Friends, I have confession to share with you today. It's about my classroom.
You know… my beautiful classroom.
Last year, it wasn't ready on the first day of school.
Oh it was pretty and lanterns were hanging. And people walked in the room and gushed about how lovely it was. But it wasn't READY. I didn't even have an alphabet posted. Or numbers, for that matter. There were so many factors involved with moving into our new building that my school could not control and so many changes I had to make along the way. The result? An incomplete classroom. And a very sad teacher. Each time there was a new setback (and there were many, many setbacks) I found myself in tears because my classroom would not be complete by the first day of school.
But you know what? It was ok.
My students learned, I finished decorating the classroom slightly behind schedule, and we all loved the classroom a little more as a result of the delay.
The above photo was taken during my students first few days in the classroom. We were just getting started with daily 5. The space above my whiteboard for showcasing the alphabet was still a work in progress, there were no number cards displayed on my freshly painted cabinet, and “classroom rules” poster wasn't hanging beside my framed subway art. Despite being in the midst of an incomplete classroom, every child had a book box and was engaged in learning. The decorations are wonderful, but at the end of the day, it's the engagement with new knowledge that really matters.
By now, you probably know every well-decorated detail of my kindergarten classroom. Today I invite you to join me for a behind the scenes peek into our days working and playing inside my incomplete classroom during the first weeks of school.
Adding Trees and a Number Line
By the first week of school, I had completed two of the black vinyl trees on my walls, but a lot of blank space still remained that I wanted to fill with two more decorative trees. I was also eager to put a sign on the door to the restroom and finally hang a number line in the classroom. It took a few weeks, but that corner of the classroom finally came together.
Completing the Window Decorations
Another big project to tackle was the completion of my classroom window decorations. By the first day of school, but boards above my winders were complete and included silhouettes of children playing (available from Schoolgirl Style), but the windows themselves needed a little pizzaz. I added rainbow pennants and a striped border above each window (also from Schoolgirl Style.) The finished result was perfect – just slightly behind schedule.
Alphabet, Numbers and Calendar Finishing Touches
Of all the items missing from my classroom, the missing alphabet saddened me the most. Here you can see one of my students working on a puzzle to sequence numbers and the alphabet is completely missing from the classroom.
The alphabet display was my biggest priority to complete as quickly as I could once students entered the classroom. I don't have an actual bulletin board above my whiteboard, so I needed to construct a space on the wall to resemble one. Below, you can see another photo from the first week of Read to SElf. Note that the mock bulletin board was slowly coming together.
My calendar area and number display also needed a lot of work to fine-tune once students were in the classroom. It wasn't long before those details were complete as well.
Updating the Classroom Library
Of all the projects in my kindergarten classroom, updating my classroom library was the most time consuming. In late October, I added a few decorative touches to my IKEA bench. I used black ribbon to fasten the cushion in place so it wouldn't slide around each time someone sat on the bench. I also added a strip of magenta ribbon to the front of each box to give the bench a little added POP.
The real task lay in labeling my classroom library. Prior to the first day of school, I made sure all of the books were sorted, leveled and arranged in my brand new colorful bins. The books were even labeled from my first attempt at library organization several years ago.
I had a vision for how I wanted my new library to look, complete with new box labels and coordinating book labels. I knew this was going to be a big project to take on from scratch and I had a lot of other things going on (you know, things like lesson planning, teaching, maintaining the blog and spending time with my boyfriend/fiancé) so this task took a long time to complete. Students were given access to the library and they were well-trained in how to care for it. The library stayed in great shape, even without any book labels. Slowly, new labels were added to the books and library bins throughout the year.
It took seven long months but by April, my library was finally complete!
The Classroom as a Work-in-Progress
Starting out the school year with an incomplete classroom is definitely not the ideal. It was stressful, frustrating, and left me feeling like I had failed. But you know what? It was ok. My students thought the classroom was beautiful from the moment they stepped through the door. I told my class (as I always do) that I worked hard to make the classroom a really fun place for us to learn each day and I asked the each student to please do their best to take care of our classroom. I even made it into a rule.
I have never taught a group of students that was more in love with their classroom. They knew I was working hard to make it even more beautiful for all of us. Each time I added something new, my class noticed. They actually came into the classroom each day and immediately searched for new decorations. They noticed even the smallest of details and loved every single one of them. When we did art projects, the children always proudly talked about how it was THEIR turn to make new decorations for our classroom.
Looking Ahead to This Year
This year, my classroom will be 100% ready for my students when school begins. I taught summer school classes in my room throughout the summer so the decor stayed pretty much intact. The only thing that was truly shuffled around was the furniture.
This is how the classroom looked when I stepped in the door to begin setting up. As every teacher knows, being able to keep my walls decorated throughout the summer is truly a blessing and I won't start the year in tears because my classroom will be all set and ready to go. But if it gets to be crunch time and you find your classroom far from where you hoped it would be, don't fret! Just keep working on all of those details during the school year and your students will love the classroom (and you) all the more for it.
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