Monday, February 24, 2014

The Special Educator's Toolkit- Classroom traffic flow and Setting up Boundaries

I am loving this resource for teachers! The Special Educator's Toolkit by Cindy Golden is a wonderful guide to organize your chaos. I feel that I am an organized person, but it takes me FOREVER to actually get it in place. The process that is described in this book really helps to get it together much quicker.

This is the third post regarding this toolkit and I am still in the first half of the book. Previous posts:
The Classroom Environment

This is a continuation of the chapter addressing organizing your classroom environment. Traffic flow creates a pathway to follow around the room. When you consider your flow, your student's physical, educational and emotional needs must be considered. Retail Stores use it very effectively. We do the same thing in our classrooms using visual boundaries.

"Classroom flow strengthens the structure of the room's environment".
Cindy Golden

 It helps students to know where and what each part of the classroom is for.  Traffic flow for students with disabilities should be arranged in a manner that makes sense to them. Many students with developmental delays have difficulty reading nonverbal social cues, they need visuals that help structure the unwritten rules of the environment and provide cues to know what is expected from them.

Visual boundaries are created in a classroom by positioning available furniture and shelving.,Students benefit from knowing what the function of the space is, where it begins and ends and the expectations within the space.
The author provides some different ways to create visual boundaries in a classroom. 

Some of the ways we have created boundaries in our classroom:

shelf and a rolling cart

Cardboard! easy to move around, this is a temporary barrier

My husband made these several years ago, he has modified them a couple of times, they are invaluable!

Two file cabinets, back to back.

the other side of the cardboard wall

Classroom Zones and Purposeful Spaces
Each area in your classroom should have a purpose and contain visuals to provide structure for the students. It will make  it easier to find materials. You can go a step further and color code the different areas! The author promises to discuss that later in the book.

 No matter what shape or size your room is, it can function as a classroom when planned and organized to make the most of the space.

"Every classroom will be different and sometimes certain areas may serve double or triple duty. You also need to build on the room's strengths."
Cindy Golden

Suggested areas to consider:

  • Individual academic areas
  • group area
  • coat/ backpack storage area
  • data keeping area
  • centers or work stations
  • leisure area
  • transition/waiting area
  • cool down area
  • staff work area

There is more information and suggestions for each area.

I have been doing this for awhile. I start with a blank piece of paper, draw a basic map of my room minus the furniture, (sketch in the items that are permanent-like the promethean board) I make a list of the areas I want to set up and I make a list of my available furniture. I almost always have to make an area (or 2) have a dual purpose.

Looking at the author's suggestions and applying them to my situation...

  • I don't have a waiting area, I would like one.
  • My cool down area is also the leisure area which is ALSO the library, is that a good idea? (I think NOT)
  • I like my individual stations
  • The teacher/staff area works
  • ahem....I don't have a data keeping area

This is where we will leave off. Next time, I will share and ponder...creating a waiting area, maybe change my cool down area, organizing the walls, schedule areas, step six, and color coding! 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Special Educator's Toolkit- the Classroom Environment

This is the second article about implementing the OMAC (Organization and Management of a Classroom) system outlined in the book, The Special Educator's Toolkit, by Cindy Golden. The first one, the Introduction, can be seen here.

We will begin to review and apply the next chapter- Organization of the Classroom Environment.

STEP ONE: Really LOOK at your classroom. Ms. Golden provides a handy form, "How's My Classroom?" List what's working and what's not working.

 STEP TWO: Next is the Clutter cleaning.  The author suggested: Throw Away, Share with others, and definitely keep.  

STEP THREE: Inventory your materials. The author provides a list of suggested materials. Most of the materials are supplied by school districts. There are some items that would be out of your pocket.

STEP FOUR: Questions to answer....
What will you do with the space?
What kinds of activities will be happening in the space?
Are there specific limitations?
Are there specific needs of people using the space?
What is the overall goal?

In the first chapters of the book, a form that assists you in determining each student's individual needs is provided. This is helpful when you are starting from scratch with a new student.
This form simply has columns labeled, who, what, where, when and how.
Your students' needs, educationally, as well as physically can be sorted out on this form and it will help in answering these questions.

STEP FIVE: At this point, Cindy directs you to look at what information has been gathered, it is a starting point to making a layout for the classroom. It is not completed yet, she shows us a couple of sample layouts. I love layouts, they can provide a new idea on setting up a room. In my case, my classroom is already set up, but there are areas I don't like.  

Before moving on through The Special Educator's Toolkit, let's try this system out on one of my "not working" spots.

This shelf has been our "catch all" place all year. When I wasn't sure where to put something and  didn't want to lose track of it, this was the spot! As the year progressed the use of that area changed, so the materials that were needed on a daily basis got stuffed into the shelf too. 

Everything was removed from the shelf and laid on a table. I sorted into piles for throw away, keep in the shelf,and put away. I had sorted and shared a lot of items at the beginning of the year, but I never miss a chance to give away one more thing.

Out of necessity,  the same containers are used,and each one was uncluttered, they were holding lots of unnecessary junk, especially that clear box on the top shelf!

This shelf is in the area where small groups of students meet with a teacher for instruction in math and reading. At the time of the pictures, there were two different groups, now there are three (groups) meeting here! This is a great use of this area, I'm loving that our classroom can be used by other teachers. I want this shelf to be a neat, clean storage place for the materials required for each group, and because the groups are taught by different teachers,  it  should  be labeled.

In retrospect, I should have taken pictures of the inside of each container because that is where the real changes happened! The clipboards are another suggestion from the author, they have the daily lesson plans and the student's objectives with space to mark  progress.

This makes it easier for teacher assistants to know what students' expectations are and help to keep data.

There's more to do here of course! The bottom shelf needs more work...........

Until next time,


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Five for Friday.....January 31, 2014

It is time to link with doodle bugs teaching!

1. Everything is melting! Ahhh! We Alaskans like our snow so we are a bit upset! The good news is that it is getting colder again so maybe we will get more snow soon.
2. This week we celebrated the 100th day of school! This is a little project we did that turned out pretty cute!

This is a free item from Melanie Schwartz from teacher pay teachers.

3. Some VERY nice parents sent me flowers, they are beauuuutiful! I set them out where we can all enjoy them. I love flowers!

4. Turtle Crossing.....

5. Positive thought...

and that's my week. I hope yours went well!