Wednesday, August 19, 2015

World Building

These weeks before school actually starts are some of my favorites. This is the time when we can live entirely in our imagination. We create inviting spaces we hope the students we haven't yet met will love as much as we do. We choose first books and first activities envisioning the response we hope to elicit. In our minds, a caring, connected community works joyfully and collaboratively.  I have to believe that this dreaming, imagining and visualizing are part of what helps to make all that come true as the school year begins, unfolds, develops, changes, and gels. (And, to be truthful, the beginning, unfolding, developing, changing, and gelling are ALSO my favorite weeks -- sometimes months -- of school!!)

I can't show you all the little teaching movies that are playing in my mind these days, but I can give you a peek at my new classroom. I'm really excited (to say the least) to be trying out some really new (for me) ways of thinking about seating and spaces.

Here's a pano from the doorway:

On the left, you see our office space. OUR. I try to keep my pile to a minimum, and students learn to respectfully move my stuff aside if they want to work on the big computer that sits at that desk. On the right is some common work space. My classroom library is mostly around the perimeter of the room. Fiction to the left, nonfiction on the tall shelf by the smartboard, picture books by the window, poetry and nonfiction overflow to the right. There are three shelves anchoring tables/desks: wordless picture books, word study books, and (in the "new" shelf my neighbors generously left at their curb as "trash" -- minor damage on the bottom shelf that was fixed with wood putty) folk tales and mythology.

Here are some snapshots around the room from left to right:

In front of our office space, you can see a shelf for shared supplies, and a little reading/work/meeting space around a low round table.

These two standing desks are new. Eight spots in my classroom without chairs. The idea for including standing spaces was inspired by several tweets from my principal, and by discussions with my brother, who works at a standing desk. I can't wait to see what my students think of this! As I've set the classroom up, I've found myself working at them all the time. Lots of professionals work standing up at least part of the time -- artists, chefs, scientists, conductors, singers, why not students?!?

This table of six has stools instead of chairs. Good for building core muscles!

In the back, on the tile, we have building/making/Genius Hour materials.

This pano makes my room seem as big as an auditorium! I took it standing at the smart board and looking out into the room. I started over my left shoulder at the picture books. They are actually parallel to me, not perpendicular as they seem! Same with the nonfiction on the right -- they are beside the smartboard and are looking out into the room like I am. If you focus on the center of the room, you can see the five primary work spaces, and in front of the smartboard, our meeting space for minilessons, sharing, and such.

It's going to be a great year! I can't wait to meet my students and get started!


  1. Imagining is part of being a good teacher, I think. I enjoyed hearing your talk around the room, Mary Lee. I had students who work at standing desks too. They needed it, and it worked well. I hope you'll share your experience after the students come.

  2. I love stepping inside classrooms via blog posts! Would love to pop in when kids are there to see the spaces utilized in real time...mabe a future post or video??

  3. Thank you so much Mary Lee! I'm inspired by your space! Imagining the space is my favorite part of planning for the new year! I can't wait to hear about your standing work areas. I am going to try two standing computer work stations!

  4. What a cool classroom! I shared this with all of our teachers today!

  5. Cool classroom, Mary Lee! Like Ramona, I love being able to look inside a teacher's room. I'm curious to see how the standing desks work out! I built one for me a few years ago. I love it. We have a long counter against the back wall. Some kids routinely stand at it for temporary individual or partner work. It is too short for me to use as a standing desk, but seems to work pretty well for kid-sized bodies. Once they realized that I did not mind, but actually encouraged their movement around the classroom, they began to see it as a desirable space.

  6. Love your classroom and thanks for sharing. I am curious, where did you get the standing desks? I would love to add a couple to my space.

    1. The standing desks (and the stools) came from IKEA.

  7. Thanks. I will have to make an IKEA run!

  8. Thanks. I will have to make an IKEA run!


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