November 21, 2014

Organizing a Balanced Literacy Middle School Classroom

Welcome to a sneak peek inside the walls of my classroom.  Since becoming a middle school literacy coach, I have always maintained teaching one class per day.  This is a non-negotiable for me.  I don't consider myself a reliable instructional/literacy coach of any kind if I can't practice what I preach.  I've team-taught in the same classroom for an entire year and also taught my class in someone else's classroom for an entire year.  Therefore, it had been over two years since I've been able to walk into a classroom and call it my own.  When our district's referendum passed last year, I knew with us adding brand-new science classrooms there would be the potential for me to get my own classroom.  When my principal offered me the classroom with no windows, a severe heating issue, and no plan for what furniture would be available to fill it, I snatched it up without thinking twice and began plotting what it was going to look like.  Getting this news was like a dam bursting because two years of using other teachers' classrooms, hours upon hours of Pinterest searching, and the reading  of dozens of educational blogs had my mind filled with a million things I wanted to do with my new classroom.  I'm very excited to reveal to you the final product below and explain to you why I made the choices I did when constructing my classroom.













Here is a four-corner view from my classroom once it was set up prior to when I began teaching in it.  I was at first reluctant to take the round tables, but they have ended up being my favorite thing about my classroom.  It took some extra time teaching norms and expectations, but it freed up a ton of space and my classroom and has students collaborating with each other in a way I have not seen yet in my teaching.



 There are "comfy item" stations throughout the classroom for students to sit and read/write in during the application portion of the minilesson.  I have developed a schedule so that each of my students gets one day per week with having a comfy item.  Comfy items in my classroom are stationary, meaning my students cannot move them to wherever they'd like to sit, they must stay in their designated area.  You can also see the genre posters I have developed in the picture above.  These are located near the classroom library and prompt students through questions they may have when determining what genre their books are.



 Right next to the door, I have a sign-out area where students check out if they leave class for any reason.  They must wear the appropriate lanyard in the hallway once they check out.


Here is my check-out system for our classroom library this year.  Students simply write the title of the book they're checking out on their designated card and cross it out once they've returned the book.



 I have two new designated areas in my classroom that I have never tried before: "Work it Out with a Partner" and "Ask the Expert."  These are options available to students during independent reading/writing time when I am working with small groups of students during guided reading/guided writing.  I do not allow any talking unless they are in a designated area asking focused questions about that day's minilesson application.  This has been one of my favorite things I have implemented.  I will blog more about it later.


I created an Exit Slip bulletin board to use for formative assessment at the end of a minilesson on some days where it is appropriate.  Each of my students has a designated number where they fill out the notecard underneath their number.  The focus questions guide possible responses.


Right next to the Smartboard in the front of the room I have included a learning target area.  Daily, I discuss with students what our learning target is, how they can apply the target as a reader/writer, and how they can practice it further.  I have found these conversations to be very beneficial between my students and I, and having this has also helped me check to make sure that I have a clearly defined focus on a daily basis.


 The back of my classroom is labeled so that students have access to classroom materials, rubrics, passes, etc.  I have found labeling frees me up to answer questions about content and gives the students ownership in the classroom.



Here is a view of our Word Study bulletin board before and after vocabulary words, rules about words, suffixes, prefixes, and Greek/Latin roots were added.  I am amazed at how often students refer to this and use it to help build word knowledge.


 This is my desk area.  I've included a picture of it to show how little space I, as the teacher, am taking up.  I am constantly getting comments about how big my classroom is in comparison to other teachers' classroom. What's funny about this is I measured several other classrooms and mine is the same size in comparison.  I think this illusion has a lot to do with the "teacher area" taking up so little of the room, freeing up a ton of space for students.


Here is my guided reading/literature study/guided writing area this year.


There is a bulletin board designated to students writing.


 This is the first thing students see when walking into my classroom outside of the door.  I am diligent about filling it out daily so that students know what is expected for them to have out when class starts.


 Well there you have it!  My classroom in a nutshell.  I can't wait to share more with you about the amazing things that have been happening with my students this school year.  I have a list of ideas to blog about, so I hope to catch up over Thanksgiving break.

If you love the signs, labels, and bulletin board ideas and want to re-create this look in your classroom, swing on by my TpT store and check-out my newest product Signs, Labels, and Bulletin Boards for a Balanced Literacy Classroom.

13 comments :

  1. Hi Kasey,
    Thanks for posting this. While I wasn't able to see all of the pictures of your classroom, I saw enough to give me some inspiration.

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    1. You're very welcome, Elisa! I'm so glad to hear that it gave a little inspiration! :)

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  2. So organized! I got some great ideas from your classroom! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome, Ashley! Thanks for the feedback, and I'm glad it can help generate some ideas for your classroom!

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  3. Hi,

    Where did you get your rolly chairs for your guided reading/writing table?

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  4. Absolutely loving your blog! I am starting my middle school adventure this upcoming fall. (my choice!!) I am still thinking about how I want my classroom to look/function, so I am sure I will be visiting this blog often! Thanks for great ideas!

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    1. You're so welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures of my classroom. It seems like my students do something new each day that makes me tweak how it's organized for it to function the best it possibly can! Can't wait for you to stop back and visit, and sending best wishes to you for a fun middle school adventure!

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  5. Any updates how your room is functioning now at the end of the year? Anything work out to be awesome, need tweaking, or totally scrapped?

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    1. Hi Melanie! Check out my newest blog post to see how the room ended up looking at the end of the year! :)

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    2. Hi Melanie! Check out my newest blog post to see how the room ended up looking at the end of the year! :)

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  6. This is wonderful! Your classroom looks amazing! I am just starting my first year as a 6th grade literature teacher. Did you make all these posters yourself or order a template online? I would love to use many of the same things in my classroom.

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  7. Hey Jordan, Good luck to you in your first year of teaching! All of the signs in my classroom are available on my TpT store. Go ahead and check out this link. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Signs-Labels-and-Bulletin-Boards-for-a-Balanced-Literacy-Classroom-1571115

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