Classroom Tour

If you're feeling nosey, come snoop in my classroom!

Permalink by:Bethany Kelly August 15th, 2012 View Comments

Permalink by:Bethany Kelly Wed Aug 15th, 2012 View Comments

Dear first-year teacher,
While you are deciding how to set up your shiny, new classroom, I want to share some aspects of my room that worked well for me. Below are some thoughts about some of what you’ll see in the video.

The bulletin board: It’s a good thing to recognize student accomplishments, but I couldn’t follow through on something as regular as a “student of the week.” I had three vaguely defined areas for (1) announcements, including the lunch calendar and events at the public library, (2) students in the news, whether it was something clipped from the school newspaper or printed from the city paper’s website, and (3) featured writing, including students’ A papers and good writing samples from other sources. Ask a student to make updates to your board. There are always kids who want out of study hall, and they can clip newspapers as well as you can.

The newspaper and magazine collection: Many high school kids won’t go to the library and won’t carry around a book, but they will browse a magazine. Get a variety of topics, but you’ll want to have an idea of what’s in them (especially ones about guitars and skateboarding!). I didn’t mind when kids would point out bad language to me. I usually turned it in to a mini-lesson on writing for a specific audience, but I also taught older kids. Your kids might be offended by what they see.

Hand sanitizer: If you buy hand sanitizer that smells really good, the kids will use a ton of it. Yes it’s expensive, but I think I was healthier for it.

Photos: Frame a few family and travel photos. Kids are curious about your life. And it’s a nice reminder that you have a life outside of school. I also framed a photo from my graduation since I taught seniors.

Files at my desk: I struggled at first with keeping track of important information regarding students, staff meetings, my certification, etc. I found very good advice in the book See Me After Class. Also, I kept a strong clip on the wall with everything related to bell schedules (two-hour delay schedules, testing schedules, pep rally schedules…) and I kept my own teaching schedule on front for quick reference.

Textbooks: I managed books differently with each course I taught. I kept a classroom set for my sophomores since we only needed them for about 25% of the year. General seniors received books assigned, but I set aside a place in the room where they could store them as long as they had book covers. Honors seniors received books assigned and didn’t have a spot in the room. If someone needed to borrow from me, they owed me collateral (usually a shoe, keys, or phone) for the class period.

Scope Magazine: Endlessly useful for an English teacher. I think “officially” it’s geared toward middle school, but I found many of the articles interesting and timely for older kids. The skills reinforced in the provided handouts were good for test prep and real life, and I could count on these resources if I had to plan for a substitute on short notice.

Trays on the filing cabinet: I told the kids they could help themselves to these resources. I marked the self-serve paper as 10% off any assignment done on it, but I never enforced that. (Our copier generated tons of scrap paper, so I had an easy supply.) I also kept Bell Pages and Late Work Excuse forms there. (Students would staple the excuse form with an explanation onto the late assignment; I didn’t want to forget a valid excuse; also, it provided me a chance to help unorganized kids reflect and strategize for the future. Consequences for late work varied with the reason it was late.)

Learning target posters: make one poster for the goals of each unit (or add goals as you go). Use a magnet or post-it to point out the goal of the day. Having all the goals posted together makes it easier to see how the goals build and relate to each other.

My podium (or lectern if you’re a purist): The goal behind this system was to get things out of my hands as soon as possible. Kids will hand you stuff all day long. Kids will ask you for stuff all day long. I had bins for handouts of the day, stuff to grade, and past handouts. Clean these drawers out each grading period! My supply drawer had golf pencils (because they’re cheap), a stapler, lots of binder clips and paper clips, passes, post-its, and a tub with the numbers 1-40 written on slips of paper (for when students had to take turns). I didn’t have 40 students, so I didn’t care if a number got lost.

The Wall Agenda: I would write one day up at a time so that I could adapt to how “yesterday” went. At the end of the week, I would take a photo of the board, print it, and put it in a binder. Some kids are absent for long periods of time and this binder made it easy to recall what the kids missed. Sometimes I encouraged students to stop by outside of class time to take pictures of assignments written on the board and text them to themselves. Also, use a wet-erase marker to draw the chart and a dry-erase marker to fill in the boxes.

I hope some of this has been helpful to you! Good luck this year!

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