My Classroom

I work in Room 4 and teach New Entrants, children that are beginning school. Starting school can be something that is completely new and rather daunting (and not just for the children). So, to make it easier for those of you that are wondering how my classroom works, I have decided to gather several of my 'how things work' posts and put them together on this page. 
That way they are all in one place for you.  
Just click on the heading to go straight to the original post.

At school, reading is a huge part of our day and different teachers have different ways of organising their reading programs. I use a 'reading wheel' to display my reading groups and reading activities.

My reading wheel is made out of laminated card and a split pin. The split pin allows the wheel to rotate around. On one side of the wheel I have four colours for four reading groups, the other has three colours for three reading groups, the side I use depends on the amount of children and the spread of reading ages in my class. I write the children's names straight onto the colour group with permanent marker. For example, if they are in red reading group, their name goes on the red part of the wheel.

As the wheel spins each group can easily see which activity they should be completing. I take photos of all of my reading activities and use these to make a laminated label. Before each reading session I change the labels so the children experience a variety of reading activities each week. My reading activities include lots of reading practise, alphabet and phonic activities, sight word activities, sentence building games, motor-skill practise experiences, and social games using our play equipment like mobilo, duplo, or playing in the home corner.

As I finish reading with a group I ring a small hand bell and the children like to take turns rotating the wheel around. They know which activity they need to move to next by simply looking at the wheel. This encourages more independence and after a while of following the same routine, most children are able to predict which activity they will be at next.

I also have a writing wheel for my writing groups which works in an almost identical way.

In J-Block we have Discovery every Wednesday morning from 8.55 to 10.30. Discovery is a time for our pre-school visitors to come to school for the their visits. It is similar to a Kindy session and parents are encouraged to attend and participate alongside their child so they can support them during the transition to school. We call our visitors 'Mountaineers' because they are 'scaling the heights of learning'. Our mountaineers can come for up to 10 visits before they start school, the last three visits last for longer and allow our Mountaineers to have some time experiencing a more structured school routine in their classroom with their teacher.

Here are some photos of some of the special places in my classroom.

Reading Corner - a comfortable place to sit a relax with a good book.

Writing Table - I have lots of different worksheets, colouring, different sized pieces of paper, and other bits and pieces for the children to create with. I find children there at all sorts of different times. They like to use the writing table before school, during writing and reading time, and for free-choice during choosing time.

Home Corner - this is one of the most popular places for the children to explore and encourages of imaginative play. I have lots of kitchen accessories, a small dining area, and a dolls cot for our dolls to have their nap in after a busy day at school.

 Near the reading corner are these tables with the children's book boxes on them. Each child in the class has their own repurposed ice-cream container to use as a book box. After we read a book together during our guided reading session each child takes a copy of the book home to read and when they bring it back to school it goes into their book box. Every day after morning tea we have 10 minutes to read quietly, and they do this with their book box books. Each reading book is read several times; this builds confidence, reading mileage, and fluency.

 Each child is in a reading group named after a colour, and during silent reading time they take their book box to the table that matches the colour of their group - so red group with the red dinosaur labels sit at the red table, and green group with the green dinosaur labels sit at the green table.

It seems like a lot of extra organising to establish these routines with the class but it makes things much easier as the year goes on. And, luckily children who join my class during the year settle quickly into our silent reading routine.

These signs are in our wet area (close to the cloakroom where the children's bags go). I encourage the children to put their lunchboxes under the 'lunchboxes' sign and drink bottles in the tray. This keeps our cloakroom tidy and makes it easier for the children to access their lunchboxes and drink bottles when they need them.

In my classroom I have a system in place to make sure that everyone has a turn at being the leader at the front of the line, I keep track of who has or hasn't had a certificate at assembly, and I even have a way of making sure that all the children get a chance to turn the lights on and off. The kids are happy to know that even if it is a classmates turn to be the leader, their chance will be soon.

To keep track of whose turn it is on the iPad, each child has their name written on a laminated lolly. The lollies are kept in two jars, one labelled 'I'm waiting for a turn' and the other labelled 'I've had my turn'.

Each time I want the children to use the iPad, laptop, or interactive whiteboard, I choose one name at a time from the 'I'm waiting for a turn' jar and invite the child chosen to stick their lolly to the laminated jar like this one pictured.
I have three different laminated jars, one for the iPad, one for the laptop, and one for the interactive whiteboard. Each jar has a photo, so my pre-readers still know what each jar is for.
At the end of the session I just need to take off the lollies and put them into the 'I've had a turn' jar. When everyone has had a turn I put all the lollies back in to the 'I'm waiting' jar. 

I use this system at choosing time when the children are able to choose what they want to play with from the equipment in our classroom. (I also use the iPad and laptop as part of my reading and writing rotation during our reading and writing sessions.)

 Rocky and Ruby are our pet fish. 

Rocky Fish 

Ruby Fish

To encourage the children to care for Rocky and Ruby we have worked out a feeding schedule. 

As they don't need to be fed everyday we use a special peg to peg next to each child's name written on this list. Each child gets a turn as we move the peg down the 'Fish Feeders' list.

TP Kid
 From our school propectus ...

  Meet T.P Kid

T.P represents all children at Totara Park School. Through T.P the children are taught how to be
a Life Long Learner, and the values that we, and our community, see as important.
T.P says ‘I am a life long learner because:
I persevere: I try and try again if something is hard. I don’t give up easily.
I motivate myself: I tell myself ‘I can do this.’
I reflect on what I have done and what I could do better. I set new goals.
I take risks: I challenge myself to try new things.
I ask lots of questions to help me understand.
I make connections when I use what I know to help me learn something new.

These are the values which are encouraged, modelled and explored, and are part of our school culture.
I have integrity; I think for myself and do what I know is right even when it is hard.
I strive for excellence; I work hard to achieve the highest result I can. I don’t hand in
sloppy or incomplete work.
I have self discipline; I think before I act.
I have empathy, I work hard at listening to others and consider their point of view.
I think flexibly, I work hard to keep an open mind. I sometimes change my mind when I have received more information. I think about the consequences of my actions.
I am enthusiastic; I often feel excited, am amazed by things around me and can’t wait to find out more.
I am co-operative; I can understand and achieve more in a group than I can by myself.
I am inclusive; I include others in what I am doing, I treat everyone the same and respect their point of view.
I strive for ecological sustainability; I am learning to care for my school environment.


In J-Block each child has a homework book and a book-bag. These, and all of our stationary can be purchased from our school office. In the homework book I glue a selection of sheets about pencil grip, handwriting, phonics, and reading, for parents to read and share with their child.
Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday each child will take home a reading book that we have read in class, and I encourage parents to listen to their child read it and record it in the back of the homework book. Homework books and book bags to come to school every day as I check the reading logs daily. On Fridays the children glue the poem that we have been practising during the week into their homework book. Over the term each child learns and collects a variety of poems to read at home. 
Here are some of the activities that I suggest for homework:

  • Practising alphabet knowledge - the names of letters and the sounds they make.
  • Practising instant recall of the caterpillar sight words. Reading up and down the caterpillar and pointing out individual words out of order. 
  •  Writing caterpillar words into their homework book.
  • Choose one or two words from the caterpillar list and write a sentence or two using that word. Practice correct handwriting techniques, capital letters at the beginning of a sentence, full-stops, and finger-spaces between each word. (Encourage your child to write these into their homework book.)
  • Draw a picture and write a story in their homework book about something exciting or interesting that has happened that they would like me to know.
  •  Counting forwards and backwards, initially to 20, then 100. Some children may enjoy skip counting in 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s. One way to count backwards is to count down using the microwave, or count cars, or footsteps. Ask your child to tell you the number before or after a number that you give them.
  • Number recognition – numbers to 20, then to 100 as the term goes on, and for extension to 1000. For example you can read letterboxes or the numbers on car number plates.
  •  Write numbers first to 20, then 100 as the term goes on, and further. Make sure each digit faces the correct direction. (Encourage your child to write these into their homework book.)
  • Add and subtract in practical situations. For example, when making dinner or shopping. These can also be written down in the homework book if you wish.

I encourage parents and children to practise reading the caterpillar (sight) words, and practise letter sounds and actions (phonics) as often as possible as instant recall of these sight words and letter sounds helps greatly with reading and writing.

Golden Time

We follow 6 Golden Rules:
We are gentle – we do not hurt anybody.
 We are kind and helpful – we do not hurt people’s feelings.
We listen – we do not interrupt.
We work hard – we do not waste our own or other people’s time.
We look after property – we do not waste or damage it.
 We are honest – we do not cover up the truth.

Golden Time is a fun and relaxing time to reward children for their good behaviour during the week, they have followed our Golden Rules. We have Golden Time every Friday afternoon. Our whole school participates in Golden Time, and all of the classes in J-Block get together to celebrate

 For Golden Time we offer a variety of activities that the children may not get to experience during the school week. The children get to choose from different art and craft activities, games, role-playing opportunities, sport and fitness equipment, and often the most popular - free play on the playground just for Juniors! We try and select activities that also encourage our children to practise our Totara Park School skills and values.

Children that break our Golden Rules miss out on some of their Golden Time, they need to sit and watch their classmates participate in Golden Time. 

  I use named cars on a race track to keep track of children who have lost time. Everyone's name in written on a car and placed at the end of the race. As they lose Golden Time the car moves back along the track in 5 minute increments. But, before children lose Golden Time they receive a verbal and a visual warning.

Part of my warning system consists of 3 circles that make up a traffic light. Each day everyone starts with their name on the green light. If the Golden Rules are broken I first remind the child about how we behave at school, that can be a quiet comment in their ear, or a special look or gesture. Sometimes instead of just talking, I will explicitly model with the children how we should behave at school, and we all practise together. If the undesirable behaviour continues the child receives a verbal warning and I move their name to the the orange light. When their name gets moved to the orange light it is a visual reminder that I expect an immediate improvement in their behaviour. If there is no change, their name is moved to the red light that means they have lost 5 minutes of Golden Time and their car is moved back along the race track.

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