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    classroom setup
    By Peggy

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    This was my 21st year of teaching. I have previously had fourth and fifth grade. When I was offered the first grade this year I took it and have found some areas are the same for the different grades but many are different. You did not mention the grade so I will offer a little of both.

    Do not set up your desk at the back of the room. The kids must see you and remember your there. First graders do not remember when they turn their backs to you and resume their crazy antics. The older ones are always trying to communicate with signals, gestures and noises in code. Again your desk at the front helps keep things under control because they can see you watching them eye-to-eye and that alone keeps them on their tasks. You will be surprised at how much activity can occur when you have only their backs. From the front you see all their body parts and can detect most movements.
    Yes, this is almost full scale war!!!!!

    Bulltin wall space is important. I hate teachers who fill the walls with posters that stay up all year. They may have every president, writing rule, math steps for reference, but they become boring and and the kids forget to use them as refernce anyway. The only exception is a word wall for spelling. Once a word has hit the wall, kids must use it in writing correctly. And my only must for a word wall is to have a wall that can be in alphabetical order for any of the grades. Did I say challange? The word wall organization is the kids job Even in the first grade they can handle the task.

    So, changing the boards or wall space should be of material that is inexpensive, readily available and can be thrown away (most smells in classrooms eminate from the moldy oldy bulletin board stuff, holiday crud, out of adoption workbooks, and anxient tried and true worsheets.)

    Make a younger grade an interactive space. Buy $3.00 twin bed sheets from K-Mart and cut them up as needed for background. Then prepare pictures, alphabet letters, numbers, student names, color words, etc that can be added or removed as a game or sponge activity. Why not the good old butcher-type white or colored paper? I think it fades too fast, and when kids made an error and need to replace an item, the cloth does not tear. Oh, Reorganing things is also fun. Use big outlines for the primary grades. Get an overhead projector an use it to trace the figure on the paper or sheet. Ex. ouline a whale, clown, a house, school etc. then you can label it in some way to be a theme. Inside the large item can go the smaller teacher made or student made stuff. Math facts for fishing for numbers, I know my address, spelling letter sound, colors,names, etc.

    With the kids in fourth grade on up, I assign work groups. Then I assign the basic subjects areas such as math, social studies, good books, sports, music groups, inventors, etc. then let the group plan the space, get my approval, bring the materials needed from home and and put up the wall area. I've never been able to match their creativity and their interest level provides a great learning experience.

    Never, never promise a child he can sit next to someone else. You're creating your own hell of my friend your friend, Friday friend and boy friend. These kids are masters at this. They want to be special and lord knows I don't blame them. You must be the god of the seating arrangements. I love changing seating arrangements about once a month because they are forced to work more closely with each other. Even if the contact is just passing papers ddown the row, the seating alters the room dynamics. Kids get to know each other in a less embarraseing way.. I personaly draw names out of a hat so they can't yell at me either.

    So now are you going to have individual desks or two to a desk? This will make a great differnce.

    With individual desks you can place them in rows but do not hesitate to group them in two or fours facing each other. What happened to the sit in front rule? It still applies because you'll only have a few with their backs to you and those facing "the teacher" crimp the style of the one with the back to you.

    For the primary grades, expect to teach in a circle or rows of kids on the floor. They need to get out of their desks, they have a better sight of the material or even just the teacher. They like and need the cosiness. There can be some elbow touching and knee touching that is not ment to be distracting, just cosiness. I let it happen.

    Keep walk paths open and free of desks or materials. Think fire drill exit and you should be able to work this out.

    I like to use centers for all grades. They can be areas of interest and afford some small grouping. If you want a reading corner, kids can bring a pillow from home. You must be the one to cover the pillow so they can be used by all the kids. I'd use $1.00 towels from the $1.oo store.
    Cheap and easily washed. This is also an opportunity for the kids to sew up the two sides as a desk task.

    Empty ice cream tubs from ice cream shops clean up well and last the year, empty soap tubs from laudry services, heavy cartons from the grocery store also last the year and can be used for storage. Remember, it is better to throw away storage boxes each year because then you are forced to throw away stuff that is stupid to hoard.

    It's late, I'm tired, this is the first Monday of summer break, but I guess you can tell I love teaching.

    Just remember, you can always correct your mistatkes because these kids in the elementary age groups give you a new beginning each morning.

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