Teaching in Small Shared Spaces

Between my two schools I don’t truly have a space to call my own. At one I share a prep room and work with students in a comunal space while at the other I am a ” teacher on wheels” teaching from a recycled media cart, you know the old ones that used to be home to a TV, DVD player and VCR, that got brought in to the room to show Bill Nye the Science Guy and Magic School bus videos, and sometimes a holiday classic.  I call the elementary prep room at LFAS home, it is where I have a few shelves and have even been able to start decorating slowly. In the past few weeks I have been playing with the organization of my shelves so that every thing is at my finger tips, neat and contained. Working in this room needs a lot of flexibility as it is often shared with the Speech and Language Teacher and the ELL teacher so I need my materials to be portable enough to move at the drop of a hat and sturdy enough to survive the day to day demands of working with students.


So far my organizing projects in the prep room have been limited to creating an environment which supports learning. I have spend a lot of time tidying and organizing materials to create more open work space for every one as well as reducing the clutter which can draw students attention away from the task at hand.  My Word Wall is an on going project so is the Rhyming Caterpillar. My school uses the Dolch lists for their sight word and word wall activities, In keeping with that I have printed, cut out and laminated all 220 Dolch words plus the nouns to put on my Word Wall, so far I have posted on the Alphabet and some of the Pre-Primer and Primer words. The reception to my “redecorating” / making the space feel some what like my own have been positive so far because it turned a white rather sterile room into a space that is bright, colourful and welcoming.


The biggest challenge for me so far has been stocking my “classroom” and knowing what I will need for each group. When I am doing my small guided reading groups each of my 6 groups is doing something different and needs different materials and skills. I have a system of doutangs and baskets for my groups, each group has a basket with their group name on it and all of their materials for the day are in their basket. I usually fill baskets in the mornings so that things are stored in their proper containers and don’t go missing. As well I have learned to label all of my containers with my last name so that people know who they belong to.


Although my baskets are useful and great for organizing my teaching space I think that my collection of timers both sand and battery operated have been my best investments into my classroom so far.  I have a large timer that works well for letting the students and I know how much time is left in a session and it rings to let us know when time is up, I also have a series of sand timers in varying increments that I use for games and activities as well as helping students learn to pace them selves and their work. I also love using a pocket chart because I can pre type and print sections of poems or stories in large fonts and read them as a group so that every one can see them.



The rainbow table set up for this mornings grade 1 guided reading lesson, reviewing letters and the Dolch Pre-Primer words as well as reading with the “at” family. Working on the “at” family with some students today. All the sentences are original material that I came up with on Monday while writing the chart.


Corner 1 with my alphabet and number line up above the door and windows and a poster full of wonderful thoughts over the photo copier.


Corner 2 looking into one of the grade one classrooms with the rhyming caterpillar above the door. The fridge provides a great space for magnetic poetry and writing with magnetic words.


Corner 3, the end of the shared paper storage and the beginning of my storage shelves, these shelves are home to:

top shelf:  books and resource binders

Second shelf: office supplies, timers and some group baskets

Third Shelf:  bins of play-dough, bulletin board trim, word / sentence strips, odds and ends, extra supplies, word games, magnetic words and pizza trays.

Fourth shelf: Counting bears ( game markers), Sight word reader / phonics reader books, Sand timers, Dice, Cards, post it notes, colouring supplies, stickers, mini white boards, white board supplies and group baskets.


Corner 4 showing my word wall by the door and some positional words demonstrated by a bird over the laminator.


At my other school JKE I do  not have the luxury of having a space to call my own. I work from a rolling cart and bring all of my materials to and from the school every time I am there. This provides its own challenge, I have to keep my materials in my car and organized as well as keeping it to a reasonable amount of materials to transport. I am teaching dance there and have to bring my own sound system, so I found a small and light but powerful speaker that connects with a USB cable or by blue tooth to both my iPhone and iPad. Instead of organizing in baskets at JKE I use folders that elastic shut so I don’t lose any thing and have all of my materials organized in a big crate. I often take materials between schools so they end up stored in my car a lot of the time.

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One Response to Teaching in Small Shared Spaces

  1. Yvonne Dawydiak says:

    You are certainly relying on your natural creativity and developing some excellent organizational strategies/skills Amanda. Great to see the photos and learn a bit more about how things are going for you. I hope you enjoy a nice break this holiday season! cheers from UBC!

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