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Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

As a pre-service teacher, I consider designing my classroom as one of the many exciting aspects of my future profession. However, through my experiences and education I have learned that the classroom layout is also one of the most important factors of becoming an effective teacher. It takes careful planning and consideration to create a classroom environment which is safe and encourages meaningful learning for all students. Throughout my journey to pursue my degree in Elementary Education at the University of Central Florida, I have had the opportunity to learn about classroom libraries, differentiated instruction, language rich environments, classroom management strategies, and many more elements which has affected how I plan to design my future classroom. Additionally, I have observed numerous public school classrooms through my first internship and various field experiences and have noticed how the classroom environment affects student learning. The information I have gathered through my courses and observations has helped me to visualize how I will create my own future classroom. Using this knowledge, I hope to create a setting which supports research-based teaching practices and my personal teaching style. Most importantly, I hope to form a safe environment in which learning can flourish for each and every student. In my first Internship I often find many of the first grade students reading or perusing the classroom library at every available opportunity. They truly enjoy the spacious, visually appealing library and are often reading to each other or silently to themselves in the cozy reading areas around the classroom. My supervising teacher constantly advertises the many picture books she has available for students and has created a language rich classroom environment which fosters a love of reading. Through my reading and language arts courses at the University of Central Florida, I have learned that a classroom library is one of the most important spaces in your classroom. Moreover, this area should be inviting and easy for the students to navigate. Additionally, I have learned that it is important for a classroom library to have appropriate lighting and comfortable places for students to relax as they engage in reading. Through my observations and research online I have seen classrooms with couches, reading nooks, pillows, bean bag chairs, and rocking chairs (6.12). One of the most beautiful classroom libraries that I’ve explored was in a Seminole County public school. The teacher spent a lot of time organizing her books in book baskets. They were categorized by genre and then then by subject or author. Each basket was labeled with the topic or author’s name and a corresponding picture. The students were very familiar with the library. They knew how to find books and where to put them back. The teacher explained that the process takes a lot of modeling and scaffolding in the beginning of each year and the students are encouraged to make the library their own. One of the students’ favorite book baskets was the basket for young authors. In this basket the classroom stored books that were written by students, including their own published works (6.12). To encourage students to read widely and often, I noticed that many teachers visit their school library once a week to check out books and attend story time. During one of my field experiences I was able to observe a class visit to the library. The Media Center Specialist helped to promote student choice by teaching the students strategies to select a text within their reading level. She modeled how to use the five finger rule for checking out a book. As we returned to the classroom the teacher reiterated how to select a “just right” book by using the five finger rule and referred to an anchor chart near the classroom library with visuals which


Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

described this rule. The students stored their selected books in their personal book baskets. The teacher explained that for students who finish early they are encouraged to read from one of their selections in their personal book baskets (5.3, 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.12, 6.11). These experiences have influenced how I will create my own classroom library and inspire my students to read often. I plan to create a classroom library which will be the center of our learning environment. Like the first grade classroom in my first Internship, I hope to create a classroom library which encourages students to read widely and deeply. It is important to include a variety of texts in every genre on diverse subjects. At least half of those texts should be non-fiction and they should cover a wide range of reading levels. Throughout my educational journey I have been collecting and organizing quality children’s literature for my future library. In addition to setting-up a library that is organized and visually appealing, I plan to create comfortable reading areas throughout my classroom. To help students take ownership of our library, I plan to include “Classroom Librarian” as one of the many class jobs. The student in this weekly job will keep the library neat and organized and help students find books to check out. Additionally, students can recommend books to their peers after they finish reading. Using sticky notes the students can write about a book they read and describe why their friends should read it too. These notes can be kept on a board near the library. Also, I realize that effective teachers take advantage of school resources to encourage students to read. I hope to visit the school library weekly and help my students learn how to navigate the libraries to find an assortment of texts. Finally, I want to create an environment where students have an opportunity to read books of their choice throughout the day. To do this, I will take the time to model how to select a “just right” book and provide students with personal book baskets (5.3, 6.1, 6.12, 6.11). Through my observations and research, I have learned that one of the biggest challenges for educators is accommodating the diverse learning needs of the classroom. Learning Stations and small group instruction allows teachers to customize learning for each student. Through my experiences in the public schools, I’ve realized that many teachers provide a separate space for these stations and for small group interaction. In one of my observations the students participated in a Reader’s Workshop which included Literacy Stations and guided reading groups. The teacher explained that the Reader’s Workshop allows her to teach concepts and reading strategies through good literature. The workshop usually begins in whole group and includes teacher modeling through a read aloud or shared reading then a mini-lesson on a reading concept or strategy. The students then read a book of their choice quietly in the room while she observes and confers with the students individually. Then the group comes back together to share what they read and tie their personal readings back to the concepts and/or reading strategies discussed earlier. To extend the students learning, the teacher applies the mini-lesson’s concepts to different types of texts or in other curriculum areas throughout the day (5.12, 6.1, 6.12, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.8, 6.7, 6.11). In this classroom, the students would then participate in Literacy Stations while the teacher conducted guided reading groups. These stations were set up around the room and included poetry, reader’s theater, word study, reading comprehension, listening, and computers. At each station the students found materials specifically for their learning needs. For instance, in the word study station one student may be working on sorting words using the


Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

CVCe pattern while another student that week is sorting words with digraphs. While the students rotated in heterogeneous groups, the teacher participated in small guided reading groups which were designed based on the students learning needs. This process rotates each day and the teacher explained that it took a lot of modeling and scaffolding before she was able to implement the stations. The first one to two months of school the procedures for Reader’s Workshop are explicitly taught. In my observation, I noticed the teacher took advantage of the wall space near each station. She labeled the areas with easy to follow directions and strategies to help the students succeed in each station. While the teacher was in guided reading groups she wore a colorful Hawaiian lei to remind the students not to interrupt. During my research online, I found another idea to encourage students not to interrupt guided reading groups. While in guided reading, students can leave a sticky note on a “Help board” for emergencies only. If it’s a true emergency the teacher can respond right away, otherwise the matter can wait until the end of guided reading (5.12, 6.1, 6.12, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.8, 6.7, 6.11, 6.10). While setting up stations and conducting small group instruction can take a lot of preparation, I believe that it is worthwhile because the students are able to practice and learn skills in their zone of proximal development. Stations can help students to develop specific skills related to their learning goals and allows educators to customize instruction for their needs. Using stations will also help students cultivate autonomy because they are aware of the skills they are learning. Students can keep track of their learning goals and progress in their subject area notebooks. To re-create the Reader’s Workshop in my own classroom, I plan to designate specific areas for whole group mini-lessons and Literacy Stations. Moreover, I will create a space for small group and one to one instruction. In this area I will conduct guided reading groups, RTI, and administer assessments which will help me to customize my instruction for my students. To set up this area, I hope to use an elbow table which faces the classroom so I can monitor the Literacy Stations while I teach in small groups or assess individual students. The area will also include materials for guided reading groups and assessments including an easel, a “Help board” to alleviate student interruptions, student files, and forms for anecdotal notes (5.12, 6.1, 6.12, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.8, 6.7, 6.11, 6.10). Additionally, in my own future classroom I hope to create areas specifically for literacy, math, science, social studies, and writing. During instruction students may work in whole group, small group, with a partner, or independently depending on the activity or skill they are learning and their learning needs. For example, in the Discovery Zone the students have the opportunity to explore science and math concepts in small groups. However, during whole group we may use this area to retrieve math and science manipulatives and/or resources to support our current learning activity. We also use the math and science word wall to reinforce those tricky vocabulary terms. This area which is clearly labeled with names and pictures will store math and science manipulatives, resources, tools and activities. (5.3, 6.1, 6.12, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.8, 6.11). While the Classroom Library is the hub for reading and the Discovery Zone is the designated space for math and science, in my future classroom I’d also like a special area for students to practice their writing and create group projects. Like the Discovery Zone, the Creation Station may be used for whole group, small groups, or independent work as a learning station or resource area. Here students can work on their rough drafts and publish numerous


Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

works for a variety of purposes. These published works will be displayed on the wall to show off our classes’ creativity or stored in the young author’s book basket. Students will also find a word wall which includes sight words and students can find resources related to vocabulary, reading, and writing in this area. In addition to sharing the students published works in the classroom, I hope to encourage meaningful writing and develop the children’s 21st Century skills through student blogging. As part of the Writer’s Workshop and our morning bellwork, students will learn how to blog on diverse topics and for various purposes relevant to current content or readings. In these blogs the students will have an opportunity to interact with each other, other teachers and administrators in the school, and myself using a secure blogging platform. Through my research, I found that Kidblog.org is one of the safest blogging platforms for classroom use. If my students do not have a laptop cart, then I would set up the classroom computers in the Creation Station (5.12, 6.1, 6.12, 6.3, 6.5, 6.4). In another area of my future classroom I hope to create a Culture Corner. Here the students will have an opportunity to learn about the world around them. Each student is an integral part of the classroom community and our Culture Corner is where we share who we are and where we came from. The students will also be able to find a collection of Social Studies resources including vocabulary words, magazines, and atlases. While this area is decorated with maps and images from around the world, I’d also like the students to bring in items from their culture to add to our Culture Corner to celebrate our own classroom diversity. Students who speak other languages can also participate in our Culture Corner by bringing in items from their culture or teaching their peers about their home language and culture (6.12, 6.1, 6.11). In addition to creating special areas to differentiate instruction, the overall design of the classroom should be flexible to accommodate student’s individual needs and unique abilities. In my Exceptional Education course at the University of Central Florida we learned about creating a classroom environment with Universal Design for Learning or UDL. For example to accommodate students in wheelchairs or with restricted mobility it is important to ensure the pathways are at least 32 inches wide and free from obstruction. Keeping the pathways clear also ensure students safety when transitioning in the classroom. When looking at various classrooms online, I found many examples where the student tables were grouped together and each group has their own bookcase to store their materials. For instance, these bookcases may include the students reading journals, reading notebooks, writing journals, science and math notebooks, their personal book basket, textbooks, and other reference materials such as a dictionary and thesaurus. Providing the small groups with their own storage helps to alleviate clutter and accumulated materials between students’ desks, therefore clearing up the pathways and providing easy access to student materials. From my experiences in the classrooms, I have learned that how you set up your classroom can affect the classroom’s organization and atmosphere. When the classroom is organized and student’s input is valued, transitions throughout the day can flow and learning will flourish. In many organized classrooms, I’ve noticed that the procedures for each area are posted throughout the classroom. For example in the classroom library, the students would find the procedures on how to select a “just right” book and how to put it away. In my own classroom, these procedures would be modeled explicitly throughout the year, but pictures and step by step directions posted in the classroom will help to reinforce the process. Additionally, I plan to


Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

post the daily schedule is in the front of the classroom with pictures and when necessary in multiple languages to support literacy development and English learners. In addition to the daily schedule, schedules for Math and Literacy Stations will be posted with pictures. Additionally, every student will have a weekly job. The student jobs will be posted with pictures. Each student will have their picture attached to the chart near a specific job. I would like to use Velcro so we can easily move them weekly. These schedules and jobs are explicitly reviewed daily (6.1, 6.12, 6.11). Through my involvements in public schools it has become apparent how the classroom climate can affect student success. I have observed classes where the teacher is the sole focus of most instruction. Student participation is limited to answering questions about the lesson. However, I’ve also entered classrooms where students are collaborating to learn their objectives. In these environments students are able to become problem solvers as they work with each other and the teacher to attain their learning needs. I noticed that the more the students participate in learning the more they are engaged in learning. This climate of controlled chaos is not always easy to attain. However, I realized from my observations that those teachers make a purposeful effort to create a positive environment where students input is valued and students feel safe taking risks. For instance, in one fourth grade classroom the teacher and students constantly celebrated each other’s success. They were a team and supported each other in every activity. The teacher constantly modeled and praised this behavior. It is evident in these inclusive classroom communities that safety is a number one priority. In another classroom, the students established their classroom promises in the first week of school. Instead of rules the students created promises to each other. These promises were decided upon collaboratively, written on a large poster, and signed by each student before being posted on the wall (6.1, 6.12, 6.10, 6.11). From the first day I plan to establish a positive community environment in which each student is valued. After discussing the importance of rules, I will use the Language Experience Approach to collaboratively brainstorm and agree upon six promises to keep our class safe, learning, and positive throughout the year. The students can add pictures to correspond with each promise. Afterward we will read the promises together. These classroom rules will posted with every student’s signature and reviewed often throughout the year. While it is important to create this positive, collaborative community it is also important to establish consequences for not following the rules. In my classroom management course we learned that teacher must have specific consequences which are followed daily. I have seen many different behavior management charts in my classroom experiences. One of my favorites is a color or number chart where students can move up or down depending on their behavior. In my internship, the students receive a warning, if they continue the behavior they are asked to move their name to the yellow. If the behavior is repeated they are asked to move their name to red and a note is sent home. I would like to use a similar system in my own classroom. However, if a student continues to break our class promises after he or she already received a warning I would have that sit in a reflection chair and write or draw a picture of what they should have done. The reflection chair is a designated space for students to cool off and reflect on their choices. If the student continues to repeat the behavior a note will go home to the


Natacha Edmondson RED 4942.0M05 Learning Environment Reflection

FEAP #9 REC: 5.3, 5.12, 6.1-6.9, 6.11-6.12

parents. These consequences would be posted near our classroom promises and the reflection chair (6.10). My experiences at the University of Central Florida and in Orange County and Seminole public schools have prepared me for my future profession in many ways. By synthesizing this new knowledge of research-based teaching strategies, my observations of public schools classrooms, and my personal teaching style, I am able to develop a safe and language rich classroom environment that will support and encourage every student to take risks in their learning. While I’m very excited to design my own classroom, I realize the importance of creating a safe and enriching learning space. I hope to create an inclusive atmosphere which accommodates and supports the diverse learning needs of our current school population.

Learning Environment Map: http://prezi.com/rul3a4zbqoio/learning-environment-map/

Learning Environment Reflection  

Learning Environment Reflection

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