A NEW Year !! STEP 1


 Do you have that LOVE/HATE relationship going on in your head as I do right now? Summer vs School?
As much as I LOVE it! As much as I hate it! The new school year is coming. Hurray!! 
My summer is dwindling quickly. Bummer! and there's so much left to be done.
Come along on a field trip of sorts. I usually do this all in my head, but this time I invite you to step in and take a peek while I setup my classroom. All comments and questions welcomed!

Where do I start and what should I do first?  Well luckily, I have done this a few times before so I'm not a novice. I have approached every one of the 35 years before this as if it was a brand new start. I think that is one of the things that has kept me challenged and my teaching fresh.
I know a lot of blogs have already been posting  tips for new teachers and where do you start on a new year, but perhaps I can add a twist or two from a well-seasoned teacher. Let me let you inside my brain as I am planning and setting up. Come on in!
Where to start? 

Where do I start?

The Physical Environment

Having a premium classroom environment is of the utmost importance.  How the classroom is set up significantly influences  student behavior and learning outcomes. It can not only effect the students, but the teachers as well. When you work with a group of students on the autism spectrum, it is  important to consider their need for visual cues and schedules that will help them understand better the expectations you have for them.

In my last post I was talking about social skills and physical environment is a key factor in managing social skills in a special education classroom and general education classroom alike.

Here are a few things I keep in mind when setting up the physical environment in my room.

FURNITURE SET-UP

What different types of instruction areas will I  need? In my classroom, I need: 1-to-1 instruction areas, small group area and a large group area. If my paraprofessional will be doing the same types of instruction groups then I will build in more than one of these areas.


1-to-1 areas. I design my 1-to-1 areas so the student is facing the wall and I am facing out into the classroom. This helps limit the visual distractions for the student and allows me to see what other students are doing. I need 1 individual desk and and 2 chairs for each 1-to-1 area I want to set up.

Small Group Areas.  These areas are usually smaller size tables. Sometimes I use a trapezoid or small rectangle table or a small kidney shaped table. I design the small group areas so the students' backs are to the least distracting portion of the room . I don't want them facing the hallway door where many people are entering/exiting. I don't want them facing areas such as the computer area. 

Large Group Instruction.  My large instruction areas usually are held at the students desk area in the center of the room.

 CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

I have kids who need to socialize and kids who appreciate a little more quiet when it becomes frenzied for them so I always try and build into my classroom a place to socialize and a place they can get away and "hide" for a little bit. I put my socialization area at the opposite end of the class on the rug so it doesn't conflict with the sensory area or the quiet area. My quiet area is a corner area that includes a small room. The room is equipped with a bean bag and an assortment of fidgets.

My computers are located on a built-in computer counter so I want to make sure I keep work areas that require more concentration (direct instruction lessons) away from this area to minimize distractions.

I want to make certain that my furniture placement gives cues about how many people are going to work in the area. Sometimes I do this with signs like the ones to the right. Placing small group tables with only the required amount of chairs communicates how many students should use this area at one time. This year I will be arranging  my desks in collaborative groups.  


    CLASSROOM MAP


I have been fortunate through several administrations at my school to know which room I'd be assigned when I leave the previous year. One thing I  do prior to leaving before summer is to create a map of where I want the furniture placed. The initial purpose was to help custodial staff when replacing furniture after cleaning, but it really helps me plan the travel patterns of the room and placement of group and independent work areas. I have used word to create my map as well as Powerpoint. All of the objects on the map are from the basic graphics library built into MS Office. Check out the one I have done for this year below.

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