Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Preparing the Classroom Environment: Labels for Everything!

Omiword. My classroom is a disaster. I had meetings all day yesterday, but got to work in my room a little today. I've got another few days of meetings coming up and then one final full day in my room before the first graders arrive! I'm pretty organized, I have a clear picture of how I want things in my head, and my energy level is well-above average. Still, I had some moments of panic this morning. Honestly, I almost cried.

After a few hours of work, I feel better. The room is not anywhere near done. But I got a few things accomplished, so I'm feeling less hopeless. I made one pile of all the things to hang on the wall, boxes of guided reading books are near the reading table (though not unpacked, unfortunately), I got extra furniture moved out of the room and I've got most of the supplies stacked in one corner. The baskets that I use to store guided reading lesson materials in are on the shelves where they belong. Progress.

There are so many parts of the classroom environment to consider, and I wanted to share one thing that I always do. I label everything in my room. Those labels really add a lot to my print-rich environment and they help my beginning readers and writers.  At the beginning of the year (during those random few seconds before recess or lunch), I turn each label into a quick literacy activity. I might gather them around the sink and point to the word "soap." I usually ask if anyone can read the word or wants to guess what the word says. Then we read the word together a few times: first in our student voices, next in a little mouse voice, then in another silly voice. Together we say the names of the letters, clap the word and determine the number of syllables, and then we might "stretch out the word" and break it into phonemes. Another day, I might just ask students to read the word. Of course, at that point, they will all remember that the label on the soap says, "Soap," but they usually look at the word carefully and really concentrate. It's adorable, and at the same time it's giving them another literacy experience. I probably don't need to mention how accomplished first graders feel when they can read lots of words around the classroom (even if they are just remembering the label words at first!) Smarties!

I like to have cute labels for my room, but I also like the idea of having students do some labeling themselves. I usually begin the year with the cute labels. When the mood strikes (or when a lesson coordinates with the letters sounds in the word), I remove it. Then I point out the the students that the label is missing. I make a big deal about it, and they all agree that we should make a new one. We make a new one using a shared writing format.

I choose one student to do the writing. We use a sentence strip or another kind of blank label, and put it up on the teaching easel. Together as a class, we sound the word out. I write the letters on a big magnetic drawing board like this. Click for info!


I hold the board so that the students on the floor and the student writing at the easel can all see. The students who are sitting on the floor are engaged, helping me sound out the word. The student at the easel is writing the word and can copy the letters from the magnet board. When the label is done, we put it in the appropriate place.

My students learn to use the labels in their writing, too. If they need to know how to spell a word, they simply take their writing notebook and go to the place in the classroom where the label is posted. After they write the word, they return to their writing place and continue.

I've made several sets of colorful, thematic labels for primary classrooms. If you don't see the theme you're looking for, leave a comment and I will see what I can create! Click on each picture for more information!

Labels for the Classroom- Celebration Theme Cover

Labels for the Classroom- Ladybug Theme Cover

Labels for the Classroom- Owl Theme CoverColorful BirdLabels for the Classroom- Bee Theme CoverLabels for the Classroom- Cool Cat CoverLabels for the Classroom- Robot Theme1

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