Classroom Tour: Chalk Brights, Rainbows, and Burlap....Oh, My!

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Writing Lab 615

I always show my husband my classroom each year. I get the same feeling that I am sure Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper from HGTV get when they ask, "____, do you want to see your fixer upper?" Except, I'm like...."Honey, do you want to see where all of that Target and Hobby Lobby shopping went?" So begins the classroom tour. I went a little brighter this year with a Rainbow Chalk theme. Students from last year have already stopped by and asked why I am so fancy this year. The short answer? Because I can be. Each part of the Writing Lab has a purpose. Even though the cliche exists that elementary school teachers make the best decorated classrooms, I am hoping to inspire some secondary educators as well to setup classrooms in way that these rooms are also colorful, inviting, and meaningful. 

I have renamed my classroom this year "Writing Lab 615." Mainly because I want students to take chances and experiment with their writing. Also, it is because I am willing to take chances with my own teaching and writing craft. My goals this year for my classroom are to rework my own teaching process for writing workshop and incorporate more writing mentors into my teaching. I made this decision because this place of learning needs a name. I observed some other of my teacher friends rename their classrooms and the outcome was powerful. 

The Before:

Take a look at the room before anything was done. I am one of those people that like to hoard everything just in case that "one lesson" will pop up where I need masquerade masks from the dollar store. My teacher buddy in my building helped me purge at the end of the year. Something is exciting about starting fresh. 

Adding Grow

I added "GROW" to the clock before I started anything else. This came straight from Pinterest, but it is also an amazing reminder to:

  1. Grow with time. 
  2. Constantly be growing. 
  3. Have a growth mindset. 
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The After: TA-DA! 

The room is now setup. Here is a breakdown of the areas of the room according to photo order. Again, each area of the room serves a purpose. 

Photo 1: Binder/Writing Portfolio Wall

This is the area where students will house their writing portfolios for the year. They keep their daily warm-ups, Articles of the Week, class notes, passed back work, and portfolio-worthy writing in them. We have been finishing up these binders this week by gluing dividers and tabs into binders. 

The bulletin board contains the six traits of writing. These traits are in every genre and will be the driving force behind our writing workshops as a common language. 

I also have my CHAMPS movable behavior expectations chart on my board. I move the magnets depending on the activity. For example, with small group stations today in class, students were told these CHAMPS expectations:

  • CONVERSATION: Level 1 (Whisper)
  • HELP: Raise your hand
  • ACTIVITY: Small Group Work
  • MOVEMENT: Stay by station area
  • PARTICIPATION: Working in teams
  • SUCCESS!

Moved the magnet and kept the lesson moving. 

Photo 2: Doorway 

By the door, I am using a white board check out system. This white board has a small crate under it where I keep the pass. Students sign out accordingly and make it back. This has helped the bathroom procedure for this school year so far. 

You can also catch a glimpse of my classroom library. I have a dream of having a portal of books for students to walk through when they enter, but this comes close. I like to have as many books as possible for students to understand that the expectation is we read in this room and it is going to be everywhere that you look. 

I use the bookshelf by the door for laying out materials during the course of the day. 

Photo 3: Bulletin Board

Bulletin board for student work and the writing process posters. 

Photo 4: No-Name Windows

Student no-name papers will grab a spot on the window. They will stay there for two weeks and then get thrown away. After marking period three, this process will be adjusted so students can get accustomed to higher expectations. I did have a no-name basket in the past that became a throw-all for all no-name papers. I want to keep this more organized this year as I help 6th graders transition to middle school. 

Photo 5: Table Numbers

I am using table numbers in the traditional sense to help with learning names and assigned seats. However, I also want to have it based on a student suggestion from last year: mix-it-up seat days. Students will be able to pull a number for random seating, and then I can also use this for group and individual participation. Currently, I am taking a folder trick from the amazing math teacher on my team where they submit work via a folder system for tables. Daily Warm-Ups and binders not done yet? Turn your work into the table folder. I am handing out 6 table folders instead of 37 individual papers. While handing out individual papers helps with learning 160 names, I can also complete this task in other ways that allow the "handing out of papers" time to go faster. 

Photo 6: Daily Agenda

I start each day here. This is the place where I give students purpose or the "why" of what we are doing today. Here they have essential questions, a daily check-in, steps to start class, agenda items, reminders, the date, and more. This is the powerhouse of the classroom because it drives organization. We use team planners and I try to coordinate colors with other members on my interdisciplinary team. This helps students know what to write in their planners. 

Photo 7 & 8: My Desk Area and Goals

I made my area smaller this year and increased organization as well. I used to have an area that was double the size. It took up student work space. Now, I have filing cabinets for papers, my books organized on a bookshelf, my coffee pot, and more. The phone is set away from my desk just in case students need to use it to call home. 

Photo 9: Bathroom Check-Out

Close up of the bathroom system mentioned above. 

Photo 10 & 11: How They Enter

This is the view from the doorway while standing in the hallway. The welcome sign is outside, while the word "THINK" is the first thing that students see hanging from the ceiling. 

Photo 10 & 11: Student Work Center and IN-Box

This area belongs to students. I have not had any issues with pencils going away because they belong in this area. Normally, I go through at least one box of pencils in the first week of school-not this year. Students are respecting their materials because they have their own area. This area includes:

  1. The IN-Box where they turn in work to me. 
  2. The pass back bins where I can organize how I hand back work. 
  3. Pencil sharpener
  4. Pencil sharpener back-ups
  5. Eraser caps
  6. Tissue
  7. Hand sanitizer
  8. Lined paper
  9. Work from class each day and as needed

Students also have access to the Article of the Week bulletin board where they can pick up extra copies of the AOW. The team chromebook cart is here as well. 

Photo 12: Six Traits Bulletin Board

Close up of the bulletin board mentioned above. Again, students need to see themselves on the walls and in the pages of a classroom. 

Writing Mindset Reflection: How do you organize your workspace to improve functionality and productivity each year? What makes the "bulletin board" cut?