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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Open House: What does a good classroom look like?

August 4, 2008

Our school has an Open House the week before school starts. It's always a day or so after we find out our teachers for the year. School is open for an hour so families can help kids find their new classroom, and meet their new teacher. There's lots of nervous excitement in the air!

We start school early here (August 20), so our Open House is next week. The girls can't wait, and neither can I. The promise of a new school year never gets old.

It's fun to look around classrooms too — they're as varied as the teachers. There are a few things I always look for in a classroom. I know that some things can't be seen too early in the school year, but other things set the right tone for me.

First, how's the classroom library? Are there lots of books? How are they organized? If you're wondering if and why that matters, here's a good read: Understanding How Classroom Libraries Work.

Second, does the classroom appear organized? Piles of clutter and paper early on signal an "organizational style" that you may need to get used to. I've seen many classrooms where the teacher workstation took up so much space that there were few places where students could work! If you're in need of some organizational help, see Classroom Organization Sites for lots of resources.

Third, are materials available for student consumption? I always had a writing area in my classroom, stocked with paper, tape, scissors, glue…anything the students might need to carry out their work. I knew that if the materials were out and available, my students wouldn't need to interrupt a reading group to ask for a rubber band or a paper clip. Giving students access also helps build a sense of pride and responsibility within the room.

Last, (and somewhat controversial) is it a "store bought" classroom? I get nervous when I see bulletin boards and walls loaded with posters and graphics from teacher supply stores. In my experience, displays like those are somewhat static, and leave less room for student work and teacher creativity. I'd much rather see just a title on a bulletin board with the understanding that the board (and the class) is a work in progress!

What about you? What makes a big impression on you during Open House?

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