Middle School Classrooms get a New Look

Middle School Classrooms get a New Look Photo 1
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Several English Language Arts classrooms at Edmund W. Miles Middle School have gotten a new look to support a growing reading and writing program in the district.

This year, the district has expanded its participation in the Reading and Writing Project Institute through Columbia Teachers College, which takes a new approach to literacy instruction. Three classrooms at the middle school have been transformed with new furniture and greater book collections.

Trapezoid tables, paired with lightweight red chairs have replaced traditional desks. Beanbag chairs provide students alternative places to sit and read, and new bookshelves house leveled libraries. ELA Chairman Reinaldo Latorre, who teaches ninth-grade classes, said the new tables can be arranged in many ways, allowing students to sit in groups to discuss their reading and writing activities. The set up promotes turn and talk discussions, which are used for students to share their thoughts on reading passages or writing activities.

“There’s more collaboration among the students, and it’s just natural,” Mr. Latorre said. “They are able to gather ideas from one another. By listening to what someone else is doing, the students can strengthen their own writing.”

Eighth-grade co-teachers Janine Katsigiorgis and Carolyn Mejia have placed anchor charts on the tables which include thought prompts for students, suggestions for transitions in their writing, and parts of books they should be analyzing such as character development, conflict and symbolism.

Their classroom is filled with hundreds of books in the new leveled library, which are used for both book clubs and independent reading. Students can find literature at their level. A core mission of the Columbia Teachers College program is to create communities of readers and writers.

Katie Rosario, an eighth-grade teacher, said she now does more small-group instruction to support students based on their individual needs. The trapezoid desks can be formed into shapes to support these small groups, or arranged in a large circle for a full class discussion.  

“My classroom also has comfortable beanbags and other seating options, along with lamps to give kids that living room feel,” she said “I love reading in my cozy spot, so why not try and create that for our students? Both the new desks and the new program has increased student engagement and motivation to learn.”