Making space for learning: a classroom tour

August always brings mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m always surprised and sad that summer is coming to an end. Lazy days at the pool, s’mores over a campfire, water ice after dinner—I know I’ll be missing these days all too soon.

On the other hand, there’s something exciting about the beginning of the school year.  Although I’m excited to meet my students, I enjoy the days before they arrive, when I’m in my room setting up the spaces and places that we’ll use over the next ten months.  Overall, my room hasn’t changed much. If I could do anything in my classroom―and the funds to do so―I’d ditch the desks and get tables and chairs in order to foster more collaboration and increased flexibility for writing workshop. It would be great to move quickly and easily from one set-up to another depending on if we’re meeting as a whole group, in small group discussions, or in collaborative work tables (surely there must be a grant I can apply for?).

Until then, I’ve made a few small changes I hope will make an impact. In particular, I think I’ve become much more purposeful about how I can get my walls to talk and teach. And as you’ll see in the pictures, I’ve been inspired by the work of so many—Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Kylene Beers—it’s not hard to see their influence on me.

Above, you can see the view as you walk into the classroom. I love that the first thing you notice when you walk into my room is the classroom library. When students walk in, they’ll know that this is a place where we will read together. (To learn specifics on how I organize my classroom library, click here.)

View from the front of the room

ABOVE: View from the front of the room

View from the front-side corner

ABOVE: View from the front-side corner BELOW: A few of my favorite posters hanging around the room. Click to enlarge for more information on each one.

Fiction shelves of the classroom library. I added a cozy chair for reading/browsing.

ABOVE: Fiction shelves of the classroom library take up nearly the entire back counter. I was sad to give up my bulletin board space last year when I added the shelves, but I think it’s well worth it. I added a cozy chair for reading/browsing.Filing cabinets behind the chair will be the home to students’ writing portfolios and weekly articles.  BELOW: I created a Reading Challenges poster (inspired by Kelly Gallagher) to encourage students to expand their reading genres, plus 6 different lists of book recommendations (YALSA recommended titles, prize winners, etc). I also have bookmarks next to the computer with book recommendations listed on them. Computers are for self-serve check-out of books using Classroom Booksource.

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BELOW: Other decorations on the classroom library shelves.

Classroom tour |

ABOVE: This year, I added punctuation posters inspired by A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman. I like the way Lukeman refers to each punctuation mark with a clear descriptor. For example, the period is the “stop sign” while the comma is the “speed bump” and the em-dash (my favorite) is the “interruptor.”  I also added reminders for my students about the Notice & Note signposts from Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. By noticing these signposts in the text―Again and Again, Tough Question, Memory Moment, etc.―students will hopefully note how these moments reveal something of significance to the story and develop habits of close reading. I give students bookmarks of the signposts to use as they read, but I like the visual reminder in class. The large poster in the frame is a litograph of Leaves of Grass.

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ABOVE: A visual reminder near the books instructing students how to take a reading rate. Students will also have this taped into their notebooks. I use the method Penny Kittle describes in Book Love to get students to calculate their reading rates. I’ve found that the more individual and personal the goals are to the students, the more likely they are to meet or beat those goals. Above the shelf, you can see part of a litograph of Great Expectations.

Non-fiction shelves of my classroom library. Left board for homework, right board for my persona space, and the middle I

ABOVE: Non-fiction shelves of my classroom library (shelves saved from school’s library remodel last year). I brought back my comfy Ikea Poang chair for those days I want to sit back and relax with one of my books. Left board for homework, right board for my personal space (i.e. pictures of my family, calendars), and the white space in the middle? I’m saving it as my “Beautiful Words” wall as my students post writing they love in their reading throughout the year. Podium at far left will have the sign-out/attendance sheet and also houses all the “extras” – markers, pens, paper.

The front of my classroom. The red signs above the board are strong verb reminders for my AP Lang students. Eventually, I'm going to add Kelly Gallagher's 6 Reasons for Writing to the front cabinets.

ABOVE: The front of my classroom. The red signs above the board are strong verb reminders for my AP Lang students (I got a list of “rhetorically accurate verbs” from a workshop at the AP conference in 2014), although I’ve found that they’re useful for my 9th graders, too. Eventually, I’m going to add Kelly Gallagher’s 6 Reasons for Writing to the front cabinets from Write Like This (see below). In the middle of the room, I have an adjustable height desk. I like standing when we’re using the doc cam to annotate texts together, but I also have a comfy chair for when we have discussions. Table against the wall at the right is where I keep bins of extra handouts for all my classes. My “poet-tree” on the left (Shakespeare’s head is in the middle) is an old prop from one of my students’ group projects from many years ago. And because I have too many books, I’m getting an additional bookcase to put on that side (where the poster is). BELOW: Kelly Gallagher might as well live in my classroom. Using clear labels, I put Gallagher’s reasons for reading from Reading Reasons and other pieces of advice and hid them around the room for students to discover throughout the year. I also made wall decals of his real-world reasons for writing. I’ll post these on the front cabinets (photo above).

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed this peak into my classroom learning space. 🙂


  1. Betsy

    I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago when you posted in the Notice and Note Book Club on Facebook. I have been so inspired! I love your classroom.

    I am also deeply inspired by Kelly Gallagher and Kylene Beers, but I have yet to read anything by Penny Kittle. Which book would you most highly recommend?


    • Hi Betsy! So glad you’re finding this helpful! Penny Kittle is very inspiring. For writing, I would recommend Write Beside Them. For reading – particularly for inspiring an independent reading program and community in your classroom – I would highly recommend Book Love. Very practical. It transformed the way I teach reading (and still does!). Hope you enjoy – let me know how it goes! – Tricia

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