Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trading Spaces - my 5th grade classroom

After just spending several days in my classroom, reconfiguring space, I knew I wanted to be part of the Trading Spaces challenge over at A Year of Reading.

For the past two years, I've shared a classroom with someone, so our room needed to be a combination of what his needs for our students were, as well as what my needs were. Because of budget cuts, this year I have the classroom to myself, so I was starting all over, creating spaces that I hope will be inviting to students.

One of the most important spaces I like to create first is my meeting area with my students. This year, my class meeting area is in the back of my room, and is complete with the chair I sit in for read aloud, a rolling chart stand where all my chart paper is located, and a small table beside my chair that houses my markers for the chart, a small lamp, and our current read aloud (still deciding on what will be my first read aloud). I also am fortunate enough to have a magnetic chalkboard in the back of my room, in this area, as well as the front of the room. This back board is where I hang a lot of the anchor charts the students and I create together.

The rest of the meeting space is a big open space for children. My closet doors serve as the back boundary, and bookshelves serve as the sides (its hard to see the shelves on the left). Wall space is so valuable in our classroom that I also use the closet doors. They house the thinking we do about content (science and social studies) vocabulary we do together. This floor space is where we meet for class meetings, reading workshop mini lessons, writing workshop mini lessons, word study mini lessons, and all sharing. There are also pillows in the middle cupboard for the students to get out during reading workshop.

After creating my meeting area space, the next most important spaces are the areas in the room that are meant for students. This is the reading nook in our class this year. I have these huge windows in my room, and I wanted the natural light from the windows and the scenery outside of the window to draw students over here. It's nothing fancy -- just 2 fold-up soccer chairs with arms and a place for a drink (my students are allowed to have water bottles) set up in the corner by the window. The table you see is just a cheap stool I bought covered with some inexpensive fabric, and anchored with a light. Voila! A reading nook! In addition, there is a round table on the floor (basically, a table without the legs). Students love to gather on the floor around the table to either read or write.

I don't have a teacher's desk, per se, but rather, a little round table (my husband got it from Salvation Army eons ago when he was in law school) that houses my teacher computer, a lamp, lots of Post-its, and some other office supply needs. Right above this table is a small bulletin board that contains pictures of my family. I need the computer at this place in my room because it's right under the tv, and I will be able to demonstrate things to the class from my computer this way. But, I keep it small to make a statement about how much this classroom bleongs to all of us; it doesn't just belong to me.

The last spaces that are equally important to me are the places where the books live in our classroom. The display bookcase below will host great mentor nonfiction texts for the first month of school (different genres will be highlighted after that). The four bookshelves behind the display case will contain even more nonfiction, and possibly some picture books. This area is between the meeting area and the reading nook.

Then, there is another nook behind my chart stand where more fiction resides. It also contains, on the top shelves, the kids' language arts boxes. Each child has one, and these are the boxes that hold Book Lovers' Binders, writers' notebooks, and word study notebooks. If you notice all the books on these shelves are currently spine out. That will last for the first week or two of school until the students, as an entire class, figure out how to organize all the books. Then, we will probably have books sorted by genre, author, or series. The kids will sort the books into different tubs, and make the tags that tell what type of book resides in each tub.

The final picture shows the bookcases below my bulletin boards that also house reading and writing anchor charts and thinking. In addition, on the top are a couple of things worth mentioning. Since I started following blogs, and then purchasing books I really enjoyed in the last two years, I have highlighted those fabulous books in the teal, hot pink, and black fabric containers. The teal one contains many new series books I hope will "hook" kids -- Clementine, Moxy Maxwell, Stink, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc. The hot pink and black contain many of the new middle grade books I've purchased within the last 2 years that I really want kids to get their hands on!! The wooden bookshelf is where I'll put all new books I get this school year -- picture books, poetry books, nonfiction books, or chapter books. It is designed to have the feel of the New Book section of a bookstore or a library. Last year, highlighting books like this really encouraged students to read them!

So, there you have it -- my Trading Spaces. I can't wait to see everyone else's spaces as well!


  1. Wow! I wish I were still in fifth grade!

    What a lovely, warm and inviting classroom.

  2. Great library! Mine's in disarray right now... can't wait to have it up and running.

  3. very welcoming, very inviting classroom. I love it!

  4. I love your space Karen!! I loved your meeting space and I love how your kids will be part of the library set up and organization.

  5. All these years apart, and yet our brains are still together on the importance of prime real estate in our class rooms. I, too, have a little low round table! We call it the coffee table.

  6. Where did you find those colorful fabric containers? I have been looking for some like that and haven't been lucky finding them.

  7. Barbara, Stacey, Stella, and Katie --
    Thanks so much for your kind comments!!

    ML - you're right; we're still on the same wavelength about the important stuff in our classrooms.

    Melanie -- Bed, Bath, and Beyond -- they are fun, aren't they?!