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Classroom Setup: Establish The Learning Environment

Sherri Maxwell, Field Manager,  Southwest Residency

Out walking one cool late summer evening, I noticed wild sunflowers in bloom. These early harbingers of fall got me thinking about the start of the coming school year and all the feelings and expectations that accompany this new beginning. What other profession allows one the opportunity to start over every year?

There is nothing like stepping into a freshly prepared classroom as it awaits the arrival of the learners- teachers and students alike. Setting up the learning environment with intentionality is a critical first step in communicating to students the culture of the classroom. Not only is it important for the environment to be warm and welcoming, but also that the classroom communicates a student-centered culture based on high expectations, collaboration, and positive relationships.

Setup classroom space and walls to communicate your mission and vision of the upcoming school year to all who enter.

Collectively develop class norms
This instantly shares the vision of a collaborative classroom. Posting these norms for easy and frequent reference gives students an immediate sense of belonging while setting forth high expectations- this is our space with you, the teacher, as the lead learner.

Create visual structure in the classroom
Create places where learning targets can be shared, new vocabulary can be tracked, and math skills can be prompted. This supports instruction while allowing students immediate access to usable and timely resources. Set up a place where exemplars can be posted and referenced to demystify what quality looks like.

Schedule
Creating, teaching and utilizing structural organizers such as the workshop wheel, a daily agenda, or picture schedules teaches students how learning time is managed while providing consistency and stability.

Designate space for each subject
Giving equal attention in the décor of a multiple subject classroom to all content areas gives voice and credence to what is taught across the curriculum. This way, every student can find something of interest that resonates with him or her.

Space to support social emotional development
Finally, be sure to attend to students’ social and emotional development and needs. Providing space for class meetings, quiet work zones, and small group work is critical. You may also want to allow wall space for growth oriented materials, such as mindfulness, and other initiatives designed to support social emotional development.

No clutter allowed
A word of caution: keep the space organized, clean and uncluttered. If something is not necessary or is not being used, move it along. Everything in the room needs a place and a function. Students should know where that place is and what that function is.

Make it your own!
Every classroom is different! Find what works for you. Visit other classrooms. Ask another teacher to do a walkthrough of your room. What does your classroom have to say as a harbinger of the upcoming school year?


Learn More at an Upcoming Institute

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Enjoy Denver, the Mile High City, when you attend Thinking Strategy Institute

Thinking Strategies Institute
Develop the thinking strategies that promote understanding.

Explore ways to promote deep learning by fostering engagement and understanding, and how the workshop model, rich student discourse, and thinking oriented classroom communities provide time for teacher modeling, student practice and self-reflection. Please join us at one of our three offerings this year!

December 4-7, 2017
January 29-Feb 1, 2018
April 30-May 3, 2018
Denver, CO

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