Classroom Learning Environment Pt. 3

Wow! I have no idea where the time went, but here I am a week away from my 3rd year of teaching. Over the last couple of years I have been working towards creating a positive, safe, and inclusive classroom learning environment. Here is what the room looks like this year:

I have divided my room into 5 zones: a) the guided reading zone; b) the instruction zone; c) the self-regulation zone; d) the student reading zone; and e) my teacher zone.

The guided reading zone is quite similar to how it was last year with a word wall featuring the Fountas and Pinnell words from the 25 and 50 lists, a moving whiteboard, a horseshoe table and large chairs so student have the option to sit or stand, and my “don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover” comfy green chair. This space is great for small group guided reading lessons, Fountas and Pinnell reading intervention, and playing the many beloved phonics and phonological awareness games.

The student reading zone has been updated with whiteboards for word work and writing practice. I added mats with Velcro (a bit heavier than cupboard liners) to make the reading cubbies an even better place to be! This area is a classroom favorite. It is the perfect place for learners to read-to-self while I am working with a small group in the guided reading zone (from this spot I can see what all of the kids are up to!). Students also enjoy Flashlight Fridays in these spaces and are often found cuddled up with a pillow, book in hand.

The instruction zone features the Letterland alphabet train, a letter carpet, plants, and book shelves that divide the guided reading, instruction, and self-regulation zones. This year I have add a curtain to one of the shelves to keep the contents out of sight and out of mind. I also reorganized my books into classroom collections and student resources; I am hoping that I have made it student-friendly enough that students can select books at their level and return them to the right bin… only time will tell. This space is where the whole-class instruction occurs and where we learn about rules and procedures, such as Whole Body Listening. One of my main focuses this year has been alternative seating. In this area, I now have a blue rocking chair, a blue swivel egg chair from Ikea, and 3 sit disc cushions. I have also used bed risers to turn one of my hexagon tables into a standing table. I painted all of the tables with Rustoleum Dry-Erase Whiteboard paint. I am excited to see the look on the kids’ faces when I tell them they can draw on the tables!

The self-regulation zone still has the black comfy couch, some pillows, Telemiracle teddies, and weighted dogs. This year I have added a weighted blanket and replaced my colorful tent (which is now in another calm-down area in the school) with a tipi that I won from One Tribe (check them out on Facebook to grab your own custom-made tipi)! I’m quite excited about this space and think it goes well with the Circle of Courage poster and teachings already in place. This space is a calm-down space for students and a space where students can work one-on-one with an educational assistant on task bags, reading, etc. The space is private due to the bookshelf and the pocket chart (with the daily schedule on one side and good/poor choices on the other side). From my spot in the instruction, guided reading, or teacher zones I can still see the students in the area without there being an entire audience. The students are given the chance and the tools – such as fidgets, timers, and Zones of Regulation and Inside Out visuals – to work out their emotions in a safe place.

Finally, there is the teacher zone. Nothing has changed (except for all of the knowledge learned). The stop sign remains on the desk but what student would want to be in that space anyways? Textbooks or a tipi? Reading rubrics or a reading cubbie? The choice is pretty simple!

I am looking forward to another year in the classroom and cannot wait to see how the kids respond to the environment, grow and learn, and build relationships with their peers. As George Evans notes, “every student can learn, just not on the same day, or in the same way” and this is the space just for that!

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Our Favorite Learning Tools!

I asked my Grade 1s to share some of their favorite tools for learning! Here are their top picks:

Emotions/Classroom Community:

This year I combined Inside Out lessons with our Bucket Filling, good/poor choices, and Zones of Regulation emotional programming. I have found that the students are more engaged with the lessons and are able to relate better.. (this could be because we watch the movie together with some delicious popcorn!?). The “Let’s Talk About” book series is also a learning tool that we utilize.

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Zones of Regulation Curriculum by Leah Kuypers

 

 

Reading:

The Grade 1s enjoy Flashlight Fridays and using our slinkies to sound out words, our ropes to retell a story, and our mirrors to visualize our pronunciation of words and letter sounds!

 

 

 

Sight Word and Alphabet Learning:

The students love forming letters with magnets, salt, play dough, and shaving cream. Writing on our Buddha boards and chalkboards is always fun, too! Some alphabet and sight word games that they enjoy are: upper/lower match boxes with popsicle sticks, bowling, fishing, balloon pop, ball toss, golfing, toppling bunnies, scavenger hunts, fly swatter, cup stacking, bingo dabber, egg flip, and toppling towers sight word/alphabet games. We enjoy sounding out CVC words on our pool noodles and by jumping in our hula hoops. As a teacher, my favorites are the word walls and my Lakeshore rhyme and alphabet buckets with initial sound or word family toys/examples. The picture cards are also a great find! As always, I recommend the Florida Center for Reading Research for engaging, research-based phonics and phonological awareness games.

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Positive Learning Spaces x2

A glimpse into my room! So far I am loving the calm-down area (equipped with a tent, a couch, fidgets, timers, and the Zones of Regulation!!), the reading cubbies, and the guided reading horseshoe table. I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful space to get to share the wonder of reading and literacy with my learners!

Reading Intervention Planning

This year I had the opportunity to attend a Joyful Literacy Reading Summit in Saskatoon. We learned all about helping struggling readers thrive through a games-based approach. I spent the next couple months trying to implement my newfound knowledge into my teaching, as it positively applies to my work as a Student Support Teacher. So far the kids are loving the games and our Grade 1 reading scores are improving!

With my brain full of great ideas and seemingly not enough hours in a day, my first step was to read Putting on the Blitz by Janet Mort. The text offers ideas about setting up meaningful interventions and there are great game-based resources and examples to learn from. My task was to try and figure out how this would work for my students and within my environment with the resources allotted to me. The next step was to approach my room and resources with a different lens. I had to figure out what I already had in my room that could be used to create game-based phonics and phonological awareness interventions. Suddenly fly swatters were looking like tools for learning in our Sight Word Splat instead of for their intended use! However, I did also have to purchase resources and took advantage of great finds at the Dollar Store, as well as, the Teacher Tax Credit. It is amazing what resources you can find when you look at things with a different perspective.

With significantly less  money in my pocket, my next step was to pull everything together and create a phonics and phonological awareness intervention year plan. This year plan utilizes the games that I have already created in my classroom, as well as, the Florida Center for Reading Research’s Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading curriculum. If you are a primary teacher and especially if you are a primary Student Support Teacher, I highly recommend taking the time to utilize this resource. It does take a lot of time to create – printing each game on cardstock, cutting, laminating, labeling the resources in Ziploc bags, and filing – but in the end you have hundreds of age-appropriate lessons, games, and assessments that focus on phonological awareness, phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. The best part is that it is research-based and the kids are highly engaged by the games! They ask me to play them again and again!

The intervention plan is flexible in regards to the proposed timelines and activities – the students’ understanding will dictate the speed in which you proceed or review concepts and your classroom resources and game creations will vary from my own but can easily be incorporated into this plan. There are Saskatchewan curriculum connections. And since reading intervention is one piece of the literacy pie for my Grade 1’s, I have included guided reading plans with reading strategies and resources.

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I find that having this intervention plan posted in my room allows for easy planning in my Weekly Planner, which can also be adjusted to meet your planning needs. This planner helps when you need a substitute teacher due to an unforeseen event, such as illness. At a quick glance, my substitute teacher is informed about our daily activities, where to find the materials, who I am teaching at what time, and the behavior and academic needs of my learners. So far I am finding that the two resources work nicely together.

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May your literacy and intervention planning be as joyous as your play-based teaching!

Positive Learning Spaces

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Great things are happening at Westmount! 

Spent a lot of time creating an inviting environment for my primary learners. All the time was well worth it after the first comment: “Wow Ms. Gorham, you’re room is beautiful like you and your boots.” (AKA how to get an A+ part 1).

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Thanks to a colleage, I get to walk by this every day. Nice reminder for the students and staff at our school that we are all here for a reason. Kids are often running up to the wall trying to find their prints! #educationweek

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We are lucky to have a wonderful SCC at Westmount! It means a lot to have individuals dedicated to the education of our children! Creating inviting environments like this take time but really is appreciated! Great things happen when we work as a team! #weremember #remembrance2015

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Circle of Courage in the office to reinforce our LIP goals/teachings. Looks great!

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Celebrating the Holidays!

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Free #DigCit Resources: No Tricks, No Gimmicks or Your Money Back

Alright, figuratively speaking you are sitting at your desk, coffee cup in hand and grabbing a fist full of your hair. You know you must teach #digcit to your students, but how? Where do you even start? How can you learn about it #digcit yourself? Well, set down the coffee cup, leave your hair in place and look below:

On March 6th, David Andrade posted resources (at the bottom of the blog post) and a free online class for teachers called teaching digital citizenship to students. This is the link to the free Teaching Digital Citizenship App by Netsmartz and Club Penguin. I would also recommend checking out Tech Learning and the Educator Resource Page. Also, 10 Tech Skills Every Student Should Have is worth the read!

The training covers:

  • Digital literacy & Ethics
  • Inappropriate Content
  • Online Sexual Solicitation
  • Online Privacy
  • Sexting
  • Cyberbullying

You can choose to look at whatever areas you want and start and stop if needed. In it’s entirety it is about 1 hour of training. The material covered is best for ages 5-17 and specific resources are recommended for each level. A certificate of achievement is earned after completing the training.

First Week Observations – Internship

Well, it is that time again. Another great summer at Camp Easter Seal has come and gone and I am a new and better person for it. But this year instead of the post-camp depression and keeping Triffons in business due to excessive orders of pity pizzas, I get to bypass all the feels and ENTER THE CLASSROOM. However, I’d like to note that staff room snacks aren’t much healthier than pity pizzas. What I have learned thus far is that they are completely earned: TEACHERS WORK HARD! Teachers in the school have spent nights there until 1 am and I have already put in at least 15 hours this weekend unit planning, only to feel like I’ve just begun. This is no 9-5, “I will do the minimum” kind of job. And the obvious reason is because of the kids! The kids who chase you down the hall to sing you happy birthday. The kids that tell you their dreams involve “not becoming that famous, like only featuring in two or so movies because I want to be a mom of five and a plastic surgeon and a framer’s wife.” The kids that sing about tacos when they should be listening, but you can’t help laughing anyways. The kids who love your class. The kids that pretend to hate your class. And the kids that actually hate your class. The kids that act out because they need your attention. The kids who aren’t really sure who they are yet and the ones confident enough to get up and dance when music plays. It’s for all those kids and the 100 others that us educators do what we do.

These first few weeks have been nothing short of amazing. A little intimidating, yes. But amazing. The first week was a lot of information to take in but the reading professional development was a great refresher and I plan to utilize most of the reading strategies we were shown. I loved the way they passed out resources freely and modeled the ideal rather than just stating what it was.

During my three week block, I will be teaching 3/4 Health, 7/8 Arts Ed., 9/10 ELA, 11/12 ELA, and student support work focusing on numeracy, literacy, and reading intervention. I am also involved with cross country, SRC, boys volleyball, and supported learning. Later on, I may work with other teachers to start a girls group. I am also getting the opportunity to observe many teachers at work and have two cooperating teachers that I get to learn from. I love that I get to work with every grade in the school, including Kindergarten. I couldn’t have created a better placement for myself if I tried. I wanted nothing more than to experience multiple grades, multiple needs, and multiple subjects. So far, I think my niche is Grades 3-12 due to the independence these learners have.

I welcome any readers to join me on my internship journey at Mossbank school. Stay tuned for weekly pictures of positive environments, lesson plans, reflections and more!

“Do what you love; love what you do.”