Friday, July 27, 2012

Preparing Classrooms for Another Year of Learning

I started back to work this week, and I am impressed with the number of teachers who have already begun working in their classrooms.  We had quite a bit of construction in the building over the summer, and many of them have been chomping at the bit to get into their classrooms and begin setting up for the big day--August 14.  It will be here before we know it! 

This is an exciting time for me too because in addition to preparing the school for students and staff to return, I also have a classroom to prepare.  I am fortunate to have an extra room in which I can hold all of my Instructional Improvement Blocks (IIBs).  IIB is a daily time block in which we meet as an entire elementary staff for a 30 minute professional development session.  This summer all of our textbook deliveries were placed in this room, which meant I spent the entire day on Tuesday unpacking boxes and delivering books to the classrooms--I lost count after box number 124.  Yes, that's a lot of books!  Now that the books and cardboard boxes are out of there, it is up to me to create a welcoming environment in my classroom.  Hmm...what to do?

Last year, I put up a CAFE board and Daily 5 choice chart as focal points in the classroom.  We are school-wide with both, and I wanted to keep the staff focused on them throughout the year. I created cute little strategy cards for the bulletin board and hung them under each letter of CAFE, thinking it would be a great visual.  I referenced the board a few times during our IIBs, but I didn't give my teachers any ownership in this display.  There were countless days that we spent honing our skills in D5 and CAFE in which I would show videos, share teaching strategies and expectations, teachers would share ideas and collaborate, and we would discuss our progress.  However, I kept forgetting about that wall!

This year, I plan to have the teachers create the strategy cards as we are focusing on them in our sessions.  Just as the teachers have the students create them as they are taught, I feel it would be meaningful to do the same with my teachers.  I have devoted one day per week to CAFE/D5 so that we stay up to date and current in our instructional practices.   Just as I expect my teachers to refer to their interactive CAFE boards during instruction and have their students take ownership, I will be doing the same with them.

So, in setting up my classroom, I will have the CAFE board and Daily 5 choices posted, but I will wait for my "students" to take this journey with me and record our learning as we go.  Even though we have been doing CAFE and Daily 5 school-wide for more than a year, there is always room to grow.  Plus this year we have 5 new teachers that will take this journey with us! 

As far as the rest of the room's decor?  Well, I have decided to leave the rest of the bulletin boards "bare" so that my teachers will have opportunities to show ownership of this classroom.  My goal will be to have them create items based on what we work on throughout the year.  I want it to be OUR classroom, not MY classroom.  As you reflect on decorating your classrooms this summer in preparation for the beginning of school, I urge you to think about whose classroom it is and how you can create a sense of ownership and community with your students. 

Will any of your bulletin boards be bare?

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