Classroom Tour 2014

This is the beginning of my third year at Howard, but I changed rooms this year and even though I had never gotten around to posting pictures of my old room, I thought I would share my new space. I teach in our Freshman Academy, which means the only people most of my students see throughout the day are other Freshmen.  We are quartered (quarantined?) in the back corner of the school in what used to be part of the vocational wing before the school lost several of its vocational programs years ago.

Freshman Academy

The maroon box is the Freshman Academy. My new room is under the Gold marker.

I was in a tiny windowless room in the center of the academy, but since I was supposed to have a giant (for our school) Geometry class this year I needed to move. ( The class ended up dropping to 10, but I’m still glad for the change.)  Now I’m in a big windowless room that along with the adjacent two rooms used to be the auto shop. I suppose at that point this pole wasn’t in the way.

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From the back corner. The pole.

My previous room had a pole in the middle of it as well, however being about half the size of this room, it was a problem.  In here, it almost serves as a half-wall between your dining room and your kitchen; dividing a large space into two distinct areas: an uncluttered classroom space, and a behind-the-scenes space for storage and extra large group work tables. I don’t mind this one.

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From the doorway.

I try to encourage student discourse as much as possible in class.  The next two pictures show the labels on the tables and the protocols for when we do more formal structured talk.  My first semester, I had the 1-piece desks with the slanted tops that can’t be put into groups, so a culture of discourse was difficult to foster.  I quickly swapped them out with another teacher who had tables at the winter break.  When students are sitting at the same they table, they know they’ll be expected to interact with each other. I’ve traditionally done groups of four, but I have enough tables and my students are distracted enough by looking at each other this year that I may switch to pairs facing the same direction, at least for a while.

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Place cards for structured talk.

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Structured talk protocols. Habits of Mind. Habits of Interaction.

This is the front of the room. I’m so excited to have a full-sized, usable whiteboard in my room this year.  In my old room, they bolted the Promethean Board right in the middle of the whiteboard as if to say, “You’ve no need for this child’s toy anymore.” I, however, mostly use my Promethean board as a projector screen for the document camera because I hate teaching from slides, and for most of last semester, the pens didn’t work, so this was very annoying. If you can’t be engaging without technology, you won’t be engaging with it; I’m still working on the without.

The orange posters are just hand-written with the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I’m trying to place these and the Habits of Mind and Interaction from the previous photo in a more esteemed position this year, and I think that means grading on them. It makes sense to me that a teacher should only attach grades to that which they think is most important, and since I think being able to think mathematically trumps memorizing the curriculum, I’m trying to find a way to reflect that honestly.

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Front of room with SMP posters. Nice view of the mountains.

My old room didn’t even have a closet, just a tiny cabinet that I kept shut with a bike lock, so the shelving and the giant cabinet in the back are a huge plus.  I don’t even have enough stuff to fill them up! (Looks a little tacky, though. I’ll have to only put the more attractive boxes on these shelves…)

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Wall length storage. INB poster. Word walls.

Below is my “math family photos” wall which used to have two photo-sized mirrors in the collage (so the students could be on the wall, too), until a boy last year spent so much time brushing his hair at one that I popped them of the wall during class one day. (I’d love to hear suggestions for additions especially of women and non-whites.)

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Math family photos. (Top row: Banneker, Descartes, Nye, Archimedes, McKellar, Einstein. Bottom row: Blackwell, Von Count, President Garfield, Gonzalez, Granville, Kepler, Johnson, Adem, Pascal, Newton.)

I ride my bike to work most days as we are a one-car family, The kids think this is crazy.  Some days I do, too, as my bike is a little rough around the edges.

A local university was throwing out these super comfortable yellow and orange chairs when they updated their dorms or something, so a friend snagged them for me for free.

The black lab table holds my laptop, the document camera and anything needed for the day. It’s on bed risers to make it standing-height.

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Teacher zone. Transportation.

A local used bookstore donated gift certificates to every teacher at our school last year, so I was able to start a classroom library of science- and math-related books.  One girl this year upon finishing a test and going to grab a book said, “Ugh! These are all about math!” Yes, yes they are.

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INB storage. Reading materials. Son.

I still have a lot of sprucing, labeling and such to do, and so much more wall space to fill since my room is almost twice as big, but I’m pretty pleased with where things are for now.




  1. Hi – I’m an internet friend of Alissa’s (part of the DA group) and came to your blog through hers. I’m an ESL teacher and enjoy reading blogs of other teachers (particularly when they are telling human stories and NOT trying to sell you something from their Teachers pay Teachers store). Your classroom looks great! I love the structured talk cards and math family wall. I browsed through a few of your other posts, and I hope you will continue to write about teaching. Your writing has a very authentic feel.

    • Thanks Karissa! I recognized your name right away and thought, “Oh, she must have gotten the wrong BC blog.” I’m trying to write more on here, but it always turns into something I fail to remember. I appreciate the encouragement.

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