If you are getting to know me through this blog, or already know me in person, you have come to know that organizing is a hobby of mine. My guilty pleasure. It may be a bit geeky......but that's okay. I know right where all of my belongings are, it's aesthetically appealing, and I know right where all of my belongings are! (Yes, I said that twice-----it's important!)
As an early childhood teacher, I have lots of props and extras that keep things new and exciting for the students. Again, most of my things are theme related (Forgive me, Dan Hodgins----who is speaking in my home town today---but I am home cleaning my house!) If you have read Dan's writing, or listened to him at a conference, you know that he is not crazy about themes. He says we don't live in themes---so why would we teach in themes?
Well, I don't know. I kind of sit on the fence about this. I mean, I sort of do live in themes! When I decorate my house, I have a theme in mind----it makes everything flow nicely. The main living areas of my house have a country/vintage type look...with some modern accents. My paint colors coordinate, my accent pieces all tie in the same colors, etc. In my bedroom, we went for a more modern look---shabby chic. Again, the colors coordinate, my accent pieces are carry the same modern "theme" in colors, style, etc. Each of my children's rooms has it's own theme----my youngest son likes vintage license plates. His wall decor, bedding, curtains, etc. all reflect that theme and color scheme. My oldest son has gone with a "rock star" theme, and my daughter----it's pink, pink, pink with polka dots and owls. Themes, themes, and more themes!
In a truly 4-seasons State, we decorate our house according to the seasons. I have fall decor and dishes, winter/Christmas, summer, etc. In school, we are able to see and talk about all these changes in weather. It is a great part of who we are in Northern Michigan. We see the leaves changing colors on the trees, the snow, the new growth that spring brings, and the beautiful summers. Each of these changes brings on real life experiences that our students live in their every day lives----camping, boating, raking leaves, building igloos in the snow, planting and gardening, etc.
AND----some students may never get to experience family vacations to the ocean, quality time raking leaves and talking about the science behind the color changes, planting a garden or flowers at home, etc. It depends on the family's priorities, likes/dislikes, income, ability to travel, level of education, etc.
So - basically, it's this in my mind: If students are living through so many changes that bring up a variety of related topics and interests, then we SHOULD explore them in the classroom. And if students are NOT experiencing some very interesting topics (such as a trip to the ocean, or the antarctic) then I should be able to "take"them there through a deep thematic unit of study in my classroom. Some educators say why? I say, WHY NOT?!
We teach children to read, to use their schema, their life experiences, their imagination, and create a movie in their mind. What if you are reading about the Arctic? Most children have never been there, maybe some have seen a few clips on Animal Planet, maybe a couple have seen a penguin in a zoo, but really---what other background information do they have? Probably not much. UNLESS----a certain teacher has given them opportunities (even if it's manufactured in the classroom with plastic toys and props) to explore the Arctic in a multi-sensory, cross-curricular study in the classroom. And really, isn't cross-curricular just a form of thematic study?
So again, I say....Themes---why not?! And if you do, or will in the future, how will you ORGANIZE all your thematic items and props. Think back to your first couple years of college. You probably had a class that made you create a "prop box". Mine probably looked like a joke back then....but here's my sophisticated version, and my current organizing system for thematic props.
I simply use various size clear totes with lids and a label!
I also put a materials list on the inside of the lid.
If there are consumables that get ruined or used, I can easily remember what I need and re-stock!
I also jot down an idea of how I used the materials previously.
If it works, and the students like it, I'll do it again unless a better idea comes along!
Do you teach in themes? If not, I'd love to hear your reasons for or against it.
What storage solutions do you have?