Teaching With Intention: Chapter 3 {Environment, Environment, Environment}

Welcome y'all!  I'm thrilled to be one of the hostesses for chapter 3 of the Teaching With Intention book study.  This week I'm hosting with two wonderfully talented bloggers Corinna from Surfin' Through Second and Dianna from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching.  Make sure you head over to their blogs to read their reflections on chapter 3 too.

Chapter 3 was all about environment and making sure that you set up an environment with your beliefs in mind.  I love how Debbie Miller shared her experience of helping out a overwhelmed first year teacher with her classroom.  I've been there y'all!  My first year teaching I moved into a classroom that had been a store all place for a few years.  There were mountains and mountains of stuff!  I wish I could find a picture of it.  It took me awhile but I was finally able to sort through the stuff and begin to make an environment for both myself and my students.  My first classroom wasn't perfect but each year my room has gotten a little better.

This year as I was packing up my second grade classroom, I decided it was time to declutter my room.  It took me longer to pack up but I'm super excited because I know it will help with my room setup for next year.  When I was decluttering my room, I used a system close to the one that Debbie Miller discusses in chapter 3.  I had a pile of stuff to keep, stuff to donate to other teachers, and a big pile of trash.

When I was sorting through my stuff, I would ask myself these questions....
  • Did I use it this year?
  • Do I have plans to use it next year?
  • Would someone else benefit from these materials?

These questions really helped me get rid of a lot of stuff that was just taking up space.  I gave a lot of materials to the art teacher and it made her day!  I even gave some stuff to a first grade teacher that didn't have a lot in her room.  The trash pile was gigantic but it was all junk or stuff that was super old and not useful at all!  After I had just what I needed, I was amazed to see all the space that I had.  I'm looking forward to setting up my room next year because I know the space will come in handy for both myself and my students.

Now let's talk more about setting up your classroom environment.  Here are some questions that will help you when setting up your classroom environment.  Feel free to grab the question graphics and use them in your post for chapter 3.

When I set up my room each year, the first thing I think about is the different areas that I need in my classroom and then I map them out.  Normally, I just draw it out on a piece of paper.

I know that I need these 3 areas first...

Large Meeting Area

My large meeting area has always been super important to me.  I love how Debbie Miller talked about how meeting areas aren't just for primary grades.  I TOTALLY agree.  My meeting area has a rocking chair, a small easel (now I have just a chart stand), supply tubs with materials that I need for whole group lessons, pointers, and our activboard.  I love that the kids can see both the chart stand and the activboard from our meeting area.

Small Group Teaching Area

My small group teaching area is the second most important area for me as a teacher.  I love the workshop model and I love teaching in small groups.  I have supplies behind me on the shelf that I can easily access and also books behind me as well.  I also have a small set of plastic drawers under the table where I keep guided reading materials (dry erase boards with markers, index cards, letter tiles, and some other materials).  When I teach math small groups, the students bring a math tub with them that has base ten blocks and unifix cubes in it.  I want to make sure that I have all the materials I need close by, so it doesn't interrupt our learning and discussions.

Table Groups for Cooperative Learning

I want my students to work cooperatively and have discussions often, so how I set up my table groups is also really important.  I talk more about my table groups in the third question.

I also have other areas that are important when I'm setting up my classroom.  I also have a writing table, classroom library, word wall, math wall, and focus wall.  I try to keep things minimal on the walls because just like Debbie Miller discussed, I want the kids to help me set up the room.  I add anchor charts and instructional items with them because I know they will use them more.  The more you involve your students, the more they will take ownership of the classroom.

I teach second grade two-way dual language, so I teach two different sets of classes twice a day.  In the morning, I teach two groups of ELA.  In the afternoon, I teach two groups of Math.  I learned quickly that it wasn't possible for each student to have their own desk with their own supplies in it.

I decided that we would keep our textbooks in each of the desks and then use book boxes for student materials.  My students keep their notebooks, math workbook, pencils, scissors, and erasers in their book box.  My students also have pencil boxes and they keep their colors, markers, and extra pencils in it.  We store our pencil boxes in our desk and then they can easily take them to their second class if needed.

I've learned that having a book box for each of my students gives them ownership in my classroom.  They also have a separate book box in my partner's room with their Spanish notebook and materials.  It's also easy for them to pick up their book box and take it with them to their desk or any area that they might be working in.  Not having their supplies in their desk has also helped our desk area stay clean.  I would highly recommend it!

My students also have a binder that we keep our daily conduct sheet, homework, parent newsletter, extra notebook paper to write on, and graded work in.  My partner and I have a small shelf right outside our classroom doors that the kids store their binders in.  That way if they need to put some work in their binder, they don't have to disturb the other class.  They take the binder home each night and bring it back in the morning.

When I started second grade two years ago, I knew right away that I wanted my students to work collaboratively and to discuss things with their group often.  I also wanted my students to have a partner, so I decided right away that I needed to place my desks in even groupings.  I decided to go with five table groups.  Four of the table groups would have four desks in it and then the table group in the middle would have six desks in in.

I chose these table group set ups so that the kids were right next to their partner and they could easily talk to and help each other when needed.  This is an older picture, so I no longer have tubs and trash cans on each of the tables.  I discovered that they were getting in the way when we did group work, so I got rid of them.  Now our groups work more together because there isn't anything in their way.

I also number the desks, so I can easily move students around.  It helps because they don't feel like just one desk is theirs.  That way we can easily move to work with other groups and it becomes a more cooperative environment.  A big plus is that if you have a student that you want to move, you just move that student!  No more moving desks around for me.  I LOVE it!!

Thanks for sticking with me through my super LONG post!  I wanted to create a freebie for you guys that would help with the organization of your classroom.  I LOVE labels but I have sad old not fun labels!  I needed an update, so I created these Avery labels for you to use to label things in your classroom.  Remember to keep only the things that you NEED.  Happy labeling!  There are six different labels and they are for Avery labels 5935 or 8 labels to a page.  They are editable, so you can add your own text or write on them with you students.

Click on the cover image to grab this freebie.
Here is an idea of how you could use the labels to organize your materials.

Now, you can link up with your reflections on chapter 3.


  1. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing! I was already excited to read others' posts after I finished reading chapter 3, but I was so pumped when I saw you were hosting this week! I am about to start teaching in a French/English dual immersion school, and it was really cool for me to see how you manage your environment in a dual language setting. I also really would love to see the inside of those Eagle binders -- do you have a post about that?

    Thanks again! :)

    <3 Felicity (parlez-vouskindergarten.blogspot.com)

    1. Hi Felicity! Thanks for your comment...it totally made my day!! French and English, that sounds like so much fun! My goal is to write more dual language posts this summer, so I'll definitely have to add the Eagle binder to my to-write list. I just have to search for some pictures.

    2. Can't wait to read those posts! I'll be following! :) It is a lot of fun, but I'm also pretty nervous about it. I'm sure it will be great once I get the ball running, but those summer "what ifs" just keep creeping in! :P

  2. I loved your post! Thank you for sharing so much about you classroom! I love your labels too, they are an awesome way to keep everything organized! I too went through stuff this past year, and had three separate piles! Can't wait to get back into my room and keep digging!

    Mrs. 3rd Grade 

  3. After reading your post, I realized I need to work on my large group area. We use this area constantly throughout the day, but it really isn't organized. I spend valuable teaching time looking for the supplies I need. I can't wait to get back in my room, get baskets, and organize this area!

  4. Wow, I love your classroom, especially your meeting areas! I love the numbers on your tables. I would love to try something like that this year. I wish I had shelf space to store items. Mahalo for the labels, they are so cute! It was a pleasure co-hosting with you :)

    Corinna (✿◠‿◠)
    Surfin' Through Second

  5. Great post! You have a great classroom. Thank you for sharing photos and for sharing the adorable labels.


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