of the table with the red buckets, to the right of the rocking chair, on top of or under the little square table in the center).

I start the year with an "undressed classroom." It's pretty and welcoming, with color and pretty lights and lamps and homey touches, but it generally looks sort of empty. The reason? We build the classroom together, the kids and I. We explore all of the materials we're going to use together, we talk about how we can use them, how to take care of them, and where we're going to put them. In October, the meeting area is going to be a lot fuller, in February, it's going to look totally different, because it will evolve based on the needs of our class. But right now? I don't know the exact needs of our class. So we get to figure it out together.

I'm also going to show you something else:

This is the view toward the door from the windows...

If you look between the "tables" with the purple baskets and the red baskets, you'll notice there's a walkway and a circle table. This is deliberate. For the past two years, I've always had something between those tables, and it's always been in the way. Last year, it was our projector cart. We use it a lot, but not enough for it to be in such a prominent position in the classroom. So, I moved it. I put it here:

Can you see it? It's the black cart in the far corner under the window. I took out one entire table that we used to use for the listening center and replaced it with the very small, wood colored shelf that we'll use for the listening center. The projector cart is out of the way, near a space that doesn't get a lot of traffic anyway, and fully accessible for when we need it on a regular basis.

I am so pleased. This is going to make the shelves with book baskets more accessible AND as I've removed some of the furniture from the meeting area, we now have more wall space to display our work.

Seriously, I'm just completely jazzed about this. I can't wait to watch how this space evolves.

Chances are, I'll continue to babble about some other areas of the classroom -- is there anything you are interested in hearing?

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Ooh, I am so jealous of all your space!!! I also thought hard about setting up my room this year, and felt like I had the time to be very purposeful. But, it is always tight and I can't have the big meeting area that I want, for example, as well as many other things. I just try to decrease clutter, decrease clutter. But, I did make a much bigger, beautiful block area this year!