Wednesday, October 10, 2007 the details

I am in love with my classroom this year. In love with the sights, scents and textures of it. Not only am I welcomed each morning with a smile and a hug from Lauren and the children, I am also welcomed by this inviting environment we have created together. It is a place of learning and of caring.

I have always thought that a person's spirit can be seen in the details of their home. I am interested in the small touches that signify to me something about the kind of living that is done in this space. The small table with the antique lamp set up in a tiny nook, the bud vase with a fresh Tea rose in the bathroom or a beautifully framed picture charmingly displayed in an unusual spot you might never have thought of putting it yourself. These are all indicators to me of respect. Respect for oneself and respect for others.

Lauren and I have had the energy and time this year to step things up a bit in our classroom. I honestly think that the care we have put into the classroom environment has influenced the sense of community among our students. Isn't there an old adage that states, if you give respect you get respect?

Here are a few of the touches we have added this year...

We have committed to purchasing fresh flowers every week. I had a dear friend Peggy, who has since passed away, tell me that having freshly cut flowers was one of the best things you could do for yourself. They lifted her mood if she was feeling melancholy and brought a bit of beauty. I think it also adds an element of serenity to the environment.

Attractive displays.

Wicker book bins containing books sorted according to themes, characters, authors and genre.

Every classroom in NYC has a word wall which displays an ongoing cumulative list of words that the students are expected to
know how to read and spell by the end of the school year. These are usually, mostly dolch words or common sight words in first grade. Last year I had the idea to hang curtains to give some depth to the area. This also serves a double purpose in that we can draw the curtains, thereby covering the words, when we give our spelling tests.

Now you see 'em...

Now you don't.

Now for my favorite addition.

My friend Dawn gave me her Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree last week!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! is a clever children's alphabet book. It is about some adventurous letters climbing up a coconut tree. We now have our very own coconut tree which we set up as a comfortable reading area. Thanks Dawn!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom classroom activities can be found here.

Notice the beach ball? We use this for a word study game. All of our word wall words are written on the ball throughout the school year. This is how we play the game.

We all sit in a circle. The students give the 'thumbs up' using the hand they write with. If the are right handed they would obviously hold up their right thumb. This thumb is an important element in the game. Once this is set, which can take a while for fledgling first graders, the game begins. The teacher tosses the ball to a student who hopefully catches it. They read the word that is touching their thumb. We have them spell it as well. This has proven to be a very motivating, fun activity and one that can be done when there is a few minutes to kill surrounding transitions.

So there you have it. If I am not careful this classroom is going to turn into a second home. Oh, wait...isn't it that already?


Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Too bad you don't have scratch and sniff on your blog as well. I like the word tree. I still think I'd learn a few things in your class.

Mikey T said...

how nice to see a mention of Peggy in this blog. i think of her often and how even in the few times we spent together she made an impact on my life that will always exist. I think I'm gonna buy some fresh flowers tomorrow :)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

What a wonderful classroom! What wonderful insight. Your kids as blessed to have you and Lauren as their teachers.

Steve said...

I'm so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm you bring to teaching. I am not NEARLY as enthusiastic about my job! (Well, depending on the day...)

Love the flowers - definitely a great idea - as well as the curtains on the word wall! If I were a student here I'd remember this classroom forever!

Joy said...

This seems to be your most detailed classroom to date (which is saying a lot!) Lovin' the palm tree - a little hint of Mexico!

Salty Miss Jill said...

What a gorgeous classroom! Your students are so fortunate. :)

As a school counselor, I used a ball for a group activity, too. I wrote phrases like 'what makes me the happiest is...', 'someone I admire is...', 'I feel sad when....', etc. It worked from Kindergarten to 12th grade...and even with adults.

You do amazing work!

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

What a GREAT room - and it's nice to see someone who recognizes the importance of one's environment to sanity and learning. ;-)

Gary said...

JT - Isn't that an innovation worthy of John Waters? I love scratch and sniff - except the one I remember most from my youth which was natural gas. My father got a kick out of that one though. Lots of fart jokes would follow...

Mikey - Welcome to the blogosphere my friend.

I do of course agree with you about Pegs. I just adored that amazing woman. Didn't she make us laugh with her wit and charm. I will never put up a christmas tree without thinking of her. And she thought you were great too.

Vanilla - Wow! Thank you for these kind words.

Steve - Energy I've got in spades. You know, I always used to wonder if my students would remember their experiences in first grade and kindergarten. I always hoped they would take with them a good feeling if nothing else but now I have confidence that they will take that and so much more with them into their lives.

Joy - Come meet me for lunch sometime and see for yourself. I want you to meet my kids.

Salty - So many uses for a beach ball. It's not just for the beach anymore. I really like your idea and think I shall incorporate that into our community building enterprises. Thanks.

Dr. Zacko-Smith - Thanks. Sanity and learning, yes. Let's make this as unstressful as possible shall we?

Dumdad said...

The kids have lucked out with their teacher and school.

Florecita said...

Gary you are an inspiration for teachers, you and Lauren that I think I know a lot with your posts are an incredible team!!!!!!

Love the flowers and I'm saying a prayer for Peggy...

Blessings to you!!

marxsny said...

Wow, the classroom looks great, it has really evolved from the previous years. You are correct about the respect thing. Respect is earned, it's not something that is just granted based on position or title and it is a 2 way street.

When you speak of the beautifully framed picture charmingly displayed in an unusual spot are you referring to the Madonna picture or the Marilyn Monroe picture in the guest bath?

lettuce said...

I buy myself flowers fairly regularly - I've managed to stop feeling vaguely guilty about doing so, but hadn't quite identified that its to do partly with respect. Thanks gary.

i'd like to be in your class

kimy said...

love your classroom! wonderful growing space for the kids - in all sorts of ways.

speaking of growing along with fresh cut flowers perhaps some live plants that will flower periodically!

this summer I had a sweet potato that started getting old and growing some roots out - I lobbed off half of it, stuck it in water and now I have this amazing plant trailing all over my dining room! ...find yourself a sweet potato and stick it in some water, I guarantee your kids will swear they can watch it grow!

gosh, I wish I had teachers like you and lauren when I was a wee lass instead of 'sister mary wrath of god!' ;)

WAT said...

Yeah seriously man, can I move into yer classroom?

Looks so inviting and comfy. I could take a nap in there.

After looking through all the books and cool stuff of course.

MONA said...

This is cool! I love the new look of your class. & fresh flowers sound good! I like the idea of curtains being drawn over the letters.

You really are so dedicated to your work. & I am glad that you love what you do!

Gary said...

Dumdad - Aw, shucks.

Florecita - Thanks for your thoughts on Pegs.

Mark - I was thinking more along the lines of the Monet but Marilyn/Madonna pics are just as important now that you mention it, aren't they?

Lettuce - And getting flowers from someone else is fun too.

Kim - Oh, the sweet potato! I had not thought of that and I LOVE the look of a potato vine! I will get right on this and when it turns into something wonderful I'll post a pic. You rock girl!

Wat - Napping is allowed. The kids do it all the time :)

Mona - Love the new profile pic.


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