Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ready for the first day

Just a few pictures of the classroom the morning of the first day of school. (Click on pictures to make them bigger -- except they will get very, very big. You will probably be able to see the dust bunnies in the corners.)

You will notice a few things:
  1. There are tennis balls hanging around. These are to make the chairs and desks silent as they are moved around. Unfortunately, the ones put on last year are all falling off -- they cut the holes in them too big. So I am throwing them away. I may get new ones, but I do NOT want to spend an afternoon slicing holes in 84 tennis balls with an exacto knife, so then again, I may not.
  2. There is almost nothing on the walls. This is done on purpose, because I want the students' work and art to fill the walls. I never buy pre-made stuff from teacher stores for the walls. (You can see a pre-made alphabet in one photo, left over from last year's teacher. I plan to take it down.) If we need an alphabet, they make it and illustrate it. We start on Day 1 making decorations for the room, and the things on the walls will be either student-made, or teacher documentation of what they say and learn (in the form of charts, etc.).
The writing center, with all of the writing supplies: pencils in caddies for each table, scissors, glue, etc. This is also where finished work gets handed in (in the baskets at the top, as of yet unlabeled.)

The math shelf, just inside the front door. On this side of the math shelf is the Conflict Area, with pillows, where children can go to solve conflicts and also to have alone time if they need it, or to rest if they are overly tired or sick.

You can see the classroom door behind the math shelf, and the Feelings Board (with strips of velcro in parallel lines) where we all place our name under the way we are feeling as we come in every morning. This year we don't have pictures of the feelings, just the words, because it's second grade.

This is just past the math shelf (you can see it on the right). There is one of the tables where students will work, and a map of Boston where we will map each person's home as we start our study of Boston Neighborhoods.

Continuing counter-clockwise around the room, this is Sweet Melissa's desk (the assistant teacher). Just past her desk is the block area, which is a big, carpeted space for building. It has shelves around it so it feels protected and hidden and blocks get knocked over less often.

Here you can see the meeting area, with the small white-board easel on the right. (That's where the teacher sits). On the big white board in the middle of the room I am trying to write the learning targets for each day, so the kids know exactly what we are working on and why. (Learning targets are specific goals for the unit / day / lesson, phrased in kid-friendly language so that they can gauge their own progress toward meeting them -- thanks to our partnership with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound for the concept.)

You can see that some of the books in the meeting area are covered so they aren't available at the beginning of the year. This is part of the Responsive Classroom approach of introducing the parts of the classroom gradually, building routines and understandings of how to use each area over time.

The student computers are on the left, and on the other side of them are my desk. (I've never had a desk before! I still am not quite sure what to put in it. I am thinking of it more as another work space for me, students, and Melissa, as well as a place to put my piles of crap so they don't fill up the rest of the classroom.)

And, our almost-completed to-do list, which Sweet Melissa and I managed to finish before everyone arrived. Phew!

Just one story. We were brainstorming synonyms for the word "happy" (because I told them that in second grade we can't just say "happy" or "sad," we have to use more interesting words than that.) So we got "glad," "excited," and "ecstatic" on our list. Then Kevaughn raised his hand and said that another word for happy was "crying tears of joy." Mmmm, yes!

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