I love to ooh and ahh over the beautiful things that teachers do with their classrooms. I have always been jealous of the cozy reading nooks and class meeting areas I see in others’ classrooms. I’m jealous because my classroom is a smallish middle school room that gets crammed with over 30 kids, and middle school kids are big! Though I covet those reading spaces, I just don’t have the room.
I do gather my students on the floor for read-alouds and writing share sessions, but it wasn’t quite enough. I wanted students to be able to cozy up and get comfy with their books. I wanted them to be comfortable during the hours of reading we do each week—and somehow, sitting at a desk on a hard plastic chair just doesn’t do it for me as a reader. I don’t have much space, but what I do have are at least four corners (more if you count the ones created by bookshelves) and bits of free floor space here and there. Instead of trying to find room for a cool area rug large enough to accommodate many students, I began to think differently. What I ended up with isn’t exactly one classroom “space” but a creative way for each child to find a space of their own—at least from time to time.
I brought in some tall saddle-seat wooden stools. I thought since I have lots of little pockets of space, kids might like to change it up and use these for reading. I had these stools in my garage anyway. They were intended for a peninsula in my kitchen, but when you are as picky about home décor as me, shopping online is a gamble. Instead of sending these giant stools back across the country, I opted to bring them into my classroom. Voila! Here were four new tools for students to use to get more comfortable while reading. The response was surprising. They used these stools in ways I never would have considered. Kids would sit on one, lean against the wall and prop their feet on another one. They were dragged to the edges of table groups when students were working on projects. Some kids even used them during writing time. They would drag a desk chair up to a stool and use the stool as their little desk. It was so great.
My classroom was starting to feel like a place kids were making their own. I began looking for other discarded items I was no longer using in my own home. The key was “moveable comfort” so students could create a special place to think and work. I remembered these fluffy colorful round rugs I had been using in my laundry room. I had bought these purple and green shaggy rugs for my first apartment, when I didn’t have to compromise on color and taste with anyone. Now I had stuck them in my laundry room because I couldn’t bear to get rid of them. Because they are washable, I decided to move them into my classroom so they can serve the same purpose as the stools: moveable comfort. Kids move these rugs all over the room so they can get cozy and dig into their books. It’s made a difference in how kids are reading and talking about books. They dig into books quicker and stay immersed for longer. They have the freedom to find spaces to read, work, and talk about reading and writing. My former students keep stopping by and saying things like, “What!? You didn’t have rugs and stools for us!!! No fair!!” It’s the little things that make classroom spaces special.