Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I did not prepare my classroom & maybe you shouldn't either!

Inspired by this post "Less is More? What do your classroom walls look like?" by Craig Kemp and a twitter conversation with Tim Kaegi . I thought I would share something I did many years ago with my 1st graders at the beginning of the year.

It was way back in 1992 when I was teaching at Nora Elementary in Indianapolis. It was my first teaching position, but my 3rd year at that school.  I loved teaching there. I had great leadership and wonderful colleagues.  A few of us in the building had given up the basal readers, and were exploring having "inquiry based" classrooms. We had strong administrative support, it was a great place to be a beginning teacher.

I was really exploring deeply giving those 1st graders ownership of their own learning and was studying Reggio Emilia  due to my years at the Butler University College of Education and the now current Dean of Education, Ena Shelley .

So....I did not prepare my classroom!

  • No bulletin boards
  • No taped down names on the desk
  • Nothing purchased from the teacher store
  • No books on the bookshelves
  • No little bins for folders
When my students arrived, it looked pretty much how the custodians left it.  You should have seen their faces!  They didn't know what to do, they were already "experts" at what school looked like at 6 and 7 years old!

I greeted them, said hi and....watched...it wasn't too long before one of the students "took charge".  She said, " When are we having a class meeting?"  
I asked "Do you guys want a class meeting?"  
They said yes and immediately say down in a group in front of the easel and white board.

 I asked what we should talk about...
"Why isn't our room ready?"
"Where should we put our backpacks?"
"How do I know which table to sit at?"  ( I had ditched desks for tables, too)
"Where are the bathroom passes?"
"Where is the jobs list?"
"Where is the calendar?"

So I told them this was OUR learning space and that we were going to create it together.  They made a list of what they thought we needed and they divided themselves up and got to work.

They arranged tables, chairs, made bulletin boards ( WAY better than anything I had ever done and it was THEIR work), set up reading areas, the calendar, stations, made job charts....I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but if they thought it was needed, they created it!


They felt ownership, they made changes as the space worked or didn't work for their learning.  They brought in a few things from home . ( Lamps, posters, rugs...)

We had a wonderful year.  For the rest of my years at Nora I began the year with the furniture shoved in a corner and nothing on the walls and we created our learning space from scratch, together.
I highly recommend it!


  1. I love this idea. It's difficult for me (the planner) to go in cold like this but ends up being much more meaningful to the kids. It's got me thinking :)

    1. Letting go a bit is always hard! I was very fortunate to have a colleague in the adjoining classroom be a great cheerleader and support for this endeavor! (Bless you Mary Jo Wagner, I learned a ton from you!)