I’ve gotten quite a few messages and emails requesting a classroom tour, so today’s the day!
Tables for Student Seating
As you can see in the photo above, which was taken from my doorway as you walk into the room, I use long rectangular tables for student seating. Each table can seat 5-6 students, although 4 is more ideal because that way they can spread out their books and papers and things and have some elbow room.
- PROS of tables: The upside of using tables is that you have built-in student-to-student interaction. Students face each other, so they naturally gravitate toward working together, asking each other questions, and discussing what they’re doing. The kids at each table get to know each other better and trust and bonds are formed. I do a lot of partner and group work, so the tables eliminate kids having to scoot their desks around to be near each other.
- CONS of tables: Just as our own biggest strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses, the closeness and communicative nature the tables encourage also make it difficult in certain situations. I can’t spread my students out well for standardized testing and semester exams, but luckily those events don’t occur too often during a school year. Also, if a student is off-task or being too social, it impacts other students pretty quickly due to their proximity to each other.
For me, the pros outweigh the cons. Nothing’s perfect and there are days when it would be easier if I went back to individual desks and rows, but for the most part, I really love using the tables.
Because I teach some remedial reading classes as well as an advanced (college-prep) reading class, I thought it was important that my classroom have a designated reading area. I made mine with cheap bookshelves and seats and 4 rugs put together. The students love having a different place to sit and read when given time to read in class. This area makes kids excited for time to read, and they get more enjoyment out of it (seems less like a chore or schoolwork). The only downside to this area is that it takes up a lot of floor space, so my room is a bit crowded.
Here’s the whole reading area. As you can see I use a variety of chairs, from dorm room style dish and folding chairs to plastic outdoor Adirondack style chairs. It’s funny how kids always develop their “favorite” chair style or chair for the year.
When I set up the reading area, my first thought was to have some sort of fake fireplace on this side wall. Try as I might, I couldn’t find an area of wall where I could stick a fireplace decal and not have chairs covering it up. So as a compromise, I bought a bunch of these little Andy Warhol flower prints and put them up like you would wall art in a living room. And check out my “raven” up there on the bookshelf! He’s been with me since I started teaching back in 1993. His name is Poe. 😀
Then here’s a closer view of my classroom library. The 4 shelves on the left side are all fiction, organized by the author’s last name. The one tall shelf on the far right is mostly nonfiction, but the top shelf is poetry, short stories, and a variety of other genres that didn’t fit anywhere else. I have books out on display in this area and I rotate these frequently. I find that when a book is “featured,” more students pick it up and want to read it. Makes it look more special, I guess.
On the Walls
I do a variety of things with the walls of my room.
One area has reminders of all of the main skills and concepts we’ve worked on (I add a new brightly colored paper up as we start each new unit/skill throughout the year).
I also have student work displayed in some areas. This photo shows student drawings made in a lesson on visualizing what we read. Students chose passages either from Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine or Something Wicked This Way Comes, or from Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.” They had to highlight and record all of the sensory details they could find in their passages, then draw a scene that included those details and fill in any gaps with their mental picture of the scenes.
Then there’s the Chess Life wall area, where my chess team players post either inspirational quotes or funny jokes or memes related to chess.
Another wall area displays a small white board where I post the week’s activities and assignments for my classes. This year I only have two preps so there are only two rows. I use washi tape to mark off the areas, so when I have more preps I can just add another row. You can also see my classroom felt letter board here in the front corner, as well as another of my plants. I have artificial plants sprinkled throughout my room to give it a more homey, relaxed atmosphere. They’re artificial because I don’t want to have to worry about them over Christmas and spring break, and especially not over the summer when I’m not here. To the right of this assignment board are my smartboard and another larger white board area. This wall makes up the “front” of my classroom. Although, since my students are in tables they face every direction and this makes it so there really is no “front,” or back for that matter,” in my room.
There are several other features of my classroom that I think are pretty cool.
One of the coolest things about my classroom is the DISCO BALL! It’s hanging right smack dab in the center of my room. Why? Because doesn’t a disco ball make everything seem just a little more awesome? YES!
This is the Tiki Man. He’s a bobblehead that a former student of mine made and then gave to me. Probably because he didn’t want to take it home with him, but that’s okay because I think he’s pretty neat. The kids always think Tiki Man is keeping an eye on them.
This is a little shelf area in the back of my room where students can get free books to take home. Some are ones I’ve weeded from my reading area that don’t get read as much anymore, and others are ones students themselves bring from home to share with other students. I am running a little low now that we’re nearing the last quarter of the year, but I usually have anywhere from 10-15 books in the free stack.
When I told a few of my students I was doing a blog post with a classroom tour, they insisted that I include this little fake succulent. It’s possible that this little plant gets more student questions asked about it from year to year than anything else in the room aside from the disco ball and the reading area. And maybe Tiki Man. The kids always think it’s real and pick it up to see. It’s been dropped about 10 times and has cracked and been glued a few times, but it still keeps on keeping on.
Here’s a close-up of the tubs I use at the back of my classroom. You can also see these in the picture at the beginning of this post that shows the whole room. I have a tub for each of my 6 periods of the day and kids keep their class journals and folders in them, and some kids also will keep their books for independent reading in them, though a lot of kids take the books with them to read other places besides my classroom. I like it when they do that.
On this side wall I have a bank of 5 student computers. It’s not enough for a whole class to use at once, but they’re helpful in periods when students are using them on a flowing basis. We can also borrow Chromebooks from some of the teachers in my hallway who have a cart with a class set.
So that’s my classroom! What I didn’t get a photo of was the big table along the far side wall where I keep photocopied papers and beneath which I store a big tub full of all of our chess sets for chess team. As you can see, quarters in my room are a bit cramped. I try to make sure there is at least 2 feet between all items so students can walk from place to place. I sometimes have wheelchair-bound students and students on crutches in my room, and they are able to get wherever they need to go. I guess it’s more visually cluttered than anything.
Even though I’m a high school teacher, I try to make my room inviting and fun. In a future blog post I want to do classroom tours to show you some of my colleagues’ rooms. There are a few teachers in my hallway alone whose rooms are way better than mine. Can’t wait to show them to you sometime!
Going back to those student tables, do any of you out there use them at the secondary level? What do you like about them? Dislike? I am thinking of requesting those “corner” desks that can be put together easily to make a square small group area. My hesitation is, what if you want to do do groups of 5 or 6? Always looking for ways to improve student seating, so if you have any, share away!