I tried to think of some cutesy and creative titles for this blog post, but drew a blank. So, I just called it what it was! LOL!
A bit of background: We are set to return to the classroom on October 5th. The week before we are on (a much needed) Fall Break and will not be able to get into the classroom to set up.
Students have the option to remain virtual or return to the classroom. We have about 2/3 of our students returning and 1/3 of our students remaining virtual. We will be teaching both groups, simultaneously. If you want to read about my thoughts on virtual learning, check out this blog post.
We were very lucky to be given 3 weeks of preplanning at the beginning of the year, instead of the typical one week. Unfortunately, we spent most of that time in trainings learning the new, custom learning management system we were to use during virtual teaching. This meant that we had to set up our classroom while teaching our current students virtually. It was hard, but we did it!
Our administration really pressed on us the concept of contact tracing and how it needed to be embedded in every aspect of the school day. If we do have a positive case of Coronavirus in our classroom, we need to be able to track exactly who was around this person within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.
We have tables and desks were not available for us to switch to, so we did the best we could. We spaced students out, two at a table staggered diagonally. There will be no sharing of supplies. Each child will bring their own school supplies and a school box. I made LOTS of labels, laminated, and hot glued them as needed. I am including the editable files if you need something FAST to set up your room (like I did)!
In order to get ourselves organized, we created a list of all the materials that students will need access to and then decided WHERE and HOW these would be stored. Here is a sample of the materials that we came up with:
- School supply boxes (these will hold pencils, scissors, crayons, glue, etc.)
- Bags of materials to take to specials (since there are no communal supplies, students will need to provide their own supplies for art, etc.)
- Daily folder for parent communication
- Journals and folders for classwork
- Dry erase board, eraser, and marker
- Math manipulatives
- Books/ book basket for independent reading
- Water bottles (students will not be using the water fountains)
- Book bags
Our main organization will revolves around the district provided cubbies (wooden furniture) and the Sterlite three drawers. We are very lucky to have TWO sets of cubbies. One set of cubbies will hold the supply boxes, folders, journals, and white boards. We bought these dish tubs from the Dollar Tree to contain everything in the cubbies. In the morning, students will simply pull the dish pan out of their cubbies and take to their seats. We labeled the cubbies with very simple, large print font for names.
The second set of cubbies will hold the supply bags for specials. It is right by the door and easy to grab on the way out.
The Sterlite drawers are located at each table. There are two students at a table. The containers have 3 drawers. A students is assign ONE drawer, top or bottom and the middle drawer is empty. We labeled the drawers with these pencil labels. Inside the drawers we have small baskets with books for each child. The baskets are also labeled with the same pencils labels. Once a week we will switch out the books. Books that have been used by students will be put in a bag for 3 days to “quarantine” and then will be added back into the rotation. Students will (unfortunately) not have the option to choose their own books. Cue a very sad trombone. Also in the drawer is a red pencil box. The pencil box contains 20 red/ yellow counters, 20 snap cubes (red and blue) trains, and a transparent spinner. We will use the spinner for individual math activities/ games. Students will store their snack in the drawer in the morning. We labeled the pencils boxes with the simple little boy holding the dry erase board boxes.
Book bags will still be hung. However, nothing in the room is random, and that includes book bag hooks.
We basically thought kept the same order of seating whenever we placed anything in the room: order of the labeled cubbies, order of the labeled book bags, order of the dots of the floor for lining up, etc. This is all for, let’s say it again, the purpose of contact tracing. Students will have seating in specials that mirrors the classroom seating arrangement.
We also labeled the chairs so students will be sitting in the same chair each day.
We will be eating lunch in the classroom. Students will walk down to the cafeteria (in a line order that mimics classroom seating) and bring lunches to the classroom.
We have placed trashcans throughout the classroom to minimize movement. We have also put a bottle of hand sanitizer and tissues on top of the Sterlite drawers for each table.
We will not be using the carpet for any kind of large group teaching/ gathering and are unable to use are kidney tables for small group instruction.
I think out of alllllllll the things I am worried about going face to face, this is what I am worried about the most: movement. The “normal” school day has so many movement breaks naturally embedded into it: throwing away paper in the trashcan, moving to the carpet and back, getting a drink of water, getting your book basket off the shelf, etc. The set up for this year really will not allow for ANY of that due to the need for contact tracing. Students will be confined to their seats for a really long time. We already use GoNoodle for brain breaks, but I think we will need to do this even more frequently and get creative with our teaching.
Are you returning for Face to Face instruction? How does it look in your school?
Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught Kindergarten- 4th grades in both the general education and inclusion settings. She is currently a 1st grade Special Education teacher. She is the owner and creator of Mandy’s Tips for Teachers website (www.mandystipsforteachers.com) and has over 13 years of teaching experience. She is married with two beautiful children.