Archive for August, 2008

How would Debbie Diller redesign your classroom?

“Classroom space impacts everything: instruction, behavior, and our (children’s and teachers’) sense of well-being,” writes Debbie Diller in her new book, Spaces & Places. But small classrooms, antiquated furniture, limited supplies and time, make it hard for most teachers to create the classroom of their dreams.

A whole-group area from Debbie's book

If you love to see those interior design experts on TV transform dull or messy living spaces into beautiful showcases, then this new feature is for you. We have set up an online Flickr gallery where you can upload photos of your classroom, as well as post questions and comments on others’ photos. Debbie will select three photos of whole group areas that have been submitted to the gallery and will provide her own advice on how the area could be redesigned to provide a more comfortable or productive space for children. If you are among the first ten to upload a classroom photo, we will send you a free copy of any Debbie Diller book published by Stenhouse.

Instruction for using Flickr:

(If you’re already a member of Flickr, sign in to your account and join us at Spaces & Places)

To submit pictures and join in discussions, you’ll need to join Flickr and then join the  Spaces & Places group.  There is no charge to join.

How to join:

Go to

If you already have a Yahoo! ID (an email address ending in,, or, you have everything you need to sign up at Flickr.  Head over to and click on “Create Your Account” to get started.  If you don’t have a Yahoo! ID, sign up at the bottom of the page, get your free Yahoo! ID and create your Flickr account. It will only take a  minute.

Once you’ve signed into Flickr, visit Spaces & Places and click “Join this Group”.

Using Flickr:

To post a photo to the group, you’ll first need to upload it to your personal space at Flickr.  Click “Upload Photos” (which is under the You menu at the top of the page) and follow the instructions that appear.

Once you’ve uploaded your photo to your personal space, click on the “Send to group” tab at the top of the photo- a dropdown box containing a list of all your groups will appear.  Select Spaces and Places, and your photo will be added to the group pool.   But don’t leave that “Description” field empty!  Tell us why you’ve chosen to put the photo in the group pool—is there something about your room that could use some input?  Do you have a great example of putting Debbie’s advice into practice?

Adding comments: We encourage you to comment on photos uploaded by other group members. Just click on the photo and enter your comments in the “Add Your Comment” box below the photo.

Adding notes:  Notes are a great feature of Flickr.  They’re different from comments in that you can add a note about a specific area of a photo.  By adding a note, you can highlight the area in question and add your comment.  When you click “Add Note” just above a photo, a small square and a green rectangle appear on the photo.  Drag the square to the area you want and resize it as needed.  Type your note in the green rectangle and press “save” when you’re done.  The note will appear when a user mouses over the photo.

6 comments August 25th, 2008

Questions & Authors: Back to school memories

Whether it’s savoring some alone time during classroom setup, or enjoying the scent of fresh notebooks and crayons, everyone has their favorite back to school ritual or memory.

We asked a couple of Stenhouse authors to share what little things they savor during this time of the year.

Jennifer Allen, literacy specialist and author of Becoming a Literacy Leader, says that because she doesn’t have a classroom, she now treasures updating her resource room for teachers at the beginning of each year.

“My favorite back to school ritual as a classroom teacher was setting up my classroom. Now as a literacy coach, I find that I still look forward to setting up my room, a room now designed to support adult learning as opposed to student learning.

“I love the solitude of being by myself, unpacking books, and hanging new art that I found over the summer. It is a transitional time of renewed optimism and anticipation before the official start of the upcoming year. It is a time to sift through new resources and highlight new books that teachers might want to offer as read-aloud or new professional books that might appeal to them.

“Setting up my room is my selfish time to be by myself and process new thinking. It is the only time during the year that the room, the learning environment is mine, for the space is designed to be community space and the learning environment belongs to the students and teachers of the school. Setting up my classroom as a teacher, and now the Literacy Room as a coach remains my favorite before school ritual.”

At the beginning of each school year, Pat Johnson always anticipated the arrival of new colleagues. The author of One Child at a Time says that the fresh ideas and enthusiasm new teachers brought to the school energized her as well for the new year ahead:

“The thing that excited me most about the start of a new school year was the new teachers that joined our staff — some fresh out of grad school, some coming from other careers, and some from other districts, but new to our diverse population of students. As the reading teacher I got to talk with all the new faculty, help acquaint them with the book room, and give them support as they made plans for their reading/writing workshops. The eagerness of these new teachers always amazed me. They were sponges, wanting to learn as much as they could about teaching reading and writing. They came in early and stayed late, working hard to make their classrooms inviting and comfortable learning places for kids. Each one brought something fresh and new to add to the school community. Though most were usually scared, apprehensive, and a bit overwhelmed with all that was being asked of them, they still smiled and brought an honest sense of hope with them. You could tell they were so proud to be joining the profession! As I met each one I got energized by their enthusiasm. They inspired me to be the best reading teacher I could be. I didn’t want to let them down.”

Jeff Anderson (Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined) considers the beginning of the new year as a chance to start over. Even as a student, hopes for new friends and better lunch selections made the beginning of the school year memorable:

“What I most enjoyed about each new school year was the chance to start over—a clean slate, a new chance, brimming with possibilities. Plus, my mom had a need to move to progressively better houses and neighborhoods, which meant my new years started totally new. New schools, new teachers, new students. I loved it. This school wouldn’t have the mean Rachel or Belinda who made fun of the way I talked, and they may not have that horrible SRA program I hated, and maybe their lunches would be better. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it made me nervous too, but the hope, the hope always won out. I would fantasize about the new friends I’d make, how this year people would want to sit with me at lunch, and this year the teachers would think I was smart. Years later as a new teacher and over all the years of my teaching career, that remained my favorite part of the beginning of school. The fresh start, full of hope for all the things my students will accomplish. How this year I will do classroom management better or this year I will try out this new kind of strategy. Something new, something different. That’s the joy of the beginning of school: starting over.”

So, what is your favorite thing about starting school?

Add comment August 22nd, 2008

Now online: Reading with Meaning

“Throughout this book we have Debbie’s teaching mind on loan. She teaches us by engaging us in the details of teaching life from inside the mind, showing the thinking behind her teaching and the consequences of her actions — how to notice and what to notice — the view that makes her language choices possible.” (Peter Johnston)

In the years since her last book, Reading with Meaning was published, Debbie has had many conversations with teachers at seminars and conferences, and worked with children in classrooms across the country. Through this work, she’s come to believe that “success in the classroom depends less on which beliefs we hold and more on simply having a set of beliefs that guides us in our day-to-day work with children.”

In her new book, Teaching with Intention she shares her process for defining beliefs, aligning practice, and taking action to ensure that children are the true beneficiaries of her teaching.

From setting up the classroom environment to the intentional use of language, from comprehension instruction to lesson design, Debbie is explicit about what she does and why. At the same time, she encourages teachers to develop their own belief statements concerning teaching and learning.

“In these times of scripted programs and prepackaged materials I know it may be tempting to surrender,” Debbie writers. “But who among us is going to keep up the good fight? Who among us is willing to stand up for what we know is right? I’m in, and I hope you are , too.”

Now you can read the entire book online!

Add comment August 14th, 2008

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