In less than two weeks, I report back to work for in-service training and begin classroom preparations. I find myself randomly playing clips of Peter Griffith from “Family Guy” in my head, where he pushes things he doesn’t like away and pouts, “No!” That’s me right now; I’m not quite ready to get into “school mode”. I have been avoiding the school supply aisles in Walmart and other stores, and grouchily muttering that I need more time to lay in bed, read beach books, and work on my tan.
Time is marching on though, and my Feedly and mailbox are being inundated by blog posts and emails by teachers who are preparing for the first days of school. It’s telling me that I need to start prepping too. So, I whipped out Evernote and started going through my checklists. Yes— you heard it right, checklists. When I first started teaching, there was so much to do that I would wake up at night, anxious that I may have forgotten something. Hence, the “checklists” were born. I’m sharing these checklists here on the blog, so other checklist-minded teachers can find them, tweak them, and use them.
My Classroom Supply Checklist (shared from Evernote)
As a science teacher, I am very fortunate to have a large classroom and laboratory space. However, its large size and the fact that I have to share it with other teachers do pose some problems for classroom organization. Two things I need to focus on are 1) create a “home base” for my homeroom students and classes, and; 2) make sure my home base, posters, and visual anchors (teacher-created posters I use for reference during explicit modeling) can be easily transported out of the way when another teacher comes in and teaches his or her subject. It can be quite the pain to write and rewrite objectives and the like on the whiteboard, or set up and put away lab equipment multiple times throughout the day.
Below are last year’s photos of the “Project Room” from September. The Project Room is divided into the “science side”, which is shown in the second photo, and the “art side” (not shown).
Last year, when I was teaching at the boys’ side, one of the students commented in his feedback form that he would like to see more “color” in the room. In my defense, I came in mid-year and had one weekend to clean out and organize my science side. However, his comment stuck with me and I was determined to create a more colorful and logical flow to my classroom organization this year. So I made another checklist of what I wanted to post, and create for classroom decor!
My Classroom Organization Checklist (shared from Evernote)
This checklist is quite extensive, but I already have most of the materials from last year. The new things I plan to add this year are 1) a more centralized “home base” and; 2) more visual anchors and posters on academic vocabulary and fostering a more positive interdependent learning environment.
Home Base, or Mission Control Center
Last year, I used a collection of bins, trays, and crates for everything. They were on my desk and side counters. The students knew where to pick up and submit their work, and I didn’t have to keep repeating myself. One of the downsides, however, was that I kept having to pick up all the storage bins and relocate them to the sink whenever another teacher came into the classroom. (Photo will be inserted later, I’m still fighting with Photostream on my devices!)
This year, I will use the left counter space and designate it as a permanent home base. I’ll create a laminated poster entitled “Mission Control Center“, and that’s where I’ll put all of my bins such as the Templates Bin (most commonly photocopied documents), the Absent Bin (extra student handouts are placed within folders labeled for each day of the week; students pick up missing work here), the Colleges Bins (each class represent a college, and students drop off finished assignments in their designated “college” bins; each bin has a laminated college logo velcro’d to it). This year, I plan to use interactive science notebooks (ISNs) for the first time, so college-labeled crates for their ISNs and textbooks will be placed here too.
Here at Home Base, I will also set up a Supply Center. It drives me nuts when I’m asked for looseleaf, or an extra pencil, or tissue in the middle of explicit modeling or guided instruction, and I have to scavenge for it in one of my drawers—thus, having to pause and make students wait. At the Supply Center, I’ll have the bins for extra looseleaf, and areas for staplers, tape dispensers, and the pencil sharpener. Here’s where I’ll also stash 6 supply bins with laminated inventory checklists of the materials; which make distributing glue-sticks, scissors, and crayons among the 6 stations easier for when we create foldables or projects.
I thought about including storage for Emergency Supplies too. I can’t count on my two hands how many times I had students ask to go to the nurse for things like lotion (“But my elbows are ashy!”), bandaids for paper cuts, and Chapstick (“My lips are chapped, and they HURT!”) Last year, I asked the school nurse to give me a Ziploc bag of bandaids and it drastically cut the number of students trying to get out of class and wandering the hallways. This year, I will collect these items and just put them in my drawer.
Visual Anchors and Posters
Last year, I was lucky to be observed multiple times at various lengths and received great evaluations from administration. They commented frequently on my organization, frequently updated public displays of student work, and print-rich environment. However, one of the areas of improvement they wanted to see me work on was promoting a more positive interactive learning environment. I was told that although students were observed interacting and working with each other, there were a few who were overheard saying mean things to one another. This deflated my ego a bit, but in retrospect, I understand now that I could have done more.
Over the summer, I thought about what I can do personally in my classroom to achieve this, and I came up with explicitly modeling language for students. A lot of teachers simply state their classroom expectations and rules (“Be nice! Treat others with kindness and respect!”), but not a lot of time is spent on showing students how this looks and sounds like. After purchasing and reading some ASCD and NSTA books on productive group work and science writing this summer, I think I will create and put up posters on the Language of Learning (talk stems and examples on how to properly give and receive help from classmates), Accountable Talk (question and clarifying stems for group discussions on informational reading), and Science Writing Styles
(two-column vocabulary lists that students can use to switch from popular science writing style to professional writing style, and vice versa).
We teachers are expected to spend two weeks during the first month of school going over expectations. At work, this is called “Pre-Season”, and we use the time to teach school-wide and classroom-specific routines and procedures. Since I am working with students already familiar with most of the school-wide procedures, I plan to spend more time on specific classroom expectations and routines. I want to simply classroom expectations, and post them up in large font over my whiteboard– “Work Hard” and “Be Givers and Receivers of Help”--to emphasize that classroom culture of positive interdependence I want to promote.
Other posters I’d like to create and post include Groupwork Roles and Tasks (list of 3-4 roles and responsibilities for group activities and labs), Vocabulary Word Walls, and a Greek/Latin Root Word Wall. Many of these posters are written on large Post-it sticky paper, which are later laminated.
If you’re a science teacher, how do you organize and decorate your classroom and laboratory space? I’d love to hear back from others, especially on how to create mobile lab stations and lab equipment. That’s still something I haven’t figured out yet, especially with other teachers using the same classroom space. Please share!