When I started my job a year ago, I went to look at my room–which is tiny and has no windows to the outside–and saw six student desks with chairs piled in the middle of the room, a giant teacher’s desk, one wall that felt like it was made of cardboard that was covered in deep scratches, the box for an active board, the cords for the yet-to-be-installed projector dangling from the ceiling, and what I now affectionately refer to as my “window to nowhere”. I’m not ashamed to admit it–I burst into tears. Ordering appropriate furniture, I was told, was out of the question. Thankfully, I had some wonderful colleagues who scavenged bookshelves and better furniture for me from around the school while I was in new staff orientation. I worked with what I had. I made it better, but never really succeeded in finding something I was happy with. Part of it is the size of the room, part of it is the furniture, and part of it was having trouble figuring out what I wanted learning support to look like for me and my students. And, if I’m totally honest, part of it was being overwhelmed by being new and frustrated with what I had. Classroom design was the furthest thing from my mind most of the year.
This year I decided to start setting up the Friday before staff had to be back. I started by trying to track down the IKEA cube shelf that I had ordered for manipulative storage. Nope. Never ordered. I found some boxes to pack the materials in and then got started on fixing the window to nowhere. Last year one of my adorable M1s suggested that I put up a poster of the Brooklyn Bridge so I could have a view just like Ms. Other Learning Specialist. While it was an adorable suggestion, I could see how it could maybe, possibly, be misconstrued by adults and might seem passive aggressive. Just a bit, right?
So I turned this:
I decided that black and white letters would really pop on my newly pained, extremely bright green door. So I picked these up from Staples. And voila!
I covered my icky wall in purple paper and set up sections for Essential Questions, Problem Solving, and Writing.
Here’s a close up of my EQs:
A trip to the Container Store and I had storage bins for manipulatives–I can’t recommend these bins highly enough. They have smaller containers inside where I was able to sort things by type. If I had manipulatives for more that my groups of 5 or 6, I would probably use the trays to make sets of just enough per table and have students come up and take a tray back to their group.
I also decided the solution to my lack of shelving for storage lay in my magnetic walls–the magnetic pencil holders that kids use in their lockers. And I printed out some cute labels from TPT that continued the green, purple, chevrons & polkadots theme. I need to pick up a few more this weekend. I’m hoping to have bins for highlighers, pencils, pens, markers, scissors, and Expo markers. For the Expo markers I’m going to pick up one of the divided containers so I can put the markers and eraser in the same bin.
I also got a few of the same magnetic containers I use to store my spices and turned them into storage for paper clips, tacks, and…something else…not sure what goes in the middle one yet.
As far as furniture goes, after much consideration, I decided to pass my comfy red chair along to one of my colleagues in the English department who has more space, and is looking into setting up an independent reading program for her 7th graders. As much as I love the idea of having a comfortable space for students to do independent work, who got to sit in the chair became a constant source of argument amongst the students–even when I set a schedule for who got to sit in the chair when. And for many of the students, this was the first time in middle school that they had a chair like that to sit in, so it was really difficult to shift their thinking from “this is a place to relax” to “this is a comfortable place to do work”.
After much shifting of tables and staring at the room hoping that a good plan would reveal itself, I finally decided to put the tables along the wall, and one desk opposite. The students would be able to do both independent and collaborative work at the tables, and I could use the desk for either a student who needed some extra space around her to focus or to work with students 1:1. The one comfy touch I kept were the cube footstools that students often sit on to do work. They’re soft enough to be a bit bouncy for kids that need to fidget, but just the right height to put at the tables or the desk. They’re also great for sitting on when using laptops, a small whiteboard, or writing on a clipboard.
How did you set up your room this year? For those of you who do intervention, what types of furniture/configuration have you found best for working with students?