Creating Your Dream Elementary Classroom
Reviewed by Linda Biondi
If you’re wondering how to set up your new classroom or you are ready to make some changes in your familiar space, Creating Your Dream Elementary Classroom from the Inside Out: A Practical Guide for Teachers is the book for you!
In my many years as an upper elementary teacher, I was always looking for new ideas to implement in my classroom, whether it was the physical setup or ideas to enhance my classroom management skills. Whenever I attended professional development workshops at a different school, I found myself jotting down ideas and taking photos of the great classroom setups I was fortunate enough to view!
Do you remember setting up your first classroom? Or redoing your classroom setup in subsequent years? You had a list of all the ideas that you gathered from other teachers who made an impact on your teaching. You envisioned a classroom where students would be breaking down the door to come in and needed a gentle push to leave at the end of your time together.
Dreams are wonderful. This fantastic book is a link between you, your dreams, and your classroom. It encourages veteran teachers to examine their current teaching practice, and how changes in practice influence our classroom design. And it positions novice teachers to set their teaching dreams into motion.
Combining positive common sense with organization
As I continued to read this fantastic resource, I realized that this book was about using your common sense. It was about how to be a team player. It was about how to stay positive and focused when negativity’s ugly head surfaces. It was about being organized and reflective.
Hunt tells the story about her student teaching experience and a lifelong lesson she learned from her mentor: “If the teacher isn’t organized, how can we expect our students to be organized?” As you read the book, you will realize the importance of these words. Designing your dream classroom is the first step towards being organized. When you design your dream classroom, you begin to think about what works and what won’t work. Her ideas will help you turn that dream classroom into reality (and not a nightmare!).
One thing I like about the book is that it is written by a teacher. Hunt is an author who has “been there.” She has been a teacher, children’s author, and principal and currently works as a trainer, advisor, and coach for school leaders, including at government schools in both Abu Dhabi and Malaysia.
Pro tips along with ideas for mentors
Within each chapter are bonuses! You will find tips from the pros—teachers just like you who want the best for their students. You will find tips that are not costly and are easy to implement. You are going to read the book, reflect, and then think…”Why didn’t I think of that before?”
More rewards from the book include ”Discussion Questions” and “Notes to Trainers and Mentors.” The discussion questions challenge you to critically re-look at your classroom and make changes. The “Notes to Trainers and Mentors” section is a treasure for teacher educators. In this section, student teaching supervisors, curriculum coaches, and cooperating teachers will find ideas to discuss with their mentees.
If all this isn’t enough, there sections for self-assessment as well as an area for the reader to begin to jot down follow-up ideas for future action.
Each chapter abounds with practical ideas
►Design Your Dream Classroom Environment
►Create your Dream Classroom Community
►Develop Your Dream Classroom Routines
►Plan Your Dream Classroom Lessons
►Keep Your Dream Classroom Alive
We know how important the first day of school is for the students and the teacher. It sets the tone for the rest of the year. Teachers want to excite students about the possibilities and adventures they’ll encounter in upcoming days. They want kids to wake up in the morning excited to come to school and want to come in day after day.
Hunt’s first-week ideas include how to build a classroom community by completing a Welcome Board, creating a classroom team name, team building activities, goal setting, and how to have fun in the classroom while working.
Communicating beyond the classroom
Hunt’s book works through all aspects of teaching, not just the four walls that make up the classroom. We learn how to keep parents involved by using strategies such as Class Dojo and WhatsApp, Seesaw for messaging back and forth, digital class newsletters, Class Twitter accounts, and the “old fashioned printed newsletter.”
We also learn how to involve students in daily routines so they feel as if the classroom belongs to them. As you continue to read through the book, you will learn how to help students make good choices and what to do when they don’t. I couldn’t wait to share Hunt’s fresh ideas with my fellow educators and student teachers.
One idea I loved: A “chill out” area of the classroom for students who needed some quiet/down time. Imagine an area set aside with travel and activity posters and brochures of Hawaii or Alaska (or Disney) encouraging students to mentally travel to until they are ready to rejoin the classroom. (Great way to get students to read, too.)
Hunt’s book takes stress out of coming up with new ideas for setting up your classroom – she provides simple and effective ways to up your game without “reinventing the wheel.” And many will save time and energy in the long run.
From novice to veteran teachers, this book is a valuable resource because of the great ideas and adaptability. Think you don’t have time? Honestly, these are strategies that can be utilized and implemented quickly. Enjoy reading it and enjoy teaching!
Now retired from teaching fourth graders, Linda Biondi is supervising preservice and student teachers at The College of New Jersey and Rider University. Last summer she co-facilitated a week-long writing institute in conjunction with the National Writing Project at Rider University. She volunteers for two service organizations: Homefront and Dress for Success of Central New Jersey – both have a mission to end poverty and homelessness. The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve through economic independence.