Envisioning Your Classroom

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.I started setting up my classroom a few days ago, and of course I was thinking about the first days of school, but what really guided my decisions was a vision of what my classroom would be like about ten weeks from now. By then I expect the room will have that certain “hum.” It’s hard to describe this hum—it’s as much a feeling as something you hear or see—but I know it when it happens. That hum is a sign that everything has come together: we’ve built a strong sense of classroom community and the children have mastered the everyday routines that make things run smoothly. And by then I’ll know this group of first graders well enough to design lessons that keep all of them growing academically and socially.

Here’s a scene from my vision of a classroom humming this way: If you visited us in November during our Writers’ Workshop, you’d see students working busily all around the room. Small groups are gathered at four round tables to work on personal narratives; their blue writing folders are open in front of them and shared supplies for crafting and illustrating their work are in the middle of each table. A few students have chosen work spots at the “low table”: a long rectangular table with its legs removed so it is only inches above the ground. Others are “belly writing,” sprawled out on the rug, writing on clipboards. They share small cans of writing materials they’ve brought to the rug from the Writer’s Bookshelf.

As they work, the writers chat with each other. Some share the stories they’re writing, a few discuss how to draw things, while others carefully listen to sounds in words as they do their best to record them. Meanwhile, I’m tucked away at a table with a small group of students, naming and noticing the growth I see in their behavior and their work while nudging them to deepen their thinking, take risks, and grow. It is a busy, productive time filled with earnest workers rising to the challenge of learning.

After years of teaching and Responsive Classroom training, and achieving my National Board Certification, I’m confident that I have the skills and resources to make this vision a reality for the first graders I’ll be teaching this year. It will take some preparation, thoughtful planning, and laying of groundwork during the first weeks of school, but it will happen! And this year as I go, I’ll be blogging about what’s involved in creating such a community of learners. I’ll share some of the ideas and insights that helped me along the way. If you have questions or topics you’d particularly like to hear about, please let me know!

In the meantime, until my next post, here’s something to think about: I shared my vision for what I want my classroom to look like and sound like once the school year is under way. What’s yours? Try to get as specific as you can. What’s your vision for how you’ll know your classroom has that certain “hum”?

Candace Roberts is a Responsive Classroom consultant, kindergarten teacher in Rhode Island, and Early Childhood Generalist.

Tags: Building Classroom Community, Classroom Organization, Joyful Classrooms