The first thing I do is… #SOL #BTS17


Like most teachers, my classroom was dissembled in June so the custodians could give it a thorough (term used very loosely!) cleaning over the summer. When August rolls around, it’s time to put it all back together again. This takes me a while. Like a really long while. Like a way too long while. Like an “Aren’t you done yet?” while. So many decisions to make! What should I keep? Pass on? Toss? Rearrange? The room changes every year. One thing doesn’t change, though — the space I set up first.


As soon as I return to my classroom, and after I re-re-re-re-rearrange the furniture, the same spot gets gussied up first. It’s not a big space, and it doesn’t take long, but it’s always first. It’s not an important, educationally innovative space, but it needs to be first. I’m not sure what would happen if it wasn’t first. It’s kind of a feel-good space, and I’m not sure who benefits from it more — me or my students? Setting it up grounds me, recalibrates me to the rhythms of the school year. It’s a talisman of sorts, I guess. As soon as it’s ready I can move on.

The bookcase with my personal kidlit collection is my zone. The “World of Leo Lionni” mural goes up first. It was painted for me in 1998 by the Kindergarten class I student taught in. It was a post-author study thank you gift that I will always treasure. On the right front corner is a stack of beginner reader books from the 60s.

They are simple texts with just a few words — “Ann likes red. Red, red, red.” I loved these books when I was young and read them over and over again. I would never part with them, but I’m thrilled today’s early readers are greatly improved! Last to go up on the shelf are a few stuffed pals. Some are literary friends from my childhood and others are new additions.

Old friends: Corduroy, Madeline, Pippi, Paddington, Pooh, and Piglet bring back very happy memories of being read to as a child by my mom, dad, and grandfather.

New friends: Pigeon, Elmer, Linnea, Gingy, and Grouchy Ladybug are new pals whose adventures we share in my Kindergarten classroom.

The shelf is ready, so now it’s time to move forward. Do you unpack as soon as you get to a hotel room, even if it’s just for a night or two? Yeah, me too.


Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving me the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life each Tuesday. And for giving me a break from setting up my classroom. Won’t you join us?



13 thoughts on “The first thing I do is… #SOL #BTS17

  1. The importance of books that open us and our children to others and help us to become (other)wise and the books that reflect our and our children’s central core are critical. Children need to see themselves in the books we honor and use st school.

    I find that the handmade books I make alongside young children that help them to read tend to become favorites.

    Wishing you a joyful start full of window and mirror books:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely the most important space in any classroom. The mural, books, stuffed friends all make this a welcoming part of your room and one that exhibits the joys of reading. Wishing you a great year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The first steps are always the hardest… starting with that familiar collection of books and special painting are the perfect way to get started again. I love how you stressed the re-dos and decision making we all go through to get our rooms just right!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First day impressions invite learners into a caring community. Your classroom is a haven for literacy learning, Michelle. You must feel good that you have a plan to engage your learners in their home away from home.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What’s a classroom without a reading corner? The reading corner was the first thing I set up, also. And it often took up some space. We gathered there everyday for read aloud. I read to my kids every single day no matter what. No one was excluded to ‘finish work’ or for ‘bad behavior’. I read once that , “A kid is never too old to read to because you can always find text above their reading level to share orally.” It’s the first thing I look for when I go into a classroom. Sadly, many teachers cast this time aside for ‘more important stuff’. So glad you have your reading corner. It speaks volumes as to what you value in education. 🙂 Have an awesome year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie. I wholeheartedly agree with all you said. At an EdCamp I attended this year I was so sad to hear a teacher (5th grade, I think) say she just didn’t have time to read to her students any longer. This just broke my heart. ALL STUDENTS deserve to be read to.


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