I'm moving you. I usually hear these words every 4 or 5 years. Teachers are THE most flexible professionals I know! A hospital administrator would not go to a pediatrician and say, "I'm moving you to brain surgery." Teachers though...we do it all! This year I have moved from teaching 3rd grade inclusion Literacy to teaching 4th grade catalyst Literacy. Last year my students ranged in reading levels from A to O at the beginning of the year. This year my students range from O to U at the beginning of the year! Quite a switch...
Not to mention I have also been moved out to a mobile unit. This means I have had to totally reconstruct my "perfected" Balanced Literacy classroom setup that I had created in my former classroom...carpets, tables instead of desks, individual reading sweet spots. But it is ALL good! I have a new plan, new setup, new ideas, new requests, and a new attitude! So let's get started with the first blog of the 2014-2015 school year!
There wasn't enough room for me to do tables in the mobile so I went with longer rows in an H configuration. I haven't decided what to do with the meeting area yet because I don't have a large carpet. I also am not sure about the size of my students so I am not sure if all 25 of them will sit comfortably in the front meeting area. I will just wait until our first Reading Workshop mini-lesson on Tuesday and see what the students think. Hey, I have my rocking chair and easel so I am ready!
One section of the classroom is devoted to Word Work and Writing. I have my hanging baskets ready for students' Words Their Way folders. I have my Writing tubs with dictionaries, thesauri, frequently misspelled words list, rhyming dictionaries, and other reference materials. There is a variety of paper on the shelves along with my writing anchor books and exemplar texts.
The classroom may look bare right now, but I think it is important to put your anchor charts up as you teach. Behind my desk I display my diplomas, teaching license, and awards because students should be able to see what makes a teacher a professional. Show them what it means to have a career. The purple pocket chart by the back door has cards in it that parents can take if they would like to make a donation to the classroom. I currently would like: jump ropes, kickball bases, bathroom mats, cloth tablecloths, Smarties, decks of cards, chess/checkers sets.
Last year I used Stone Fox for my first unit (Building a Reading Life) read aloud. This year I am going to read Wonder. I chose this book because I want to start the year out teaching the importance of accepting others' differences in life. I put this bulletin board up for Open House to spark an interest (Teach Like a Pirate)...students and parents were talking about it!
The most important part of a Balanced Literacy classroom is the classroom library. I packed away by low level books and dug out my high level books. My co-workers are amazing at sharing! Plus I reaped the benefits of a retired teacher who left me MANY high level books.
This year I organized my library into chapter books (N-Z), fiction picture books (N-Z), nonfiction books (N-Z), and several topic-related sections.
I saw the idea for "readboox" on Pinterest, so I cannot take full creative credit for it! The example on Pinterest was much more elaborate, but I like the message it presents for students.
The special topics for this section of the library are based on 4th grade interests from a survey I read on Twitter (I'm sorry I can't find the link):
Series of Unfortunate Events
Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys
Fairies and Magic
In the nonfiction section, I also added in a collection of animal books called Nature's Children and the Magic School Bus series (I know this is narrative nonfiction, but I will address it in a mini-lesson).
The organization part of my classroom is ready for the year to start on Monday, so today I will spend my time at work preparing for the academic events!