Advice from a 2nd grade classroom
Your classroom is incredibly important. Students will come to your door, make friends, and hopefully even learn a thing or two for the next 180 days in that room.
In order for them to be successful, your classroom has to feel like a safe place. And to do that, you should make it theirs. Here are a few important elements to any classroom that you could do before the first day of school, but would be better done by your students.
1. Class Rules:
These are the number one thing that I never hang on my wall before the students arrive. I am in charge of my students, but it is their classroom. They deserve to have a part in discussing and understanding what rules our class will abide by. Evey year I have taught, students have brainstormed ideas of good rules and we have ended up being able to narrow them down to these same three:
Although it doesn’t look like there is much difference between this and if I had written them down on my own, going through the process of deciding what is important to us puts meaning behind those words and creates an ownership of them.
2. Name Tags:
Cutesy pre-printed name tags look fantastic in pictures, but they are a wasted opportunity to display the personality of your students. Their desk is their space and it should show that! I give my kids a blank piece of paper cut in half horizontally and let them design their name tags on the first day of school. In fact, watching them decorate is a great first introduction for me into their unique personalities. It is interesting to see who takes time on every detail of their pictures, who attempts the ambitious bubble letters, and even who whips through the task and is ready for the next thing. I then laminate the name tags and keep them for the rest of the year.
3. Comprehension Strategies:
One of the best pieces of advice I got about my classroom walls is to never put anything up you haven’t taught. If you fill your walls with posters, they will become like background designs that students largely ignore. Instead, slowly add strategy cards or posters to the walls as you teach them and continually refer back to the posters so the students understand how to do the same.
4. PYP Attitudes/Learner Profile:
I work in a PYP school and as part of that we teach the PYP Attitudes and IB Learner Profile. They are fantastic and really teach kids how to be the best they can be and give them the language to talk about it. However, if these are put up on the wall at the beginning of the year, it is easy for them to have the same fate as the comprehension strategies. My class discusses the attitudes and profile and makes the posters themselves.
5. Part of your Bulletin Board:
OK, I do start my bulletin board – but school can a nerve wrecking place for a 7-year-old at the beginning of the year, so I want it to feel like their room as soon as possible. I like to get most of the board ready with a welcome message and then post goals for the school year along with student pictures (or self-portraits).