The next step is to look at your empty space and think about the activities you want to take place. Structured environments play an important role in providing quality education for low incidence students. It helps if you have an idea of the abilities and IEP goals of your students. You will likely want areas for large group, small group and individual teaching. The more accessible teaching materials are for students, the more independent they can be. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Are you going to be teaching life skills such as cooking, vocational skills such as collating and literacy and numeracy skills. Will your students have time for independent reading that will require a range of books to suit a variety of levels and interests?
How will you make sure they have time for fitness - do you have access to the gym and outside or do you need to be able to move furniture to provide a wide open space?
Will your students join their peers for lunch (I hope so) or will they be confined to your room to eat (if possible just go to the cafeteria the first day despite any protests from staff!)
Move your furniture back in making sure that you leave enough room for wheelchairs etc. If at all possible, allow your students with physical disabilities to use the same furniture as the other students. I have sent many stigmatizing desks and chairs back to Central Storage and the students have done just fine. Sometimes the school district pays for a piece of furniture for a student in Grade 1 and it follows them the rest of their school career. If you can do without it - much better. You will have much more flexibility in student seating and it prepares them for integration into other classes - where there will not be a special desk just for them.
Functional Skills Classroom First Year
| ||I think that it is very important that students learn to work in groups with peers. I have found that they often have spent much of their elementary years working alone in a separate setting with an adult. Although there were some students who found this difficult we implemented behaviour programs to reinforce focusing on their own work and they improved. Very few students will be in isolated work settings as adults!|
| ||Before school starts - go through the hallways and retrieve any items that may be useful. The portable blackboard came in very handy.|
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You should provide a small storage area for the support staff just for binders and coffee cups. Hopefully your school will provide space for coats and purses in the staff room. I found that over the years I deleted desks and chairs that had been designated for adults. Unless staff have preparation time when they are not assigned to assist students, these surfaces will become a catchall and encourage adults to sit away from the class. I found that I rarely sat at my desk and I was more than happy to share it with the teacher assistants if they needed a more private space to work.
| ||Although the fridge, stove and dishwasher remained in the classroom this year - I only used the microwave to teach cooking. I found a great visual cooking program from http://www.pcieducation.com called LOOK N COOK.|
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The far right shelves house our communication system. I purchased plastic stacking in-baskets from Staples and used cable ties to secure them together. Each morning students put their home/school communication book into a basket on my desk. I went through it and put it back into their mail slot. Any papers or work to go home went into the mailbox and it was part of the end of day routine to put everything into their backpack.
The brightly coloured magazine holders (IKEA) were also labeled with names and pictures. They held duotangs for individual classes as well as a few classroom supplies. I colour-coded the icon on the schedule to the duotang colour so students would know which duotang to select even if they could not read. The duotangs were also labelled using Boardmaker icons to match the schedule.
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If you have a number of computers try to group them into a pod. You will be able to supervise students more efficiently. I also insisted on headphone use and provided Dollar Store headphones with long cords when needed. These computers were not part of the school system as we used our own software. They came from a program called Computers for Schools which provides rebuilt surplus computers at a VERY low cost and is available in most provinces.