Yesterday I worked in my classroom for a few hours. I just did some basic furniture arranging and unpacked my closet. My work was made easier by the fact that the custodians did such an excellent job of putting my furniture back in place after they waxed the floor this summer. I made a few changes I’d been contemplating since last spring- had one table put into storage and moved another one to a different position. I cleaned a few things that had gotten dusty over the summer. The real magic will happen next week when I spend a day decorating and creating an “environment” for the year. I like to select a theme that gets us off to a good start.
This year’s theme is “Star Students Shine Brightly”. I ordered colorful stars for the bulletin board and stars for our helper chart and star reward ribbons. I’ll cut some stars for our door and put stars on our attendance cards. I’ll be sure to take some pictures of our bright and shiny room when I’m finished.
Creating an inviting and nurturing environment is important to me since I spend even more time in class than my students. I like for my classroom to be comfortable and I also want it to support our routines and procedures. I start with a furniture arrangement that I know will work for most of the class, then I make any necessary changes after we have been in class for about a week. It’s important to remember that each group will move a little differently, even while using the same procedures.
We have desks in our rooms, which is unusual for kindergarten. I actually prefer them because they give each child a personal storage place for his/her possessions and supplies. We share glue, scissors, markers, and crayons as needed and I always have plenty in the art center if someone needs something. However, if a child wants to bring glitter crayons or a special eraser or his own pencil sharpener, there is a place to keep it. They also have seat pockets for their daily journals and papers. Cubby space is reserved for coats, lunches, extra supplies, communication folders, and anything I need to send home for the day.
Desks are easier to move and arrange than tables. I can put them in rows or groups of three or four. I can turn them in any direction so that no child has his back to the board or to me. I can place children far apart for testing or close together for a project. I can put one next to my desk if a child needs my intervention. I can also adjust the height of a desk to accommodate the size of the child. I was skeptical at first, but after three years, I am quite happy with our desks.
I also have to take a moment to talk about our morning meeting “rug” which is actually a set of those interlocking foam squares. I gave up my carpet about four years ago and that has made a tremendous difference in our environment. First of all, squares can be arranged to accommodate the space and number of students that you have. Second, they are self-teaching. Each child has a designated space and students just naturally sit on one square without being told. I never have to explain the concept to them. And the squares are washable! Every Friday, or as needed, each child uses a baby wipe and cleans their square. Some of my more fastidious students clean theirs each day during center time. I never have to tell them “no” because it doesn’t ruin anything or bother anyone else. I take the squares home in the summer and scrub them in the shower.
Another one of the changes I’m making this year is the addition of plants. I used to keep plants in my room, but didn’t have a lot of luck with the lighting and cool drafts and watering during breaks. However, last spring when I brought in plants for our science unit, I noticed how many of my students responded favorably to them. I want to start out the year with plants, even if they have to go home with me during breaks.
So…next week I’ll decorate my room and get ready for my Star Students! I can’t wait to meet them!