Main Office Musings 10-14-16

Indian Landing Elementary- A Place We Love to Be!

Does Your Classroom Tell a Story? By Stacey Goodman

Do you have mystery objects that attract the curiosity of students, leading them to ask questions that foster meaningful conversations? Is your classroom visually stimulating for the students? Does it cultivate creativity, and more importantly, is it filled with objects, images, and even props that help your students learn -- even when they think they're not learning?

Like most teachers, I decorate my classroom with posters and objects that help promote learning, but that also lend a little pizzazz to an otherwise humdrum learning environment. It is typical, for example, for science teachers to have full skeletons and periodic tables in the classrooms, or for history teachers to have maps and portraits of famous historical figures pinned to the walls. However, the best teaching props are the ones that are not so obvious and that help the teacher reach students in unexpected ways.

Why is that Map Upside Down?

One of my favorite classroom props is the "south up map." This map is oriented in a way that many would consider to be upside down in that the southern hemisphere is at the top of the map, and east is to the left. Of course, we know that the earth doesn't have an actual top or bottom, up or down. Students are immediately curious about this map, and more importantly, a teachable moment about history, power, and cultural assumptions can be started in the best way possible -- driven by the curiosity of the student.

Another item that provokes conversation is an art object that I purchased at the museum store that consists of a dollar bill enclosed in a cellophane package and priced at 99 cents. From this one prop, I have had countless conversations about money, value, irony, and yes, contemporary art, with students who casually notice it and ask me about it.

Curiosity and Wonder

In short, you want your classroom to be more than just a visual showroom of your particular subject. Here are some suggestions that will help make your classroom into a palace of curiosity and wonder:

Objects that tell stories: Often, a time or thing that possibly inspired us to love what we teach doesn't necessarily fit into our lesson plans. I keep an old, metal film splicer on my desk. It both teaches students about how film was edited in the days of 16 mm celluloid reels, and reminds me of my days training as a filmmaker. This type of object allows students a different insight into your discipline and also allows you to share a bit of your biography with your students.

Toys: These are great to have in a classroom. Toys that tie into your subject are ideal, and show a sense of play and humor about your subject, but not all toys have to be subject-centered. Some toys like foam balls or fidgets have been shown to help students who are easily distracted concentrate by allowing engage their hands and thus more easily focus their attention. Nostalgic toys can tell something about one's background but also a bit about our cultural history.

Pop culture connections: I have the Inception movie poster on my classroom wall, and while this is not my favorite movie, I noticed when students often mentioned this as their favorite movie. So I chose this movie poster because it allows me to talk about surrealism and the nature of dreams to my art student in a way that that can better understand. Pop-cultural references that are posted in your room also is way for you to connect to the interests of your students so that they see you as a bit more human and aware of the world outside the classroom.

Curiosities and conundrums are always useful. I like old textbooks. I have textbooks over 70 years old that in their photos, language, and exercises reflect the cultural biases of another era. Typewriters, old political posters, and archaic learning tools like slide rules are also worth having on display. Other objects are interesting just because they have become outmoded. Not surprisingly, for younger generations, this includes many analog technologies like typewriters and turntables.

Change is good so it is wise to periodically change your classroom environment. Simple changes and rearrangements can create an atmosphere that feels fluid and alive -- and never predictable for students.

What are the objects in your classroom that tell a story? Can you think of any that you'd like to add?

Flexible Learning Environments

Learning Links

  • Want to experience PD like you've never experienced it before? Spend a morning engaging with like-minded educators at edcampFLX on Saturday, November 5th. edcamp FLX is run by my dear friend and Director of Staff Development, Katie McFarland and it promises to be a great morning of learning. Check out for more information and to register!
  • Check out the Top Ten TED talks for educators
  • Do you like this smore online newsletter? Want to see if it would work for your class newsletters? Check out for a free 14 day trial!

Look who is on Twitter!

#ILAwesome is up and running for these teachers... give them a follow!







If you've started an account that you are using for Indian Landing, please let Marcie know so we can follow (and so you can get a fabulous prize)!

If you are thinking that you would like to give Twitter a try, this online guide offers lots of tips and easy to understand information on how to set up an account for an elementary classroom-

The following links will take you to Penfield BOE policies and regulations that are important to know as you use social media- and

5 Random Things About...

Carrie Tarrien

1. My first teaching job was at Tot Spot- one of my students is now a teacher!

2. My favorite singer is Reba. I named one of my pets after her.

3. I met my husband online.

4. As a child I spent every summer at the State Fair and County Fair.

5. I love going on Jeep Jamborees with my husband.

Reminders & Points to Ponder...

  1. It is time for BEDS! Barb Gregory sent out an email with detailed instructions earlier this week. Please make sure you complete your BEDS information online by November 1st. Thank you!

  2. Please turn in a copy of your conference schedule once it is finalized.

  3. Elephant and Piggie books are available for sale through Monday. Please see Nancy Logghe in the library.

  4. Volunteers are needed for the Make a Difference Day pancake breakfast. Please sign up in the faculty lounge. Thank you!

  5. Please make sure to turn your smart board off EVERY DAY. Bulbs are costly to replace and leaving them on overnight burns them out more quickly. Thank you!

  6. Data Days for next week: Grade 1 on Thursday, October 20th (ELA)

  7. Please remember that when you indicate School Business in SEMS, you will need to specify in the notes section the nature of your work for the day.