Thursday, July 18, 2013

Using Stations to Organize Your Classroom

Hi, friends! Yesterday we discussed cleaning out our space and Tuesday we talked about the importance of a Teacher Binder. Today, we are going to talk about preparing your room. To do this, I would suggest thinking of your room in stations. Creating stations can help so much in your endeavor to organize and create a flow. Here is an idea of how I would work to arrange my room for the beginning of the year. Perhaps you have a different method! I hope you will share them tomorrow for our Let's Get Organized Linky Party!

First. begin by creating a reference station: this includes a filing cabinet and shelving to hold curriculum, reference materials, and files. This station would work best in a place off limits to the kiddos, ideally, near your workstation. I don't know about you but I always hated walking across the room to grab that file for my lesson plans at my computer. It is a time stealer and annoyance at best. One idea might be making your desk out of a kidney shaped table that can be used for group instruction! This will open up space in your room by getting rid of the large "teacher desk" and allow you to work with your students while near your references. It can really help to streamline your room!

Next, begin working on supply stations. This entails two aspects: student supplies that they needed to access quickly (scissors, glue, rulers) and classroom supplies used throughout the year (kleenex and ziploc bags). 
  • For student supplies, I have used several options. I have placed an extra desk in the middle of 8 desks to form a rectangular group. I would then have a container on the center desk that held their rulers, markers, a single box of tissue, etc. This makes all supplies accessible to all students. If space was a hindrance, I might create a shelf with small handled containers or baskets to hold the organized supplies. Each one would be labeled for their group and I would assign Supply Managers to take charge in supplying their group with supplies should the need arise.
  • For classroom supplies, my method would be determined by the type of storage space available to me. One year I used a shelf in the small hallway leading to the bathroom in my room. Another year I used labeled tubs and placed them below tables down a wall. They can easily be hidden by tablecloths. :) One year I was amazingly blessed with fabulous cabinets down one wall so this afforded me plenty of storage. One tip is to place these supplies in a place that your students can reach. You can then assign a student as Classroom Monitor. Their job would be to replace any supplies such as hand sanitizer or kleenex when it runs out!

 The next station would be work stations. This is where the magic happens. :) Well, that is what we hope for anyway. Student desks and your main area of instruction would be in this station. 
  • Some prefer to sit in a rocker with students sitting around on the floor using small whiteboards. In this case, the main work station would be in an open area perhaps with all of the student desks creating a large U around it. Just make sure you plan storage for any materials that you will need. There are a lot of different options out there! I might suggest finding some with wheels. This makes your supplies portable should you want to move around a bit. Also, don't forget wall space! You can hang bins or baskets by attaching a study paper towel holder. Or, if you have those terrible block walls... ugh... you can buy a small freestanding drying rack (you know the ones to dry your clothes on when your camping), place your supplies in oversized ziploc bags and use pants hangers to hang them up. This makes supplies like calendar numbers or flashcards easy to find.
  • Other teachers  prefer to stand in front of a board for instruction. In this case, student desks would need to be turned so no one's back is to the board, if possible. If this is not possible due to the space, simply teach a "chair routine" to your students the first week that will solve this problem. Magnetic hooks and utilizing the space under the board with supplies helps to organize this space. I would often use an extra student desk to create a small storage area for my curriculum books and supplies I needed at the board. 

Now to the famous question, how should I set up my student desks? I have used many methods for student desk arrangements and I have to say, it all depends on the class! In some cases, my students would thrive in a group arrangement, such as 6 desks facing each other creating a rectangle. However, there have been times when my student's behavior did not warrant groupings such as these. In these cases, I would still have "groups" for classroom management, but I would have the desks sit side by side in a row. Again, it all depends on the group that I have. It also depends on the space. It always looked like musical chairs in my room before school starts because I would move, rearrange, move again, and rearrange trying to maximize the space. Have fun with it and don't be afraid to try something new.

Lastly, consider your center stations. After setting up all of the before mentioned stations, I would begin to make a plan for centers. There have been years that I had plenty of space and tables for these stations but more often than not, I was forced to think outside of the box. Here are a few ideas to make your centers portable throughout your room.
  • Hula hoops or sample carpets are great ways for students to create their own center space on the floor. They just grab a center pack (perhaps in a manila folder or envelope) and then find a spot!
  • Portable cleaning caddies can be used to hold a few CD's and a few players for a listening center. 
  • For my reading center, I allowed students to find a spot anywhere! I would find them in corners, on their bellies under their desk, or sometimes even perched on a table top. (I know... bad teacher.) But the students loved it and it created an atmosphere of reading. 
  • Small lap-desks or eating trays can be utilized for individual writing stations.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of my organizational tips for a new year. Maybe you have a few organizational ideas that you could share! Post about it and link up tomorrow on our Let's Get Organized linky party! Each post will be added to my Organization Pinterest Board for future reference. I am sure you have so many wonderful ideas to share and I can't wait to hear them! See you then!

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