Classroom Environment

"I believe that classroom environments are most effective when they are literate and purposeful, organized and accessible, and, most of all, authentic." -Debbie Miller

Something to try:

Step outside your classroom door and look back in, as if for the first time. What do you see? Do you want to go back inside? Or do you want to run and hide? If you're inclined to run, force yourself back. Grab your notebook and divide a page into thirds. In the first column, draw or write about what you like about your classroom environment. What seems to be working?
In the next column, do the same with what bothers you most. What's getting in the way of teaching and learning? What doesn't make sense? And in the last column, write or draw what you'd like to see when you step inside. Do the same from a child's point of view. Get at their eye level and see things as they see them. Now what do you see?
First impressions count. Classroom environments vary, but they always need to be welcoming places; interesting, joyful places that beckon kids and teachers to actively participate in the pursuit of knowledge. Places that invite curiosity, exploration, collaboration, and conversation. Places that make us want to come in and stay, day after day after day.
Next, consider asking a collegue-someone you trust in the field, but probably not a close friend-to step inside your room. Ask this person to take a few minutes to look around and then ask them the following kinds of questions:

  • What do you know I value?
  • What do you know about what I believe about teaching and learning? What's the evidence?
  • What do you know about the kids in the room?

Any thoughtful person who spends even a small amount of time in our classrooms should be able to respond to these questions. If they can't, or if they say something that seems to us totally off the mark, it should give us pause. We have to wonder what it is about the environment that's sending mixed signals or no signals at all. Just as it's important to define our beliefs and align our practices, it's important to create classroom environments that reflect our beliefs.

(Teaching for Deep Understanding by Linda Dorn and Carla Soffos)

Classroom Environment Form


Reading aloud can be a powerful way to build community. Here is a website reference to help you with this:
Using Picture Books to Build Community

Give a simple reading interest inventory in order to get to know the students as readers. Here is an example of an inventory:

You might want to take some information from your reading interest inventory and attach it to your conferring records to help match books to readers. Here is a template to create stickers to attach to your conferring records for quick reference:

Read with every child

Make it your goal in the beginning of the year to just sit down and read a book informally with each and every student. This will give you the opportunity to see which students who need to be further assessed immediately.

Here is a great resource for starting that comprehension conversation: