Lesson 1: Managing Classroom Space and Materials
The classroom should be arranged to promote efficient learning and minimize behavior problems. Students must be able to see and hear instruction and have efficient access to learning materials. The teacher should be able to easily monitor students and provide feedback. The classroom should also be flexible to allow for different types of learning activities. This lesson provides suggestions for making the classroom a positive and effective learning environment.
Classroom Arrangement Suggestions
- Students should be seated so that their attention is directed toward the teacher.
- Students should be able to clearly see chalkboards, screens, presentations and displays.
- Students should face the front of the room and away from windows.
- High traffic areas should be free of congestion.
- Students should be seated so that teachers and paraeducators can see all students at all times. Adults in the classroom provide monitoring and attention to students. It is important that all students are within the view of the teacher or paraeducator at all times.
- Students should be seated so that teachers and paraeducators can easily move among students to monitor work and behavior.
- Classroom rules should be clearly posted.
- The teacher should have a place near the front of the room so that learning materials can be organized and available prior to the lesson.
- Areas should be established to display student work.
- Students should be able to quickly and easily find their work and begin working.
- Students should have easy access to frequently used materials.
- Separate student materials from teacher materials.
Often teachers establish areas of the room in which materials are organized. For example, the teacher may create a place where students can pick up corrected work, another area where learning materials can be picked up, and another area where they go to correct their own work. These areas are used to make transitions between activities easier and more efficient. The paraeducator can assist in preparing and maintaining these areas.
Students should have the opportunity to learn to work at classroom stations. This includes demonstration and modeling of the procedures to be used, posting of simple rules for using the classroom station, opportunity for practice, and praise for correct use.
Classrooms are used for a wide variety of activities. The flexibility to accommodate both large group and small group activities and to adjust the room to meet the needs of the particular activity is an advantage. Portable room dividers are one way of creating work or study areas when needed. Work areas can be set up for specific activities and then removed. Care should be taken not to create areas where students cannot be monitored.
Arrangements for Small Group
Paraeducators and teachers often work with small groups of students while other activities are occurring in the classroom. Tips for arranging a learning setting when the teacher or paraeducator is delivering the lesson to a small group:
- Supplies and learning materials should be easily accessible so that
learning activities are not interrupted.
- For teacher or paraeducator led activities, students should be seated
facing the teacher or paraeducator, not other students.
- Students should be able to clearly see and use learning materials.
- The paraeducator should be able to clearly see and monitor all student's
- The paraeducator should be able to monitor other students in the
classroom during the lesson.
- The arrangement should limit distractions, such as:
- student traffic
- discussion or activities occurring in the classroom
- students should be seated so that they do not interfere with each other's
- rules/procedures for learning activities should be clearly posted.
During the course of the school day, paraeducators and teachers use a wide variety of materials, often changing activities and materials frequently. The instructional process can be improved through the development of a systematic approach to storing and retrieving these materials. The specific organization is dependent on the arrangement and space in the room and on the style and preferences of the teacher or teachers who use the room. The purpose of organizing materials is so that both students and teachers can have access to the correct materials with a minimum of disruption.
The following examples provide some ideas for organizing student materials. Student work may be stored and organized in various ways. It is important to teach students early the importance of organization and make them responsible for as much of their organization as possible. Granted, no matter how hard teachers and paraeducators may try, some students are not good organizers. Ideas to help students may include:
- Student folders arranged by subject stored in their cubbies or in a
file in a certain place in the room that is accessible to students.
- Tubs or containers labeled with student names for them to store
their work in when it is in progress.
- Trays for turning work in to the teacher are important for students
to use when an assignment has been completed.
- Supplies such as scissors, glue, crayons, etc. can be kept in
labeled bins. Storing materials in these bins keeps them organized for when you
need to use
As a paraeducator, one of your responsibilities may be to assist in maintaining bulletin boards in the classroom. A bulletin board may be used for a variety of purposes: displaying student work, serving as an activity board for students, posting rules, posting announcements, or decorating the classroom. Some suggestions for creative use of bulletin boards follow.
- Take advantage of all the bulletin board space in the classroom. You would be surprised as to how many ways bulletin boards can be used as real space-savers.
- When constructing a bulletin board, ask yourself if the students will be interested in it. Strive to create a bulletin board that sparks student interest.
- Bulletin boards may be used to aid in instruction. See what materials you will need for a unit of study and decide how a bulletin board may be used for that unit.
- Bulletin boards are a good place to post reminders or frequently used concepts such as rules, steps for beginning a lesson, or a schedule of activities.
- Consider titles for bulletin boards that explain the theme or purpose of the display. Make sure these attract attention.
- From the artistic point of view, think of colors that harmonize and balance one another. Think of a variety of materials that could be used to enhance the bulletin boards (crepe paper, construction paper, bright colored markers, cloth, etc.). There are many commercially prepared materials available for teachers, but try not to rely to heavily on these materials.
- Use illustrations that are current, relevant, and interesting to the students. Be careful of using too many illustrations as this will make the board look cluttered.
- After all the work of putting together a bulletin board, make sure all students can see the bulletin board. Sometimes bulletin boards can become covered up by other furniture, etc. in the classroom.
- Consider having children help create the bulletin board with supervision from the paraeducator or the teacher. The purpose of this, as with all bulletin boards, is to make it meaningful for the students!!
- When taking down the bulletin board, store the materials in a safe box or bin too reuse if possible.
Organization and Care of
During the course of a day, many teachers and paraeducators make frequent use of
media and instructional equipment. With the advancement in technology, equipment
being used by teachers is everchanging. Depending on the school where you are
working, you may be exposed to an array of equipment. For the purpose of this
module, we will discuss some of the basic tasks you may be asked to perform.
You should be familiar with what the school has in the way of equipment.
During the first days you are on the job, you should be given a tour as to where
the equipment is stored, policies for use, and HOW to use the equipment. The
“how to” of using the equipment is the most important element. Equipment you may
be expected to use could include:
- Film projectors
- Filmstrip projectors
- Tape recorders
- Video recorders
- Slide projectors
- Overhead projectors
- Opaque projectors
It may seem overwhelming to think about all the uses of this equipment, but with enough practice of actually using this equipment, it is easy. You do not have to be mechanically inclined to learn how to successfully make use of the equipment.
Take some time to practice using the equipment before it is needed and before the children are present if at all possible. This will make you more relaxed when it comes time to actually using the equipment. Try to arrange time with the teacher, media specialist, or someone who knows about equipment use. These people will be able to guide you as you learn how to use the equipment properly.
Besides using the equipment, it is also important that you preview possible media presentations before using them with the class if they have not been used with students before. Take for example the situation of checking out a videotape for a unit on sharks, only to discover that the video for sharks is intended for high school student's vocabulary when you are working with second graders. In no time, the students will be confused and asking you what certain words mean if the grade level of the tape is not appropriate. Students will have a difficult time focusing on the content of the tape, and behavior problems may result due to confusion.
Due to the need of many teachers wanting to use equipment at various times, it is important that you are aware of policies to reserve equipment. Most schools have a check-out and reservation process they go through to ensure the smoothest way of multiple use for media equipment. It is important to know ahead of time when you may need something and reserve it as soon as possible to avoid arguments over use.
After using equipment, make sure it is returned on time so that others can
use the equipment. Return it in the same condition you found it. If there are
problems in using the equipment , for example, a battery that may be running low,
make note of it and tell the person in charge of equipment check-out. This is
important so that the mechanical problem can be taken care of efficiently so the
next person is able to use working equipment. Nothing is more frustrating than
taking thetime to reserve and check-out equipment only to discover it is not
Other Tasks Related to Equipment and Technology
You may be asked to prepare many types of instructional materials for the
teacher, especially if you are artistically inclined and enjoy helping with
preparation. To get an idea of what you may expected to do, the following is a
list of tasks sometimes performed by the paraeducator:
- Operating the laminating machine (if your school has one). You may
need to ask for assistance if you have never used it before. Many times teachers use
lamination for protecting papers or displays they want to use again (similar to
covering something with contact paper).
- Videotaping events in the classroom (i.e. plays that the students give).
- Supervising students working on media projects.
- Working computer software, selecting computer software with teachers for
- Using a camera to take pictures of class work, developing film.
- Using the copy machine.
- Setting up and operating tape recorders, filmstrip projectors, opaque
- Making transparencies for the overhead projector.
- Preparing posters, charts, and other visual aids through dry mounting.
As a paraeducator, you have the chance to learn a variety of
tasks related to equipment and technology and to assist in making instructional
options in the classroom more effective, varied, and interesting for students.