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Organizing the Physical Classroom to Support Science of Reading-Informed Lessons
In this blog series, Savvas author, educator, and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright will guide us through the importance of effective classroom management when delivering Science of Reading-based instruction, along with practical strategies you can start using right away to help lead your students to reading proficiency.
Science of Reading-informed lessons can be greatly influenced by the physical classroom environment. When a classroom is well-organized, clean, and supplied with the right materials, it impacts students’ motivation to learn and it teaches them organizational habits that will help them stay focused on the lesson. A well-organized environment helps students trust that they have all the resources they need at-hand in order to be successful, and it’s located where they can easily find it.
In this blog post, I’ll show you how you can set up your physical classroom in a way that positively impacts your Science of Reading-informed lessons so you can set your students up for reading success.
Why an Organized Environment Is Important to Science of Reading-Informed Lessons
The Science of Reading requires a structured and deliberate approach toward teaching literacy. Since structure and systematic teaching are critical elements to the success of Science of Reading-informed lessons, the absence of a planned and deliberately organized physical classroom can eat away at lesson time as students and teachers scramble to locate a variety of reading resources throughout the school day.
For example, in Science of Reading-informed lessons, teachers start by explicitly and systematically teaching the foundations of language, such as lessons on phonological awareness and phonics, using a variety of texts. As students begin to read more fluently, teachers will need to introduce even more texts that increase in complexity. It is critical that these texts and resources be organized by their complexity and accessible to teachers and students or else teachers risk losing the attention and focus of the students.
In classrooms where all of the reading texts and resources are neatly organized, labeled, and within reach, it communicates to students that everyone in that classroom community cares about creating an environment that fosters a love of learning.
It’s also important to organize, frequently update, and often reference anchor charts, sound walls, word walls, and other writing assignments that are posted around the classroom. For example, when a classroom has post-reading writing assignments neatly posted on the walls, students are able to easily access them as references to excellent reading and writing. They can use those writing examples as a guide for when they need support with their own work. Not only do they learn to trust that what they see in their physical classroom space is there to help them be successful learners, but they also see themselves in that environment, which makes that environment a safe and accepting place to learn.
Conversely, in classrooms where sound walls and word walls, which are used in Science of Reading-informed lessons, are rarely referenced and rarely updated, students get the message that those artifacts of reading instruction don't matter.
Likewise, when they see reading activities with missing pieces, they learn that those reading activities have no value to them, and it doesn't matter how they use them or misuse them.
Now, let’s take a look at some steps you can take in your classroom to ensure that the physical environment is set up in a way that supports your Science of Reading-based instruction.
How to Organize Your Classroom to Support Science of Reading-Informed Lessons
In order to create a physical classroom environment that’s designed to support Science of Reading-informed instruction consider the following ideas:
- Have at least one dedicated whole-group and small-group table area for Science of Reading-informed instruction.
- Have all teaching resources (core program and supplemental guides) clearly organized and labeled for ease of teacher’s access and away from students’ reach.
- Have clearly sorted and organized decodable readers, student reading workbooks, and reading and writing journals inside labeled bins for ease of student access and storage.
- Have dedicated reading centers or areas in the classroom that contain reading activities specifically designed to support individual student’s data-informed reading needs.
- Have classroom walls that contain anchor charts and other reference displays for supporting all areas of reading instruction, including phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
- Have sound walls and word walls posted around the classroom and make sure they’re frequently updated.
- Have manipulatives, such as sound phones, mouth mirrors, letter/syllable and word tiles organized in labeled bins for ease of student access.
- Have student data easily accessible by the teacher at all times for designing and refining whole- and small-group lessons.
Investing the time to create and maintain a well-organized and well-supplied physical classroom space is essential for supporting the success of Science of Reading instruction. Happy teaching!
Tips: Ideally, the completion of the above list of action items should be planned before the start of the school year and revisited and refined throughout the year.
One way to gauge if your physical classroom environment is optimally organized for Science of Reading-informed instruction is to observe and note the amount of time it takes you and your students to retrieve and store your reading materials throughout the school day. When you and most of your students can easily and readily access all of the texts and reading resources, you know that your classroom’s physical environment is optimized for Science of Reading-based instruction.