Monday, August 18, 2008

Around the World in 180 Days Walkaround

As I walk through the eight first grader classrooms at Chets Creek, I am amazed at how teachers problem solve solutions. For instance, take a look at the way teachers display their book collections - using cubbies built into the classroom, or baskets in box bins on top of shelves, or baskets inside of stacked connecting baskets.

Book bags with themed name tags
While most of the first grade teachers prefer a magazine bin for each child to keep his/her personal collection of books, this teacher has a blue cloth bag for each child. She has added a travel identification tag and will hang the bags on the back of each child's chair so that each child can easily turn in his seat to choose a book to read any time during the day. Another teacher purchased red Target shopping bags for the same purpose!
Book bins

I think teachers realize that supplies need to be accessible to the children as they work, but the question is how to make them accessible without having children up and down, all over the classroom? Teachers have several solutions. Some teachers prefer that the supplies be placed in the center of the table for the children to share. Others prefer that each child have his own supplies. It comes down to the system that works best for you - just like some teachers like tables and some like desk! It doesn't really matter as long as you have a routine for managing the supplies.

One of my favorite clever ideas is that many teachers now write children's names directly onto the table with a permanent marker! Yes, a permanent marker! On our tables, the markers come off with a little rubbing alcohol and elbow grease or you can go over them with an Expo marker and then rub both marker colors off or you can use a Magic Eraser! Know how you hate the name tags that attach to the table and how grungy they become as the year goes along? I've tried other things too such as writing the names on tape (the kids eventually roll the tape off) or covering the colorful name plates over with clear tape, but, over time, the edges roll up and look dirty. Writing names directly on the table really is a perfect solution. However, don't write on YOUR tables until you make sure you can remove the ink!

Each year teachers divide their class into smaller groups, usually children who sit at the same table. Some teachers let each table give themselves a names so you'll have the Sponge Bobs, the Barbies and the Jaguars. This year some of the teachers decided to have each group reflect the year's theme. One class will call each table a different continent. In another class, each table will be a different animal in Australia. Now that's a pretty good way to insert a little content into a daily ritual and routine!

Four of our eight first grade classrooms are co-taught which means they have two teachers. Now how do you seat two teachers for the mini-lessons or how do you have two children in the "Share Chair" or "Author's Chair" to share at the same time? Not to worry. This creative solution makes room for any two-some!

I could go on and on about all the clever and creative things that I saw as I walked through the first grade classrooms but my all-time favorite is "the tree." Although we are a fairly new school (10 years old) we were not really wired for today's technology. When we added Elmos and projectors to use with our computers last year, the only way to get service was to run wires through the ceiling from the wall to the center of the classroom. Ideal would have been mounting everything in the ceiling so we would not have to contend with the cords, but, of course, money was an issue so the cords were dropped from the ceiling. Everything worked, but the cords were an unsightly mess. This year, one creative teacher used that obstacle as an opportunity. She purchased a small child's desk at Big Lots, covered it with grass (even features a pull-out tray for her computer and a place for her to put a chair) and turned the cord drop into a tree that you might see on the Australian coast. The speakers are even disguised as coconuts! Now this get my award as the "Most Creative."
Just give teachers a little problem and a lot of leeway to be creative and innovative and the sky's the limit. This same pioneering and risk-taking attitude goes with them into their classrooms. So... stay tuned... you won't believe what they can do!


Mrs. Nash said...

Thanks for sharing these pictures, dayle! I need to know who has the blue bags and where they got them from!!! I have been looking into using totes instead of book boxes, since they can double as book-in-a-bag. If the handles are the right length, they'll also fit over the back of the chair like a chair pocket would for convenient (out of the way) storage while in the classroom. I need a quick, easy, and cheap source! :) I also love the marker "nametags". Non-acetone fingernail polish remover is also EXCELLENT for taking off permanent marker. I've used it for years on laminated items, but never thought about the tables! I'll have to try it!!!

dayle timmons said...

The blue bags are in Heather Correia's classroom. Also take a look at the red Target bags that Lewis-Thomson are using. They are about the same size and just have a cute cirle Target logo on the front of the bag.