Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Classroom Reveal

It's been ten days since the students have come in the door, their eyes shining bright.  That first day, though they walked in full of promise and expectation;  my classroom ready to go!  The kids look around at the decorations - a superhero theme.  They notice each of the superheroes: Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Superman, and Captain America.  Sadly, full-size woman superheroes are missing due to the inappropriate clothing they wear.

On that first day, what they don't see is content-specific or procedural posters on the walls.  They don't see math vocabulary, hints to help with writing or reading, and they don't see anchor charts.  The bulletin boards and walls are blank.

To me, this is important.  Any item that goes up in my classroom needs to be important.  My students need to understand (and have a hand in developing) any anchor charts or posters that go on the walls.  If I have something that was previously made, it does not go on the walls until we discuss it in detail and have practiced using it.

I divide up my room into sections - a reading/fluency section, a "unit of study" section (this is science and social studies combined with reading skills), a math section, a word work section, a writing section and a library section.

Student Desks and Work Areas

Second graders at my school have work tables.  Each student has their own slot in the table to keep their belongings.  The tables create a sense of cooperative learning, and instant work spaces for group work.  In addition to this, I also have 2 quiet tables for students to select to work at.  I also select students to work at these tables at times when focus is necessary.  There is an additional cooperative/quiet work table floating in the classroom that seats two more students.

There is a "chill space" for when a student is frustrated, upset, or making poor choices.  I put a bean bag here as a way to make the space comfortable.  When the bean bag is not in use, I will pull good behavior tickets for students to use it as a comfy seat or they can choose sit in the giant purple chair in the library to complete their work.


 This is the only section of my classroom that already has items posted.  The fluency posters are common among every classroom at my school and in my district, K-4.  The students know the language as "fix-it" strategies, or strategies they use when they don't know a word.  So far this year, we have created an anchor chart that describes what an active reader does, looks like, and sounds like.  In my district, we like for students to use sticky notes to record their thinking.  They can record thinking about different story elements or information they are learning in nonfiction, and I encourage them to record what they are thinking using the thinking stems:
  • I'm thinking...
  • I'm wondering...
  • I'm noticing...
  • I'm feeling...
  • I'm seeing.
On the window shade is our first Daily 5 poster, Read to Self, and our classroom expectations poster.  Our school is a PBIS school.  We have the same three rules - Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe.  Each teacher's responsibility is to clarify what these rules means within their classrooms.

As time goes on, anchor charts will be added for different comprehension strategies and other reading behavior items.

Unit of Study

Unit of Study for my district is similar to Science and Social Studies.  The focus is on teaching comprehension skills using content-specific text.  In short, I use the science and social studies topics and texts to teach comprehension strategies.  Each unit has a different focus and essential question.  This first unit has the focus of fiction and nonfiction text.  The essential question, which will be introduced next week is, "How do active readers read fiction and nonfiction differently?"

We achieve the answer to this question through several lessons:
  • I start with teaching the difference between fiction and nonfiction (see picture)
  • Next I move to an author study of Kevin Henkes books where focus on the elements of a fiction story and the story mountain
  • Then I move into nonfiction where the class studies nutrition and focuses on identifying headings, captions, pictures, tables of contents, charts, maps, diagrams and indices.
  • I wrap up the unit with a discussion of how readers approach reading these two genres differently.
The anchor charts on this bulletin board change as the content changes.  Items are added, as more content is covered.  When the unit is over, the anchor charts are moved to other locations of the classroom, such as over the sink or high on the wall in the coat room area.


Math anchor charts are located in the front of the room near our meeting area.  Again, this area is blank for the start but as new concepts are taught and vocabulary is covered, this section fills up.  Currently the class has discussed two concepts - "What is a Mathematician?" and "How do We Use Math Manipulatives?"  It is very important that these items are the first that are covered, as second graders use math manipulatives almost daily.   This week will be very busy with more anchor charts and the first vocabulary cards will go on the bulletin board.  

On the other side of the ActivBoard (similar to a Smart Board) is my calendar math / math fluency area.  Students complete our morning meeting at the carpet.  This includes, calendar time with looking at saying the date properly (Today is Tuesday, September 2, 2015) and analyzing the calendar for the pattern.  Afterwards a student pulls coins to add to the class bank and we practice counting and exchanging money.

Below, in the shoe holders, are the students' math fluency cards for addition, subtraction, and skip counting.

Another area in the classroom that is math centered is the math resources bookshelf.  On this shelf are the math manipulatives that each student needs.  These are organized so there is one basket for each of the cooperative work tables in the classroom.   Each cooperative work table basket houses enough materials for six students.  

The other items in the math resources bookshelf are the math workstations boxes.  I read a great book by Debbie Diller called Math Workstations: Independent Learning You Can Count On.   As games and independent activities are taught during math, they are moved into the math workstation boxes.  The cover of each box has a list of directions for the items inside.  Directions are kept very basic so they can apply to all of the items.  

Word Work

Our district's spelling program is a guided program from Fountas and Pinnell called Word Study Lessons: Letters, Words, and How They Work.  This program does not have a structured scope and sequence, but rather a guide of suggested lessons for each month.  The program is based on students' needs after giving a 500-word high-frequency word spelling test to each student.  After administering this assessment over a few-week period, students needs are observed both through the spelling assessment and during writing.  Each student has an individualized word list.  Half of the words come from their high-frequency list of missed words from the assessment, and half the words come from the weekly minilesson.  

Examples of each minilesson are posted on the bulletin board, and students keep their word cards in the card holders on the side of the air conditioner.  The container on top of the air conditioner has all the materials they need to complete each of their weekly word work activities.  


Writing is a HUGE focus in second grade in my district.  Students really get to learn the writing process, and they learn how to take a piece of writing from the idea stage to the publish stage.  Currently, students are working on banking ideas for writing later.  We created an anchor chart for what active writers do during writing time, and we have discussed how writers can S-T-R-E-C-H a word to try and spell it on their own.

As time goes on, this board will fill up with different kinds of leads (and examples), different types of words by grammar type, closings, ways to stretch sentences, how to add details, and many other topics.  

The student resources area also has items for students to use during writing.  Different types of papers, pencils, pens, markers, glue sponges, scissors, and a plethora of pencils can be found here to help spark students' creativity.

The Library

I am obsessed with books.  I have a HUGE library!  I love that my students have a wide variety of books to choose from.  My library is divided into three sections.  The first section is the leveled fiction section.  These books are divided by guided reading level so students have an immediate section of books they know are at their level.  The middle section has books grouped by author, theme, and genre.  This group of books is a mix of fiction and nonfiction.  The last group of books are nonfiction and divided by guided reading level.  

I created book label tags that are set up similarly but have a different color theme so students can easily identify fiction books and nonfiction books. 

In the front of the classroom, I pull any books from my classroom library that cover any themes being taught that month or are related to that month.  For example, in September, baseball books, books about Autumn, football, nutrition, animals, and plants will go in the blue September Themed Books bin.  The bookshelf is for shared reads.  Any book we read in class goes on this shelf.

Discipline/Brag Tags

 I am required to use the stop light clip system for discipline.  I keep it at the back of the classroom over my mailboxes so it does not claim center stage.  What does claim center stage are the brag tags.  I loved reading Angie's posts from Lucky Little Learners about brag tags.  I got so excited at the thought of them!  I bought her brag tag bundle and immediately got to work.  I even created some of my own that are based on the district's character education program.  The necklaces are under my ActivBoard in front of the carpet meeting area.  This way students are reminded that good behavior is always rewarded. 

So, this is my classroom!  It's not terribly colorful and there's not a lot of pizzazz, but it's purposeful and practical.  I cannot paint my walls, and I am not allowed to hang items from the ceiling.  In addition, I am only allowed to cover 30% of my walls per fire codes.  (skinking fire codes!!!!)  So I do the best I can with what I have.  It's a happy place, and the kids are constantly learning.   It's my little slice of home.  Please feel free to email me or post comments below!  Check out other blogs as teachers share their classroom reveal!