Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wall Space--what stays? what goes?

One of the things on my to do list over break was to take down some of the charts on our classroom walls to make room for the new ones we've made together. I find it hard sometimes to decide--what stays, what gets moved, what gets put away....  With limited wall space, I take this task seriously. After all, the things on the walls don't just serve as a record of what we've done, it's stuff we refer to constantly and use as a part of the teaching and learning we do daily. Since the charts represent learning that the kids need to keep doing or using all year, I hate to take them down...on the other hand, I also don't want the walls to become so crowded that it becomes visually distracting and impossible for my young readers to locate anything.

So after staring at the walls for a while and then spending another while looking at the new charts waiting for space, I realized I needed a way to decide what gets the prime spots on the wall space near our gathering area, what would stay up but get moved, and what would need to be put away for now. I came up with 3 categories to use for sorting, and some questions to help me think through what would be done with each pile.

High Priority Charts
What do we use every day? How are these things used--do the kids just need to be able to see it? refer to it? reach it (to write on, etc.)?    This stuff needs a spot that can stay the same all year, and if the kids need to interact with it, it needs to be hung low. Examples include our calendar and number chart, as well as our word wall and ABC chart. 
Which charts are from current studies? These also get prime consideration. They need to be front and center, and are often left on the chart tablets we use on our easel throughout the course of the study. That way we can easily add to it or make changes without having to take it up and down off the wall; however, I need to make sure there is space available to hang them as they are finished--in a spot easy to see and refer to during teaching times. 

Not Current, But Still Referred to
Which charts were created during our most recent studies? Are they still needed?  These probably stay up--maybe off to the side a bit, but still in a spot that is easy for the kids to see and for me to refer to when revisiting lessons, concepts, etc. One exception is if they are for short term, specific studies that we are not likely to use again for a while. One example was the chart we created when learning how writers choose and polish a piece to share during writing celebrations. This chart will be used again, but until it's close to time for our next celebration, it can be hung in an out of the way spot or stored. 
Are there any charts that, while not recent, are ones that we continue to use a lot? What about concepts or skills that I know we need to keep working at--that I'm still revisiting and reteaching on a regular basis? This is where I have to be careful--it seems that almost everything fits into this category! But if I work at it, I can narrow it quite a bit. These charts stay near our gathering area, but are moved to the edges--close enough to be used as reminders, but not front and center. And some of them still need to go, as there just isn't room for everything. Sometimes I store them on the back side of our easel in the gathering area; I can pull them out as needed but don't have to give up wall space.

Not Really Needed (for now, at least)
Are there charts that represent teaching/learning that are still needed, but maybe not for a while? This would include things like the chart from a short unit of study we did on informational text writing. I know that we are going to revisit this genre and will expand on our learning; however, it won't be for a while. I can take this chart down until we are ready to focus on that type of writing again. Until then, it can be moved to another part of the room or stored.
What about the charts that we truly don't need anymore? Are there some that are still up even though the kids have taken on the skills/concepts on the charts? Sometimes I forget to look for the stuff we can take down because we don't need it on the walls anymore--because it's in our has become stuff we do automatically. These charts can definitely be stored. I have to remember that being put away does not mean gone forever--I can pull out the charts whenever we need them. 

    This time, I did the deciding and moving and storing and putting up without the kids--but I often do it with them. After all, my goal is that the things on the wall serve as support and reminders for them, so I need their input and I want them to know where things are posted. However, like me, they often have trouble finding anything that can be taken down. So I'll be sure to talk with them about my process and we'll take a look at what was taken down (good chance to celebrate things we can do without reminders!) and what was moved. I'm also thinking that after hearing about how I worked through the decisions, the kids will be more able to take part in the process next time.

    I'd love to hear from others on this--how do you decide?


    1. A good reminder to think about charts in relationship to what students need, instead of a "show" of what you've been teaching. You always make me think about the heart of what we do and put the focus where it should be -- on the students!

      Thanks for sharing the image. :)

      Happy teaching,

    2. I love charts. Ruth Ayres tried to teach me how to do this. I felt like I had to make new charts all the time, but not so. I started whipping out old ones all the time. It's good to have old charts come out again when something is revisited, so kids feel they do know something about the topic, and that it's not all new--comforting, and I'm all for comfort!

    3. Charts are a live memory that aide students in their comprehension. Jeff Anderson talks about returning to charts over and over to the point that kids will remember them even when the chart is hidden. Great post! MHG