The Classroom Tourist

Armchair PD

Do you enjoy touring other classrooms? Other schools?

Join us at 'The Classroom Tourist' and meet other teachers.

See their classroom setups.

Check out bulletin board ideas, storage ideas, desk arrangements and class library ideas.

Our aim is to bring you a new classroom to tour each week. Send us your ideas.

Share your classroom!


February 2014
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Archive for 'Classroom Design'

Bayridge Grades 7/8

Mike Chase is the Grades 7/8 teacher at Bayridge Public School. Mike is well known for his work with computers and internet publishing – of all kinds. I well remember the impact his animation projects had at Prince Charles Public School in Verona. I was excited to see that I had managed to drop in this year while his class was just completing that work. Mike uses a digital video camera and the computer software program “Premiere Elements’ to get this job done. He used to hire an artist to come into his classroom with all of the equipment and expertise. Now he has mastered the ropes himself and leads his groups through the process. He begins by having students focus on a big idea related to Science.

Through stop motion shots students move their characters limbs, add and take away eyes, eyelids, open mouths, closed mouths … to create movement. They can alter their backdrops in the same way – adding and taking away trees, buildings, backdrops. Now that we can use computers to so easily repeat clips Mike finds it easier for his students to make their characters seem like they’re talking or walking. After the video segments are collected students work with a laptop and lay down the audio tracks to match. They end up with some very smart looking end results!

Below is an example his students at JR Henderson completed for an Anti-Bullying Campaign.

Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Tourist

Bayridge Grades 2/3

I had the delightful pleasure of visiting June Cotton’s Grade 2/3 classroom at Bayridge last week. Everywhere I turned there were more and more ideas to snap shots of … so sit back with a good cup of coffee to take in the many I am sharing! June’s language program is developed around the ‘Daily Five’. This is a program developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. They’ve written a number of great books that are practical and rich with potential for any grade level. Well worth reading!


When you walk into June’s room you are immediately aware of the open spaces. And yet – count up those desks and you realize she has worked some magic in setting things up just so. I love the functionality of her room. Every space has a purpose. I can easily imagine a busy group of young students working away independently in the environment she has created.

Along her bulletin boards, high to the right, are a series of anchor charts that help her students realize both their jobs and HER jobs when they are working at their Daily Five language tasks.

Here is a closer look at the Calendar Board.

Throughout the room June’s students have easy access to Learning Goals and Success Criteria. Sample student work is also prominently displayed with these guidelines.

Here is a great idea for managing groups. June has put magnet tape on the back of these discs. Then she can use them to set up her carpet seating as well as groups for other activities.

Colourful books are on show throughout the classroom. These four basket chairs, centre table and rug make a cozy spot to plop into for a good quiet reading session.

A word wall is set up along one side of the classroom.

Check out the great fall artwork that brightens up the back bulletin board.

I like the idea of this ‘Subtraction Poem’!

This sure is a great classroom to spend time in. As June mentioned our classrooms are our ‘home away from home’. We certainly spend a lot of time here each day. Why not make it a beautiful place to spend time!

Thanks June for letting us all come on tour!

Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Tourist

Lancaster Drive Public School – Grade 6

This week I had the opportunity to catch up with Erik Vreeken at Lancaster Drive. His classroom is in a portable with an amazing view of the playground and community park. There were still kids out playing under the trees and a couple kicking a ball around on the soccer field. Erik loves how the kids congregate there after school – still playing with friends before they go home.







I was interested in the solar panels on the gym roof. Great to see that technology on our school buildings!

Erik has a full classroom of 26 students. That can quickly fill up a portable. And yet, when you enter his room your first impression is that there is space to move around.

This portable has a great bank of windows all along one side that contribute a lot of light.

Erik has invested time in group building activities that are cleverly aimed at developing both individual effort and teamwork. He has created a bulletin board of certificates for his class. Each month he pauses to recognize student efforts in as many areas as possible. The stickers available cover all kinds of clubs, achievements and sports skills.

Another display caught my eye as I toured his room. He has developed an amazing system to encourage teamwork. Each student is part of a class ‘team’. There are a number of teams in his room. The kids make up their own team name and compete for ‘The Great Group Award’.

His motivational sayings and posters give the room the feel of an athletic team building camp.  I especially liked this saying.


Team names are posted on graphing paper and will be tracked as the year progresses.


Then three times a year teams names on the top of the list are engraved on the plaque that sits proudly at the front of the room. Erik finds that students who come back to visit – often years later – will find the plaque and point out which team was theirs.

Another great September tradition in his classroom are ‘Inside – Outside’ boxes. He precuts wood to give to each student in the first week of school. They then work to hammer them together. Once built students turn their energies to decorating their creations. Erik finds this is a great way to start as it allows him to learn a lot about his students – both as people and as workers.

He begins by sharing his box. On the outside – photographs of his family, logos of his favourite teams, and images of his favourite memories. On the inside he has carefully selected items that represent very personal events in his life. By sharing his box he introduces himself to his new students.






I was intrigued by the variety of designs. Some had figured out how to create handles using bobbleheads or even a pair of goggles glued to the lid. One student put hinges on the lid of his box. Some used paint, wood burning tools, stickers, scrapbook materials … There was a lot of creative thought put into these projects.

The best stories though must have come from the special treasures stored in the boxes. Students all presented their boxes to their classmates. Everyone shared the outside of their box … and then if they were comfortable they shared the inside contents. In the example above a student had put in the remains of a baby blanket. The story included the special person that gave her the blanket many years before. The students in Erik’s class came from a number of different grade five rooms. They had a chance with this project to get to know a little more about each other.

Although – like all of us – Erik feels the pressure in September to get rolling through the long checklist of curriculum expectations , he knows that taking time in the fall to build a classroom community is a worthwhile investment.

It was great to get a peek into his classroom systems – especially in that all important ‘start up’ stage. Thanks for allowing us to come to visit Erik!

Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Tourist


Cataraqui Woods Grade 6


Howard  Bridger has been teaching at Cataraqui Woods for just over ten years now. It was great to get a tour of this beautiful building! You will likely notice in these pictures that Howard has a ‘few’ bandaged fingers. These are due to an exciting Tarzan move over a tropical lagoon while touring Thailand this summer! I felt like dropping the tour and asking instead for pictures and stories to go along with his travels! Those who know Howard will know of his incredible talents as a story teller. He can keep a group of listeners entranced with his skill.

Back to school … Howard teaches in one of the most beautiful buildings in our District. You can’t help but be ‘wowed’ when you come through the front doors of the school. The atrium is filled with light AND with the sounds of a waterfall.


Howard teaches a grade six class. His classroom features a set of sliding blackboards and whiteboards that sit in front of  hidden storage space. He loves that he can keep notes on one board and just slide out a fresh board when needed. The shelving behind the boards creates easily accessible space for files and materials.

The rooms are large and seem very open. The bright white walls complement all of the primary coloured posters we all love to create and hang.

Howard is having to keep his blinds pulled much of the time… Like a number of schools in our District his is currently under construction. There is a new classroom being built just outside.

Howard began the year with this bulletin board collage. It helped him to introduce his interests to his class. As the year continues each student will take on the responsibility for creating their own.

These type of positive messages run throughout the school building. The hallways are named after character traits. In the main atrium hangs this ’3R’s banner …

The gym is another beautiful location. Take a look at this amazing school crest painted onto the wall!

And this electronic scoreboard! The Comets must feel a great deal of school pride when they host other schools.

Thank you Howard for taking us on a tour this week!

Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Tourist


One of the things I’ve grown enjoy most as a ‘well seasoned’ teacher is the arrival of ‘newbies’. New teachers bring an energy and  a wealth of new ideas into a school. This year Enterprise has a new teacher named Alison Doherty. She is teaching the Grade 1/2 class. When I first stepped into her room I admired the bright colours AND the discipline she showed in leaving her bulletin boards available to be gradually filled up with student work and anchor charts AS THE LESSONS UNFOLD.

She has a Super Hero theme running throughout her classroom and into the hallway. The bright colours and the wonderful cartoons make for a very friendly, attractive display.

Another great idea are these ‘Picture Frames’. Alison has made interchangeable labels that say either ‘First Grade’ or ‘Second Grade’ – as well as – ‘First Day’ and ‘Last Day’. She’ll use these in her scrapbooks to help families see the growth and change over the year. She even made a blue bow for the boys.

And yet more ideas … check out this exit card strategy. The students names have all been printed on laminated race cars that are in a ‘parking lot’ on the classroom door. Let’s say the students have been studying the three states of matter. Remember those? Solids, liquids and gases … Alison would ask her students to draw or print the three states of matter on a sticky note. They would then put the sticky note on their race car as they left the room. The kids love it! What a great way to take a quick survey of what they are picking up.

Thank goodness for ‘Newbies’. Make sure to make them feel welcome in your school. Our future depends on them! ;)

Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Teacher

I Want to Teach Here!

Oh my goodness! THIS would be my dream classroom. I remember when I brought the first real collection of computers into my classroom at Prince Charles. I had eight computers – all desktops – of various makes – from clunkers to a few pretty strong machines for that decade. That was in the 90′s. Then I would daydream with my students about the day that we’d all have our OWN laptop. I said if I won the lottery that would be one of my first expenditures. We all laughed and marvelled at the possibilities. Then I ended up with a class set of laptops from ‘Computers for Schools’. What luxury! We began to work much of the time online. Fast forward to today and I have purchased my own class set of netbooks. We have our own website that works as our curricular hub. We’ve had the chance to pilot the use of iPads in the classroom. Every year our ‘set up’ zooms off in new directions.

NOW – imagine the young teachers who have just started out in our profession – teaching in THIS classroom! Take a look!


Wendy Parliament
The Classroom Tourist

Enterprise Grades 7/8

This time I thought it would be a good idea to bring you ‘home’ to our room. We are Wendy Parliament and Susan Raddon and we teach the intermediates at Enterprise. We have 22 students that we share over the course of a day. Our room has limited bulletin board space so we find we are using blackboards and screens for display space.

We have organized two ‘U’ shaped desk groupings to allow three small group conference areas in the room.



Two groups are in sets of four. We arrange the desks such that there is the opportunity for mixing up elbow partners.  Although we started the year with students in horizontal rows of four facing the front (see blog banner above) we found that this set up made the class seem ‘roomier’. It also focused student attention better in the small group settings. We do a lot of conferencing work in small groups.



Also, to free up space, I removed the traditional teacher’s desk. Instead I use a rolling cart. It has a pull out shelf that I can use as a working area. I have a laptop on that level. When I put the lid down it neatly tucks away. I have my desk calendar and an iPad on the top shelf (sort of a desktop). Then I use a series of bins on the next two shelves to serve as ‘drawers’. It is very handy in that I can move it to anywhere in the room. I find that very useful when running a conference group. The cart has a power bar that I can use to charge up any electronics I am using. By attaching the Einstein poster the cart now has a name. Often I can ask a student to get the camera from ‘Einstein’ and they know exactly what I mean.



We use blackboard space for display space. By using magnets we can have materials for student use that can easily be removed and returned. Our current focus is History. This year I divided up the year into subject blocks. We tackled two Science units over the first two months of school. Then we switched to Geography for three months. We are now completing the History cycle. This has been a great way to provide ample opportunities for students to concentrate on long term goals. Over a three month period they can see the progress they are making. It has also made integration with Mathematics and English easier. Students have had a good chunk of time to digest the topics covered and it has also been easier to fit in many opportunities for formative feedback.



Our History studies have had one overarching Learning Goal which was learning to make point form notes in graphic organizers in order to remember information they had discussed, viewed or read. We have various levels of sophistication across our different language groupings. Some students are focusing on how to mine a text for the most important details and how to put those into their own words in simple phrases. Others are learning how to create annotated bibliographies to reference both texts and video and interview sources.

We have then woven in two other focuses – one being ‘point of view’ and another being ‘big ideas’ knowledge questions. I have been impressed with how students are now using the Success Criteria checklists and models as they create their own products. These types of bulletin boards have evolved into shared spaces. They are resources, references, displays and points of interest for independent reading periods. Students are proud of their work on display and interested in what others have done. Having the materials easily moved or ‘unclipped’ has changed our perspective from a static display to a resource wall.


Our math posters change every week or two as we move through our units of study. Students now ask for a Success Criteria list for any assignments that don’t have one on display. This approach has truly helped them become more independent when assessing their own progress. I don’t get many ‘Is this good enough?’ or ‘Is this done?’ type questions these days.




Having the blackboards double as display boards has heightened my appreciation for materials that are portable – easily  moved. I discovered the large sticky pad notes this year. They are great for posting vocabulary lists, long term Learning Goals and Success Criteria. I can move them from board to board and even to spots along the wall or between the blackboard and a door.


I find this set of posters a great resource for my students as well. They outline what each Level means. I find the phrases: Working On It; On the Right Track; Got It; and Awesome as great generalizations for each level of success. You can check out our class website at this link to see more of how our classroom operates.


Thanks for coming on tour with us again this week! Next week stay tuned for a school tour at Newburgh Public School.


Wendy Parliament

J.E. Horton Grades 1/2

Today I’d like to introduce Jennifer Banham. Jennifer teaches grades one and two. Her classroom is bright and tremendously welcoming. She has one of those old rooms with tall windows all along one side. She makes great use of all of the bulletin board and wall space available to share student work and to post colourful posters sharing learning goals and success criteria.








Her colourful mats and organized classroom space make it easy for students to follow directions and routines.











The focus point of her classroom is the side wall. Here she has ample space to display posters for Language, Math and Science. Students have easy access to reading materials and manipulatives.






































































One of the interesting things I noticed in Jennifer’s classroom was her creation of a display featuring all of the Learning Goals the students have met previously this year.


































Thanks Jennifer for letting us tour your classroom!

Wendy Parliament

J.E. Horton Grade 4

This week I visited the classroom of Sarah Bateman at J.E. Horton school. Sarah teaches in a portable and has learned to make maximum use of minimum space! She has a great array of Learning Goals and Success Criteria posted all around her room. As she and I talked she mused, “Why didn’t we always do this?” She is finding it a great support for her students and a key strategy to focus her lessons. She makes use of her blackboards to keep her Learning Goals and Success Criteria current with her daily lessons. She has a small bulletin board along one wall of her room and a small window along the other. By also using the sides of her cupboards and a stand up easel she has found room for more display space.


This bulletin board displays student work on a Travel Brochures and Postcards project.




















On the right side of the same bulletin board is a display featuring goals and success criteria for writing good openings for narratives. The display includes student work in progress with highlighted rubrics showing where a student is and what their next steps are. These writing pieces are based on the book ‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’. Sarah has also laid her hands on a book called ‘The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’ in which fourteen authors create stories based on the intriguing pictures in the ‘Harris Burdick’ collection. I have seen Sarah work her magic with this unit a number of times. It is a very popular hit with her students.

Sarah also does an amazing job of teaching her students what ‘schema’ means. She has integrated this concept into primary classes of grade ones and twos as well as into lessons with junior students.










One of the great things about being able to tour other schools is to get a peek at new ideas for art projects. I noticed some of these happy penguins hanging in the hallway outside the main office at J.E. Horton. The watercolour backgrounds are very effective. Sarah has these hanging up at the back of her classroom.











Sarah has a unique class management system that really motivates her students AND teaches them valuable writing and financial literacy skills. Each student is paid at the end of each week. They receive a job salary and a student salary. I’ve posted her listing of class jobs above. Students have to apply for these jobs. In the first round Sarah teaches them how to write a resume. In the second round they then develop a covering letter to go with their resume. Each Friday their class has a ‘Banking Period’. At first this takes a lot of supervision. However, by this time of year the students are running the class bank independently. The job salaries differ as do the student salaries. During the week a student may receive ‘reward bonuses’ for positive behaviours (like being a good citizen) or they may accrue fines for things like forgetting homework. On Fridays these rewards and fines are combined with their salary to determine what their pay will be that week. You’ll notice that there are jobs such as ‘Landlord’ and ‘Tax Clerk’. Students have to pay Sarah rent on their desks and taxes on their salaries. They have to purchase items such as pencils using her ‘Bateman Dollars’. Twice a year her class holds a Garage Sale. Sarah, the students, and friends and family donate items for the sale. Students then purchase items using their funds. All proceeds from the sale go back into the ‘Bateman Bank’ (as they are ‘Bateman Dollars’). What an interesting way to capture student interest and to develop a community spirit!

Thank you Sarah for allowing us to come on tour in your classroom!

Wendy Parliament