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Summer "Break" is Here!

     So summer break is here.  I like to use the first few weeks after school ends to decompress.  I do all the things I couldn't do when school was in.  I sleep later, eat an actual breakfast where I can sit down, read just for the fun of it, sip on a big cup of coffee, and maybe, just maybe, I stay in my pajamas ALL day!  Ok that last part doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's great!  I need those couple of weeks to clear my head and get ready for the next year to come.
     Ok so now that I've decompressed and cleared my head I'm ready!  This year I did a lot of "new" things.  I used a new math curriculum, started math rotations,  introduced  math groups which functioned the same as literacy groups, and transformed my classroom into an alternative learning environment for my students.  It was a year full of firsts.  Because of these 'firsts' I have much to reflect on.  There are many things I fell in love with about my classroom and some that I've spent many, many days thinking about how I could make it better or more effective.

     I love summer so much because my summer "break" becomes my time to reflect and improve.  My focus this year was on classroom environment so of course some of my first reflective moments  were spent on this area.  I had the brilliant idea to clean my carpets myself this year so I could take advantage of my sister being in town.  She volunteered (Which means I begged and she said yes!) to help me paint and set my classroom up for next year.  I know you think I'm crazy for already doing this, but you can't imagine how relaxed I feel knowing that my classroom is literally ready to go for next year!  My first objective was to paint.  I needed my room to be a place that was relaxing and fresh so I focused on a nature theme.  I wanted my room to feel like the outside.  Most people feel their best and think more clearly after they've spent some time outside in the fresh air.  I do not have windows in my classroom so creating this "nature" inspired classroom was not an easy task.  I decided to go with a color palate of blues, tans, and greens.
  

     As you can see I don't have very much traditional furniture.  This enables the students to move about the classroom more freely, much like they would at home.  I chose simple colors based on brain-based colors that will enhance our learning this year.  The thing I'm most excited about is our indoor garden which will function as both a work space and a "cool down spot".  It features parsley, cactus, as well as lavender!  It will also have a water feature added soon!  It's already my favorite spot in the room!  I think I might be doing a lot of my own work in this spot.
We will be doing a lot of research to learn about caring for our plants. 
I love everything about this cozy spot!
     I will be removing the rolling chairs from around my small group table and adding some really great "bubble stools" I found at the Container Store.  They are a "to be purchased at a later date" goal of mine.  I will have them by the time school starts, though.  I am super excited about them!  You can check them out here at this link.  http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=11000117&N=&Ntt=storage+stool

     Keep in mind when you're setting up your classroom that your students are just like you.  They don't want to sit in a chair all day and do their work without movement.  Think of some of the PD classes you've attended where you were counting down the minutes to the next break simply because you wanted to get up and move around.  Your need for stretching and moving inhibited your focus on the information that was being given.  Most of your thinking was on how much longer you were going to have to sit there.  Don't do that to your students.  Give them options for seating and the ability to choose a place where they can focus on the information and not the seat.

     Here are some tips for getting started on classroom setup:

  • First decide how you want to use the space in your classroom.  Do you need designated spots such as literacy centers or math centers?  
  • Make as many centers "Grab & Go Centers" as possible.  Students can grab these and find a spot to work.  The "Grab & Go Centers"  can be easily stored in a cabinet or on a shelf which frees up floor space.
  • Less is much, much more!  The less stuff on the floor and furniture in your room the more space you have to work.
  • How can the existing furniture pieces you already have be repurposed?  This will save you a lot of money if you are just starting the endeavor into an alternative learning environment. 
  • Be thoughtful with your paint color choices.  Certain colors have been proven to be brain-based colors.  These colors actually enhance student learning. The following link does a great job of explaining this.  www.teacherweb.com/TX/Taylor/MrsHoelscher/BrainandColors.doc     
  •  Sit in ALL of the seating areas in your classroom.  This will give you a view of your classroom from your student's perspective.
  • Organize your teaching materials!  There's nothing more frustrating than looking and looking for something you need for a lesson and not being able to find it! (Seriously one of my biggest pet peeves!)
  • Don't forget your sensory seekers!  Have sensory bins available for those students who need a sensory break.  Pinterest has a lot of great ideas for sensory bins.
  • Keep it visually simple!  It can be over stimulating for some students when there are many different colors, posters, words, and pictures on the walls.  Be purposeful with what you are displaying.
     Setting up your classroom is a huge task, but it is also one of the most exciting times of the year.  It's usually when you're most hopeful and thoughtful about the year to come.  Make this year the year you decide to do something you've never done before.  Try something new and see how it works.  Step out of your comfort zone and you might just find that outside your comfort zone is actually more comfortable than where you are now!  

~ Liz



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