Monday, January 15, 2018

Utilizing Technology in the Primary Classroom

This blog post is a long time coming and will hopefully answer many of the questions I've gotten about using tech in my kindergarten classroom! And it is LONG but hopefully full of useful information! Let me preface this post by saying that these things work well in my classroom for my students, and I am just personally endorsing these products, apps, and websites, not being paid to!

Where do I start? I'll first say that I use technology in some form every single day for every single subject. I feel very lucky to be at a school that has pretty modern and recent technology updates, but I've also taught at schools that didn't have hardly any technology. You will need to take these suggestions as you can with your own school site and supplies in mind.

Tech Overview: What all do I have at my disposal?
Like I said, our district got a fairly recent technology installation (we were living in the dark ages before this so it was a long time coming), so I feel very thankful for the amount that we have. For those of you who do not have some/all of the things mentioned below, I highly recommend doing a Donors Choose project ( to ask for the technology you need. Tech projects get funded fairly often, especially in the fall when Chevron funds lots of them! I also recommend searching for grants that you and your students/classroom would qualify for. I know many teachers who've received tech from grants. Ok, now for the tech:
  • Teacher laptop computer (used on a standing desk)
  • Document camera (placed on low IKEA table for students to be able to reach)
  • Two interactive whiteboards + 2 ceiling-mounted projectors (the installed software that my district has a license for makes the boards interactive, otherwise they are regular ol' whiteboards!)
  • Bluetooth speakers mounted on the ceiling with teacher lanyard microphone and student handheld microphone (part of our district tech install, I did not purchase these)
  • iPad cart to share between K/1 teachers (I usually have about 8 of these iPads at my disposal daily)
  • 10 pairs of headphones
  • Wireless routers in each classroom
Wow. That's a lot of tech. I don't have nearly that much...
I get this comment a lot, but trust me, you can use pretty much everything I suggest with way less than what I listed above. I know how it feels to teach in a classroom with extremely limited tech while watching teachers post on Instagram about these amazing things their students are able to use. It's frustrating. BUT keep reading and see if you can find a way to try some of these resources!

What is the tech that I couldn't live without?
I have always taught with a computer and some way to project it (either using a projector onto board, projector onto screen, or plugged into a TV monitor for students to see), so I don't think I could teach without my simple laptop/projector combo. I rely HEAVILY on videos during my school day for transitions, sets for lessons, read alouds, etc. On days when the wifi/internet goes out, I feel paralyzed! I make do with using chimes instead of a transition video, singing instead of watching videos, or reading myself (crazy, right?) but it makes for a much longer day!

*Now that I run a rotation-based classroom, I don't think I could function without our iPads. They aren't a necessity, but my planning and instruction would be highly impacted without our iPads!

How do you introduce tech to your students?
Before I get into the "what" behind using tech, I'll briefly explain the "how." Early in the school year, I begin using iPads with my students. I've never encountered a student who abused their iPad privileges other than arguing about who gets to plug them back in to the cart at clean up time. However, I teach kindergarten and don't have any students (yet) who are trying to navigate the web or get on social media or other off-limits websites/apps, so this makes my job much easier. 

During the second week of school, I model very quickly at the beginning of each rotation time the exact app icon I want them to click on, where to click in case they need to get back to the home screen, where to plug in headphones, and how to adjust the volume. It only takes about a week for them to get the hang of it, and as you can guess, many of them already know how to operate an iPad/tablet.
Utilizing the document camera for number talk time, a tried and true tech piece in my classroom!
Logging them in.....
Now this is a whole other animal. My students only need to log in for 2 apps (Lexia and Benchmark), and thankfully we will be using an app called Clever next year for both of these. Students will each get their own login card that is just their name and a unique QR code. To log in, they just wave their QR code in front of the camera in the Clever app. Voila. 

For now, though, they each have a Lexia login card at their table. During their Lexia rotation, myself or my aide will walk around and talk them through logging in, helping those who need it done for them early on. We tell them exactly where to put the "numbers" and where to put the "word" (username and password). It's halfway through the school year and THANKFULLY we don't have to help anyone log in anymore!

What are your favorite websites, and how do you use them?
Back when I did my Tech Tuesday post asking teachers to tell me what kinds of tech they use, teachers said that they use free websites the most! And why not? They are so easily accessible and are full of great learning! Here is a list of my favorites, listed in order of how frequently I use them in my classroom:
  • Youtube**: Some of my favorite channels to follow are Harry Kindergarten, Have Fun Teaching, Kids TV 123, Hooked on Phonics, and ELF Kids Videos. I use their videos for everything - transitions, calendar, counting, math skills, letters/sounds, sight words, phonics skills, science skills...I could go on. I'd suggest following them if you aren't already and spending some time browsing and creating some playlists of the videos you like on your own Youtube channel. It's easy to make one and start saving videos! You could also just follow me on Youtube and use the playlists I've been curating for the past 7 years: Holly's Youtube Channel
  • This website is so fun for review games! You can click on your grade level and browse ELA and math games (plus some fun seasonal games). We use this website during small groups to review skills (Bingo is our favorite review game) as well as an end of the day 5-minute time filler. We use this on the interactive whiteboard, so students are able to come up and touch/manipulate the game themselves. If you do not have this technology, you could just sit by your computer and have the kids come up to the board/screen and point to what they want to select, and you can click on your computer. I had to do this before and it still works great!
  • Storyline Online: I absolutely love reading aloud to my class, but sometimes I don't have exactly the right book to fit the topic I want to read about. Sometimes, my voice is cracking and I don't have it in me to read another book aloud. And sometimes we have indoor recess and I need something engaging/academic to entertain them for 10-15 minutes! This website has actors reading some awesome storybooks aloud. They even animate the pages from the book, so students are even more engaged. We have listened to every story on the website and my students have some favorites at this point in the school year!
  • Pandora**: I think music is one of the easiest ways to set the tone/feel of a classroom (or any room for that matter). I always have music playing in the morning when my students walk in and while they're playing in their play centers. I use piano music to signal work time during writer's workshop. I listen to music when I'm getting prepped for my day and when I'm cleaning and working in the afternoon. My favorite stations: Solo Piano, Children's Indie (no bad words!), Sam Smith, The Civil Wars, and Luke Bryan.
**These websites have ads, and there's nothing worse than getting ready to play a counting video on Youtube than having a Victoria's Secret commercial come on. Yes, it's happened to me, and yes, it was horrifying. There's a way around these ads! If you are using Google Chrome for your internet browser (I like it waaaay more than Safari, Firefox, and Internet Explorer), you can install Ad Block as an extension and it will block those awful/hilarious ads. Here's how:
  1. In Google Chrome, click on the 3 dots on the top right corner of your browser window:
  2. Hover your mouse over "More tools," then click on "Extensions."
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, then click on "Get more extensions."
  4. In the box that says "Search the store," type in "Adblock" and hit enter.
  5. You'll see a few results. I recommend installing Adblock Plus and Adblock for Youtube. All you do is click on the blue button that says "Add to Chrome" and presto! No more lingerie during math time!
What about apps?
There are so many apps out there that are marketed towards education. I have downloaded so many free ones, thinking they sounded so good from their descriptions and would be perfect for my students, only to be disappointed that once I opened it, only 1 or 2 levels were free while the rest required the paid version of the app. Boo. Below, I've listed my favorite actually-free apps that my students love to use. Some do require that you create an account/class beforehand, but it's still free.
  • Seesaw: How would you like to send your students off for a 15-20 minute work time and not have to check in on them once?? That's where Seesaw comes in! No matter what task I assign (I'm currently using it mostly during counting collections), I can have my students complete a Seesaw upload at the end of their work time so that I can see exactly how they used their time, if they understood the task, or if they need help. There are so many ways to use Seesaw and it's so user-friendly that I HIGHLY encourage you to download the app and start playing around on it yourself to discover all of the amazing features! It also has an optional parent login so that you could have your students' parents download the app and get alerts on their smartphone anytime their child uploads new work! Amazing!
  • Chatterpix: Similar to Seesaw, Chatterpix is a great way to give students the automony to work while also making sure they are staying on task and understand the assignment. A fun application for Chatterpix is during reading time. Assign students the task of giving a summary, retelling the story, talking about the climax, listing the character traits, etc. using Chatterpix. They will talk over a picture from the story, and their voice will animate the picture!
  • Moose Math: Talk about engaging, my students love using this app for math skill review! The graphics are great and the explanations are very kid-friendly. I use this app during my math rotation time for skill review. Logging in is a little frustrating as it doesn't sync between devices. So, on Monday a student may get to level 3 on a game on one iPad, but if she uses a different iPad to get on Moose Math on Tuesday, it will only have the level she reached last time she used that iPad. So, use this for review, not for skill progression.
  • Endless Reader: Sometimes I find my students sneaking off of Lexia to this app, but it's really fun! The graphics are so engaging and my students love building and reading the sentences. It's a great app for practicing sight words and decoding. 
  • Lexia (not free): Our school uses Lexia Core 5, an ELA skills-based program that is designed mostly for students K-3. Each student has a username and password, they can access the program at home via the web or app, and they progress through differentiated levels based on their ability. I love using this program because it builds on itself and becomes progressively more challenging as the students learn. However, it's not free, schools must purchase a license.
Two students using the Lexia app during word study rotations
Tech Misconceptions & Myths
Now that I've told you all about the tech I use, I want to reiterate and drive home this very important point: You do NOT need to have iPads, interactive whiteboards/Smartboards, or be 1-1 to be a tech classroom. So many teachers I talk to feel discouraged because they do not have those things and immediately develop the mindset of not being able to really use tech with their students. I'm telling you, you can! Be creative, find ways to share tech with other teachers, get on Donors Choose, take turns with the one working laptop you have, whatever it takes! Our students are growing up in a very different world than we did (yes, I remember a world without cell phones!). Technology is no longer a luxury item, making learning even more engaging. Technology is a NECESSITY that should be woven into the way we teach.

Students a little older and have their own devices? Embrace it and invite them into your classroom! Set restrictions and expectations and follow through with consequences when misused, but take advantage of that! 

Have a couple of iPads or laptops? Create a partner rotation schedule where every student has a chance to use that tech weekly. Students can create a video together on Seesaw, so you're hearing two voices explain. That way, you'll only need 12 visits to the iPad in a week instead of 24 individual ones.

Have parent volunteers? Make one volunteer the "tech coach" volunteer. I had a mom a while back who would come it some mornings and log all the students in during their computer rotation until they got the hang of it. Parents would love helping in any way they could, and why not give them a task that they can totally do without any additional training or explanation?

Ok, I think that's all I have for now. Please continue to watch my Tech Tuesday Instagram stories for more quick tips and answered questions regarding utilizing technology in your classroom. Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Give Homework in Kindergarten (But Not Like You Think)

Do you ever hear the word "homework" brought up in conversation and cringe a little, not knowing what the next statement will be? I know I do. No matter if I'm talking with fellow teachers, administrators, parents, or friends of mine with school-age children, I usually dislike conversations about homework because people have such strong feelings about it! There is a lot of talk out there both for and against homework. I guess the next thing anyone else needs is an opinion, but I'll go ahead and put in my two cents!

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I've only ever taught kindergarten, and I've always given homework. Whether it was a thick packet of stapled workbook pages, monthly family projects, journal prompts, or homemade calendars with nightly tasks, homework has always been part of my teaching journey. I'm in my 7th year of teaching now, and I've seen the conversation around homework shift and turn ugly and make rational adults start pointing fingers. So I've done my fair share of reading research and looking into studies on homework's effectiveness, and I've formed my own opinion. I believe that homework should be the real-world application of skills learned at school, done in ways that will be clearly applicable to students' lives, and it should be optional.

That last word usually gets the most reaction, especially when I tell parents at Back to School Night. This year, I actually got cheers and audible sighs of relief. My rationale behind making homework optional is that students are children first, and they should be given time outside of school to have experiences that help them grow, develop, and have fun. Children are also busier than ever with extracurricular activities, and families are crunched for time as it is. The last thing I want to do is put strain on a family because nightly homework hasn't been done.

What I give to students is a monthly homework calendar. Each night, the task is hands-on, interactive, and (maybe) even fun! The homework is designed to be done with an adult and focused on conversation. Every day of the week has a theme so that parents are able to predict what kind of task will be done (writing on Mondays, counting on Tuesdays, sight words on Wednesdsays...). But if there is a busy night or the child is just too tired, homework can be skipped.

I absolutely love doing homework this way. I feel that is respects child development and family time. I love when students come in to school the morning after completing a fun homework task and are excited to tell me about it. I especially love hearing from parents who can't believe they're declaring homework time to be an enjoyable part of their night! I love sharing this model with other teachers in hopes of swaying them;  however, I do get lots of questions about my homework, so I'd like to answer some of them:

What do you do if a student doesn't do homework all year long?

Depends on the student. I've had students in the past whose homework I never saw, but the student was performing well and making good progress towards kindergarten goals. For those families, I never bring up homework. But there are other students whose homework I don't see for the first part of the year, but I also don't see progress towards kindergarten goals. For those students, I will talk with parents and make homework required, at least for a period of time. If they are not meeting goals or performing at grade level, I've already talked with parents before this point. I want them to know that support at home is crucial and that I'll be checking homework weekly.

How do you manage homework giving, checking, and collecting?

It all goes in the binder. I print the homework calendar with a reading log on the back, hole punch, and stick it in my students' Take Home Binders at the beginning of every month. (I also put the monthly newsletter and lunch menu in at the same time). In the back of their binders, I put some wide-ruled paper for them to actually do their homework on. I keep packs of paper in my cabinet so I can refill all year long. At the end of each month, I take out all of the old months' papers and insert the new. This is when I actually check to see who has done their homework, quickly glance through the papers (because some tasks are fun and I want to see their product!), and replace paper if I need to.

Is homework optional when they go to first grade? How do your students adjust?

No, and we talk about it before they leave kindergarten. Unfortunately, I can't convince all of my coworkers to join me on the optional homework train. So to make this transition easier, I make sure that I talk to my students about it. I also talk to their parents in the final months of kindergarten to make sure they realize that homework will no longer be optional. A fun way that I can "gently encourage" all of my students to start doing their homework towards the end of the school year is with Homework Club. All it means is that I check homework weekly for completeness. If a student has completed a week's worth of homework, they are declared a member of the Homework Club! Members get perks: extra iPad time, peer tutoring opportunities, or free time with manipulatives to name a few. I think that just the public recognition of being in the Homework Club is sometimes motivation enough for students. I don't write down names anywhere publicly, but I announce, "___ is in Homework Club!" as I'm checking homework each Friday.

If you'd like to try homework calendars in your classroom, click on the picture below (or pin for later)! It comes completely editable so you can change tasks or dates to best fit your classroom needs. Another bonus: When you purchase these calendars, which are August-June, you'll receive free updates every single year! No going in and changing dates or major holidays yourself. And if you want to require it, I guess that's okay, too :)

Thanks so much for reading! How do you do homework?

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why I Only Teach Mini Lessons: A Workshop Model

Hi everyone! I am so excited to write this post. It is about something I've been wanting to transition to over the past few years, and this year I dove in and tried it. Essentially, I have given up all* whole group instruction and instead teach content during mini lessons, rotations, and small groups. It feels like a workshop model classroom, which I love, my students have content that is differentiated to their ability level and interest, and I am truly getting to know my students way more than I would if all I did was whole group instruction.

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*I do meet with my students as a whole group for certain times of the day like morning meeting, shared reading, and read alouds. Also, my math, word study, reading, and writing times always start with all students on the rug for either a mini lesson or warm up. Reader's and writer's workshop mini lessons are taught whole group but involve active engagement and modeling time so that I'm not the only voice talking. Math and word study both begin with a warm up that includes lots of student talk time and discussion around a topic or skill.

What is a "mini lesson?"
First, let's define a mini lesson. I have come to understand mini lessons as short instructional periods during which you can explain and model a strategy that you want students to immediately apply or use. None of my mini lessons last longer than 10 minutes and they always include student talk. I am able to explicitly model a strategy and provide students to discuss how they can apply or use it before going off to independently do so.

I teach mini lessons during all of our major content areas: math, word study (phonics), reading, and writing. We do not have a science/social studies block in our schedule because our day is fairly short, so we integrate that content into read alouds and shared reading. We also set aside every other Monday as our unit study day where all content areas revolve around our current science/social studies unit.

Our Workshop Schedule
Next, let's look at the general structure of our instructional day. Below is a chart that shows an overview of how our major content areas are taught.

I use a rotation model during math and word study. That means that both of those times begin with a warm up, then students go to designated rotations for each day of the week. In both content areas, students visit 2 rotations per day, each rotation is 15 minutes long. During a 5-day week, some rotations are visited 3 times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) while other rotations are visited 2 times (Tuesday, Thursday). Here is a chart that shows how my Word Study Rotations are currently scheduled:

I have 4 groups of students during word study time (Groups W, X, Y, and Z). Each group visits 2 rotations per day for 15 minutes each. For example, on Mondays, Group W visits games for 15 minutes, and then at our transition they clean up and move to my teacher group.

How I Group My Students
I believe in flexible and strategic grouping. My students are grouped together by skills, abilities, or interests, and they move in and out of groups as needed. Here is the breakdown of my current groups:
  • Math groups: 3 groups, 8 students each, grouped by skill focus on number ID and one-to-one counting, making groups up to 10 and writing numerals to 10, and decomposing numbers into parts and joining/separating
  • Word Study groups: 4 groups, 6 students each, grouped by skill focus on name writing and letter ID, beginning sounds and letter sound ID, and onset/rime and rhyming
  • Reader's Workshop partners: 12 sets of partners, one partner being more verbal and descriptive about their text to provide a peer model for partner talk
  • Writer's Workshop partners: 12 sets of partners, one partner being further along the writing continuum to provide a peer model for skills
I frequently progress monitor and assess (mostly informally) to gauge my students' needs. Having mini lessons and rotations/small groups allows me to do this in a more genuine way. I use exit tickets, pull work samples, use rubrics, or just use general observations in order to assess my students. I love using blank checklists that I can use for multiple skills. 

Transitions, Support, Questions
If you think that students won't be able to handle all of this movement, I can reassure you that they can, but it takes a lot of modeling and practice. My kindergartners have only been in school for 15 days and we've only been doing rotations for about 8 of those. It may not be pretty or refined just yet, but they are doing it! Just know that implementing rotations or a workshop model is louder and busier. Your students will not all be at the same voice level or in the same spot in your classroom. And that's ok! A tip for transitions: use a chime or song. When it's time to transition, ring your chime or play a snippet of a song. When students hear that, they will learn to stop, clean up, and move to their next rotation. Right now, I am helping to direct my students to their second rotation or to find their reading partner, but eventually this will be independent.

I have an aide in my classroom with me for all of these times except for writer's workshop. During math, our aide works with the MyMath group at their tables. She leads them through the lesson by reading directions to them and providing models if needed. MyMath is our adopted math curriculum, by the way. During word study, our aide works with the games/collaboration group wherever they are meeting. Right now, she is working on phonics games at the horseshoe table, but once we start collaboration groups, she'll walk around and support as needed while groups are working. During reader's workshop, our aide walks around and individually checks in during independent reading time.

This can be done without an aide. Just adjust those rotations or be more engaging or independent. Typical "center" style games would work well as they are more predictable. I have some fun phonics centers made for collaboration that can take your students through the whole year. Once you show them the first set, they will know the routine and be independent all year long! Click below:

When students want to come up and interrupt you to ask questions, use the "Ask 3 Before Me" rule. It's a tried-and-true method of keeping questions at bay and empowering other children to support their friends. Also, use a signal to show that you are not available when you're working with a group. I wear a hat because I move around the room when I work with my students. Here's a pic :)

The superhero mask and cape are a whole other story. If you join my newsletter, you'll find out more!
How to Get Started
So, if all of this seems too much, I understand! I am still tweaking, still working on transitions, still trying to get kiddos independently working. Eventually, I want to be sure that my students who are supposed to be working on independent rotations are truly independent and don't need any help. Eventually, I want to have more of our rotations based on interests and less on ability levels. Eventually, I want my students to hear the chimes and go without having to ask me any questions. Check back with me in a couple of months!

Here are my recommendations for a smooth roll out of a workshop model classroom:
  • Start with only 2 rotations that all kids rotate to together. For example, you can do your number talk with all students, then have the entire class do counting collections for 15 minutes. Ring the chimes, then have them all clean up and do a lesson in MyMath. This is how we started, and we did this for about a week. It helped so much with mindset, knowing they may not get all the way finished, and with time management, knowing that if they want to finish they need to stay focused!
  • Time yourself during mini lessons. If you're worried you won't be able introduce, explain, model, and scaffold for a skill in 10 minutes, you should literally set a timer for yourself. Stop when it goes off, even if you don't finish!
  • Create charts for students to reference. Even if they are not yet reading, just showing this chart day in and day out will help them recognize the rotations. I typed up my Math Rotations Schedule and Word Study Rotations Schedule that I display on my board during these rotation times.
  • BUY THIS RESOURCE: Math Workshop Starter Kit by Laura Santos. It is how I got organized. Once you get started with math workshop using her amazing blog posts that go along with this, it will help you sort out word study/phonics rotations as well.
  • Be prepared. Have activities ready that are easy to use each day. Counting collections are always out and ready to use. Phonological awareness small group lessons are already planned and the games are made. Phonics games are easy to pull out and give to a small group. Warm ups are also great for independent work time. Once you prep most of these materials, you won't have to think about them again! Response sheets can be printed and put in page protectors to use over and over again! Click on pictures below to get your activities printed and set up!

I hope that you try mini lessons and a rotation/workshop model. It has truly allowed me to reach more students at their individual ability levels. I'm getting to know my students in much deeper ways and am becoming a more effective teacher as a result. I can't wait to hear how it goes!

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Classroom Environment: What Matters Most

Hi there! I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my teacher heart. This topic is one of the "hills I would die on" as my former principal used to say. During staff meetings or before school at our weekly huddles, she would ask, "What are you passionate about? What is one thing that you'll never compromise on? What are you willing to fight for?" It took me a while to figure out what my "hills" were. The physical environment of a classroom is one of those.

In an effort to save you from reading the entire post looking for my overall belief, here is it: I believe that classrooms should not be a personal reflection of the teacher in them, should only include certain colors, should be very intentional about the kind of decor, patterns, and lighting used, and should be centered very purposefully around the students' and their needs. If you're intrigued, keep reading :)

What do you mean by "physical environment?"

When I start talking to people about setting up an intentional, research-based environment, I am talking about colors, decor, things on the walls, lighting, music, scent, seating, materials, covers it all. It means that every single song you play, light you turn on, air freshener you spray, or border you buy makes a difference.

This is where I'll stop and say that everything that I discuss is my own opinion, and no matter if it is based on research, theory, or my own practice, I hope that you understand that I don't mean to call one type of environment "better" than another. This is my own personal belief, and it may be very different than yours. That's ok! But I hope that you can take away a few new thoughts regarding classroom environment.

So, what does the "research" say? 

I don't like it when people tell me to do something because, "According to research....". I hope I can explain my beliefs in a way that doesn't sound preachy but that definitely talks about what the research says about environment.

There are so many books, articles, and studies I could refer you to. One of  the most recent articles that I continue to refer people to over and over again is this one from The New York Times called Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom. It is based on a study done by Carnegie Mellon University regarding what goes on the walls of classrooms and the correlation to lack of attention and focus.

This article from the NAEYC called Consider the Walls was first given to me when I was an undergrad student in Child and Family Studies. For students in the Early Childhood Education program (which I was), a requirement was two semesters of courses that focused on the classroom environment. During those classes, I learned so much. I had never given a second thought to how teachers decorated their classrooms. Who knew that lighting and colors mattered? We also read this book called Designs for Living and Learning. I recommend adding it to your professional library! The main idea from my learning during this time was that the environment should be a canvas for children, not a pre-made art piece. Students should be able to walk into their classroom and add their own personalities. If a teacher has overtly decorated the room before the school year even starts, many students may not feel a connection to the room that they walk into on the first day.

I have also studied Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia schools and their approach to the physical environment. You won't see store-bought posters, bright colors, plastic caddies, or fluorescent lighting. Instead, you'll see lots of student-created word walls and number lines, provocations instead of centers, colors that reflect the natural world, woven baskets and glass jars, and natural lighting. The classroom won't be blank, but will be a more natural-looking space, similar to someone's home.

Finally, I'll speak to colors and music. As a graduate student, I studied Quantum Learning. Research has been done to show what kinds of emotional responses can be initiated by colors. You'll see me use a lot of cool colors or colors found in nature because of what I've learned through Quantum Learning. You'll also hear lots of music in my classroom, but it will very rarely be popular top 40 hits. You'll hear classical piano, solo guitar, or ukulele covers. Quantum Learning shares the belief that music can be used to excite and engage, but use that kind of music sparingly. Use it primarily to focus or calm.

If you're still reading, here is the main point:

Consider your classroom. Who does it look like spends time there? If you have one wall with student work, that isn't enough. Students' presence should be felt through the materials you have for them on their tables. It should be felt through the organization of the space, the seating, the centers, the organization. Your own personal love of pink polka dots should not be the focus of your classroom decor. There should not be so many posters, pre-made bulletin boards, borders, signs, etc. that the students don't know where to look when they walk in. It is OKAY to have blank walls at the beginning of the school year. Let the students make their mark in your room. Be careful not to take that away from them for the fear of having an empty bulletin board. This is not YOUR room alone. This is YOURS and YOUR STUDENTS' room. Make sure that is evident. Make sure every child, from the girliest-girl to the toughest boy to the student who doesn't fit into typical gender stereotypes feels comfortable there. Yes, you do spend a lot of time in there. You do want it to be a place you like to be in. I understand that. But this isn't about us, teachers, It's about our students. Make the classroom that they spend time a place where they see themselves reflected and respected.

Thank you so much for reading about something that is so important to me. I do not claim to have the perfect classroom, nor do I claim to know all there is about the perfect classroom environment. I just know that I am constantly learning how to make my classroom the best learning space for the children who spend time there. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you have!

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