Classroom Color Schemes to Enhance Learning

Imagine walking through a kaleidoscope. At first glance it may look cool but after a few minutes of visual overload you would start looking for the exit. Teachers spend a great deal of time, money, and energy to create inviting learning environments. However, many do not realize that their color choices can affect student’s mood and learning.

According to the International Association of Color Consultants, appropriate color design is important in creating surroundings conducive to learning. They also note poor planning of light and color in a room can lead to irritability and premature fatigue.

Visible Learning for Literacy: Surface Literacy Learning

There are three levels of learning: surface, deep, and transfer. For students to reach deep and transfer levels of learning, they need surface learning. Surface learning helps students relate, extend, and think deeply. The problem is that many teachers are pushed to go beyond surface learning before students are ready. Chapter two of Visible Learning for Literacy talks about the importance of surface literacy learning and how to utilize surface learning during instruction.

Before we can begin instructing our students, you must first find out what they already know. You can assess prior knowledge in many ways, such as through the use of anticipation guides or cloze reading. Rhonda shared how assessing prior knowledge can be an everyday thing, as opposed to assessing prior learning in our Facebook group:
"Assessing "prior knowledge" is an everyday informal thing...asking those "Have you ever ____" questions (seen a, been to, tried,). It lets me know how much time I need to spend introducing something, if my students need visual support or examples, and helps determine my pacing. When I taught 1st we had grade level themes and pets was one of our first ones. I taught in a Title I school where most my kids were in less than desirable situations. I remember starting the first lesson with "How many of you have pets?" Not a single hand...thinking that couldn't be possible I tried again, How many of you have ever had a dog?" Crickets..."cat?", not one of them had ever had a pet. It was obvious that we couldn't jump right into the needs of a pet. It also was at that point I knew that we were going to have a class pet!"
Once you are aware of what your students already know, then it is time to tackle reading. Becoming literate is not something our brains are hard-wired to do like walking and talking. Everyone has to work at becoming a reader. Reading involves six major areas that will eventually be utilized in unison:
  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Alphabetics
  3. Phonics
  4. Fluency
  5. Vocabulary
  6. Reading Comprehension
All of these areas are crucial for developing reading skills, but phonics instruction is very important for beginning readers. Chapter two talks about using direct instruction to strengthen phonics skills, vocabulary activities, and improving fluency.

Building a Classroom Library on a Budget

Everyone knows reading is important in school, but just how many books does a teacher need? Although that answer varies, on average students read 3,600 minutes each month. That requires a lot of book! The problem is books are expensive. No matter how many books you may want need for your class, you definitely cannot buy them all. So, if you're working on building up your classroom library, we have some tips to stretch your budget and fill your bookcases!

1. Advertise - request new or gently used books from your students in the school or class newsletter

2. Partnerships - talk to your local bookstore or Half Price Books to see if they would be willing to set up a box for donations at their store (you could even provide a list of titles)

3. Scholastic Monthly Deals - each month Scholastic offers $1 book deals (they also have some good deals if you are buying books in bulk!)

4. Crowd Source - set up an account with Donor's Choose or Adopt a Classroom (check with your school first)... there are plenty of people who want to help you out, but they don't know how to on their own

5. Library Sales - public libraries often hold sales of used books that they have too many copies of (check with your library to see if they have any deals like "as many books as you can put in the tote for $10")

6. Goodwill - you will often find books for just a quarter at Goodwill

7. Scholastic Warehouse Sales - warehouse sales don't happen very often, but when they do you can stock up on tons of books for just a fraction of normal retail price

8. Kohl's Cares - each month Kohl's swaps out their book selection near their checkout stations... you can grab a handful of hardcover books for just $5 and the adorable plush characters that go along with them

9. Retiring Teachers - not every teacher that leaves the classroom will need their books in the future, see if you can buy their books

10. Garage or Yard Sales - nearly every garage sale will have at least one tub of books and they're typically pretty cheap

11. Book Drive - hold a book drive as a school or a community

What are some ways you've built up your classroom library?

Visible Learning for Literacy: Chapter 1

As an educator, it is always a good idea to keep up with new methods and research. This summer Heather from Creation Castle is hosting a book club through Facebook. The Beyond the Blackboard Book Club is discussing the book Visible Learning for Literacy by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie.

Chapter one opens with a simple, resonating statement. Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance, but by design. This is easy enough to say and believe, but when you think about the development of a "great teacher", their educational journey does not stop with a diploma. Our book club found that many districts are not providing teachers with enough opportunities for meaningful professional development. That's right... we don't enjoy watching the blood born pathogens film every year to earn an hour towards our PD credits. It is NOT helpful.