a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inspired Design

I am a huge fan of reality television.  So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, The Great Food Truck Race, Design Star, Next Food Network Star, Project Runway, The Glee Project, Work of Art, Supernanny, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, Restaurant Impossible, Storage Wars, Biggest Loser, What Not to Wear, The Peoples’ Court, to name a few of my favorite reality-based shows…

In fact, I like to think that I am better at watching reality tv than your average person.  I love thinking through the production of these shows: what goes on behind the scenes, what new challenges they will think up next, how the producers pull the strings to get the results they want.

The biggest benefit, however, is that I learn about who I am, who I want to be, and who I definitely do NOT want to be from observing the behavior of the people I see.

Case in point: Karl from Design Star (an example of the former, not the latter).  On the final episode, Karl really shined.  Although he did not win the whole shebang, he came up with what I thought was the better idea for a decorating show: Inspired Design.  His pilot episode consisted of him finding inspiration in architectural structures and bringing that inspiration into the room he was designing. 

So, today’s slice of life, in honor of Karl from DesignStar, is my own Inspired Design, featuring my 8th grade language arts classroom! 

Instead of architecture in the traditional sense, my inspiration came from Day By Day:Refining Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice by Ruth Ayres andStacey Shubitz, which (along with Nancie Atwell’s work) serves as a sort of structural framework for my classroom practices.  

This is the view as you walk into the classroom.  I am lucky enough to have a husband who is handy and as dedicated to teaching as I am.  He built the 8 benches that serve as our mini-lesson gathering place (per Ruth’s brilliant suggestion for middle school).  

Here is our gathering place from a different angle.  If I am using the media cart, I can sit within the circle at the cart.  If I am not, I usually sit on the blue ottoman, to close the circle.

This view from the far back corner shows the bulletin board I use as a holder for our classroom charts.  Because I teach 3 different sections (co-taught, honors, and an intervention class), I use safety pins and layer our charts.  This way, it works the way a flip chart might work in an elementary classroom, and I am able to flip from one chart to another without confusing students by posting 3 versions.

My classroom library is organized by the first letter of the author’s last name (not alphabetized with each letter).  Mostly, I use this system because it is most convenient for me when trying to help a student locate a book.  I used to have my books grouped by genre, but I could never find anything.  My students select books as a result of book talks and recommendations far more often than by browsing. 

The baskets on the library shelves showcase special authors, including those who have visited our school and those whose books stand the test of time.

The counter holds some of the supplies we use for writing workshop, such as clipboards, paper, and writing utensils.  Special paper and tools are in the drawers and cabinets below the counter.  You may also notice the textbooks on the classroom shelf.  We only use certain texts from the anthology, since our primary texts are excerpts from tradebooks and student writing samples. 

 I keep a table at the back of the room for small group instruction.  Carpet squares and comfy chairs are used during independent reading and writing time, so students can spread out. 

This last view shows that my teacher desk is flush against the wall, off to the side.  Because I am constantly working directly with students during class, this really serves as my organizational center. 

In addition to the classroom design being inspired by my fellow bloggers Ruth and Stacey, today’s slice was an inspired design as well—thank you to Deb Day at Coffee with Chloe for bravely sharing through your guest post at Two Writing Teachers!


  1. Thank you for including me in your post--I love how you have organized your room. Love the benches! I am in the process of creating a reading/writing space just outside of my door. I'll have to write about it when I have it complete.

  2. Your space looks wonderful, Christy. I don't think I've seen an 8th grade space as large and creative as yours. You are lucky to have your husband build the benches, which are great. It looks as if the students have lots of freedom of movement, and comfy spaces to go to. I agree that the book organization works well. I tried different ways for years, but your way is definitely the easiest. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Your room shows such thoughtful planning in the design.I especially love the wall of books. Wow! Thanks for sharing those pictures. I love peeking into classrooms.

  4. Thank you for the tour. It is interesting to see and hear how people arrange their classroom. It was clever to start your post with revealing a bit of yourself. You could probably use the same start for some other posts.

  5. This is (literally) the 5th time (over the course of 4 days) I'm typing this comment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it goes through.

    May I come and write in your room? Please?

    What an amazing space! I'm sure incredible work happens here too. I'm humbled to see my name in your post, but you must know this space is because of YOU. Clearly you are dedicated to your students and to best practice instruction.

    Will you be around NCTE this year? I'd love to meet up and take some time to talk in person.

    Happy teaching,

  6. This is an 8th grade room to be found in - in more ways than one! Inspirational!