During the beginning days and weeks of school, foundations are laid for the rich literary experiences to follow.
Creating a classroom community that values the voice of every student and supports the open exchange of ideas is key to developing an effective envisionment-building classroom.
From their very first encounter with students—sometimes even before the first day—the teachers in this workshop set expectations for student participation by emphasizing the reading and talking about books that are at the core of their curricula and modeling expected behaviors.
For effective literary conversations to occur, students have to trust that their voices are valued and that they can safely express dissenting ideas.
The physical environment of a classroom conveys strong messages to students about what is important and what their roles in the classroom will be.
Some of the teachers portrayed in this workshop session make sure that students have a role in the arrangement and decoration of their classroom as well as in establishing classroom rules and resolving problems together.
Careful consideration of classroom arrangements includes issues such as class size, room size and shape, the kinds of activities that will take place (silent reading, small group discussions, whole class discussions) and how the spaces can be arranged to accommodate those activities.
Linking the classroom to the home lives of the students by asking them to talk about those lives, bring in favorite books from home, or by inviting parents into the classroom strengthens the developing classroom community.
Teachers often have to help students learn ways to participate as effective conversationalists. They may need to learn principles of turn-taking, how to disagree and voice alternate opinions gracefully, or how to connect their ideas with what has been said before.