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The Meeting Area: An Invitation to Read, Write, Think, Talk, and Problem-solve

How do we as teachers support our students to become successful and intrinsically motivated readers, writers, mathematicians, social scientists, and people? One way to encourage student growth in all areas is to ensure that our classroom environment supports these goals.

As you are setting up your classroom for the upcoming school year or already starting the year with a new group of students, think about the one place in your classroom that can support student academic and social growth.

For me, the meeting area has become the heart of our classroom. No matter what age or grade of students, I’ve found that it’s important to have a central area where we can gather as a group to read, write, talk, problem-solve, think, and learn together.

Below you’ll find photographs of different meeting areas created over the years—examples from my first-, second-, third-, and sixth-grade classrooms.

All My Meeting Areas Have:

  • A large, soft rug where students can gather to sit. I always try to have a rug that’s large enough so that students can sit in a circle around the edge of the rug when we have conversations. This is important so that students learn how to have meaningful discussions without me being the center or the focus of the attention. They learn to make eye contact with one another, pay attention to body language, make connections with others’ ideas, invite quiet classmates to participate, negotiate with those “dominant talkers,” and agree or disagree respectfully. We gather on the rug for focus lessons, read-alouds, problem-solving, and sharing/celebrating our work and learning.
  • Books that connect to our work are an integral part of the meeting area. I’ve found that easy access to books with a “bookstore feel” sends a message to the students that these books are important and are begging to be read.
  • Artwork, writing, and anchor charts are created by and with the students. You won’t find any “teacher supply store” purchased posters or decorations in the meeting area or in the rest of the classroom. I’ve found that students pay attention to their work, are motivated to be a part of creating their learning landscape, and are happy to share the “thinking” on the walls of their classroom when it’s their work. The walls are filled as the students grow and learn.
  • Special home-like touches fill the meeting area. Lamps and pillows, framed photographs and baskets of books/materials make this meeting area and our entire classroom feel like a safe, comfortable home. Students have to feel comfortable and safe in order to take risks in their learning and work at their greatest potential. Let’s give them a “home away from home” each day that supports their academic, social, and emotional growth.

The Differences?

  • The children are different ages and sizes and grade levels, with different interests and expertise and that’s what makes each meeting area and each classroom unique. All children deserve a classroom that begs them to enter and be excited about the learning that will take place each day!

photo collage of a classroom meeting area

For the past twenty years, Ann Marie has taught in grades 1–6 in both New York and Alabama. This year she will teach and learn alongside fourth-graders at Cherokee Bend Elementary School in Mountain Brook, Alabama. She is the author of Of Primary Importance: What’s Essential in Teaching Young Writers and shares her work and thinking with schools across the country and world. She is mom to Izzy, a six-year-old Maltese, an aunt to five amazing nieces and nephews, and is currently the primary learner in a classroom of 21 brilliant fourth-graders. Follow Ann Marie on Twitter at @acorgill.

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