Category Archives: Field of Dreams

My fourth year journey as it relates to our class theme, “Field of Dreams.”

Dare to Try

My room theme this year is “Field of Dreams,” because a) I’m a Mets nut and b) I want my kids to defy any naysayer that comes their way. I hope to accomplish this by surrounding them with positive vibes, both written and spoken, that empower them to take risks and believe in themselves.

To that end, we have started each day this year by reading the poster that hangs on our door. The first day, kids didn’t really know what it meant. So we talked about the image – how the baseball player is leaping for the ball even though he can get hurt or miss – and related that to sometimes having to do things that are scary or difficult.

And now, “Dare to try,” along with “You matter,” “shining star,” and “Field of dreams,” are becoming hallmark words in our room. Yesterday afternoon, when we returned to the room from lunch, one of my boys said, “Hey, Mr. Ray! We forgot to read ‘Dare to try’ this morning.” I laughed and responded, “Actually, buddy, you were late to school today!” We did read it, in fact, but how cool is that this beaming 8-year old had this on his mind so much so that he felt the need to call out his teacher for it? Love it! (And I hope if one day we do forget to read it, that he calls me out again!)

The more poignant story, though, comes from Monday afternoon. It was such a gorgeous day, I decided to surprise the kids by bringing our read aloud outside. We read Heartprints and talked about the meaning of this abstract term. After we finished, I hoped each student would like to hold my big tissue and construction paper heart and share a way they could leave a heartprint that day. It started off slowly, as these types of on the spot activities tend to, but soon enough, kids were sharing ways they could be kind to others.

There was one girl, however, who absolutely refused to speak when it was her turn. She held the heart, smiled, looked at me, smiled, looked at me, smiled. Wouldn’t speak. I was trying to encourage her, saying, “It’s okay. You know me. You know the kids. We’re all friends. We’re a family.” She was having none of it. Well, I was getting antsy, because, even though I am working on giving kids the time they need, I also need to be sensitive to the school’s expectations of staying on schedule.

So, I was getting ready to throw in the towel on this particular occasion, when from the other side of the circle, I heard another super shy girl say loud enough for all of us to hear, “Come on! Dare to try!” Then the boy sitting next to me said it, too. “Yeah! Dare to try!” Before I knew it, the whole class was in a chant replete with slapping their knees: “Dare to try! Dare to try! Dare to try!”

In a perfect story, the quiet young lady would have looked from me to the heart, around to her classmates, back to the heart, and stood up to shout with great pride her awesome idea for kindness. Only at this point, she wasn’t particularly moved.

STILL, I was so proud that the kids were encouraging her (a heartprint in itself). They are beginning to understand how we’re going to do things and how we are going to spread the love. For this particular girl, the seed is now planted. The message is clear.

In our Field of Dreams, we get each other’s backs. We support each other. We cheer for each other. And we dare to try together.

Dare to try! Dare to try! Dare to try!

We Dream

On the first day of school, my students created pennants that expressed their dreams. I find it exciting that students wrote their dreams for the school year as well as dreams for their lives as well as what are essentially daydreams. They took different interpretations of what a dream is, and that’s fine.

Funny story. We were writing a book together all about our class. I pointed out it is important to write a sentence saying what our class is (by which I meant the official name used in school). So I asked, “What class is this?” Almost unanimously the students answered, “Field of Dreams!” They are definitely buying in.

Here are their pennants. They are hanging in our room as a reminder of what it means to dream. (Student names have been erased).

Connections, Pennants, and Deals

Three awesome things from the first day of school yesterday:

1) The kids absolutely LOVED the visual way we showed our connections to each other. What a wonderful icebreaker and community builder. We sat together around a piece of chart paper. Every child brought their favorite color marker with them and wrote their name. We went around the circle saying something about ourselves. Everyone who shared the commonality drew a line from their name to the speaker’s. Quieter kids were encouraged to speak because they knew they had to as part of the game, and they did. Only once did a student say “I forgot” when we got to her. Um, no, ya didn’t. But she was intimidated about speaking. No matter, we worked through it together. The students chose a title for their artwork – “We Are Connected!” – and decided where they wanted to hang it. Game on.

2) The pennants were a huge success. I shared mine, which the students eagerly helped me read, and we talked about what it means to have a dream. Then they talked at their tables about their own personal dreams (big assist from my para on this one) and, once articulated, began to design their pennants. First of all, I loved their range of responses – dreaming of being an astronaut going to outer space, dreaming of being a doctor, dreaming of doing more homework, dreaming of owning a horse, dreaming of being in Mexico. Second of all, goodness gracious, there are some incredibly talented artists in this class. I shouldn’t be surprised that the one that everyone feels it is necessary to warn me about has got some amazing talent for drawing. He’ll be just fine. Students were glad to share their pennants with each other, and I loved how this became so much more than literacy and art. It’s about pride.

3) Come the end of the day, I told the students it was just about time to go home. They were not happy (*blush*). One innovative thinker suggested they should be able to sleep in their classroom rather than go home. I thought about it and said it was important that the room gets cleaned overnight, but that we could make a deal. They liked the idea. So I offered it: “You go home now, and I’ll let you come back tomorrow morning. Deal?” Yep, they took it.

We’re off to a great start and there is much more potential in that room than a lot of people realize.

But they will.

This Year’s Classroom: A Field of Dreams


***Note: For some reason, when I returned to this page, I saw the formatting looked horrible. So I moved the photos to a gallery format. It looks neater, but unfortunately the photos are not near the text to which they apply. So I guess you’ll have to play a little matching game. Sorry about that! ***

This is the first time in my career I had enough time to set up my classroom so that kids aren’t coming in on day one and tripping over boxes and staring at ugly walls. Although the room has a decidedly obvious slant in favor of my dear New York Mets, the theme for the room is “Field of Dreams.” I will explain during this brief photo tour (after all, the kids are almost here!)

Our Field of Dreams

I wanted students to enter through a bright, inviting door each day, and one with a message. I want them to understand three things from this door. One, our classroom is a field of dreams, where if you dream it, you can achieve it. I want positive vibes in my classroom so my students will feel good about themselves and each other. Two, the sign of the player diving for the ball says, “Dare to try.” I think we will read this together everyday as a reminder that it’s good to take a leap of faith. Finally, the people are dressed in Mets colors, with each child’s name (blurred out here) and number. I will take photographs of each child, myself, and my paras, and put the faces on the heads. This is a symbol for the family/team element that I always preach in my classroom.

Dare to try.


I always display the Central Park John Lennon mosaic in my room. It inspires me and fits in perfectly with a theme where dreams are encouraged, not dashed. To boot, I am also going to be pushing Angela Maiers’ message, “You Matter.” I want this to be a message to everyone in the room, including the students, my paras, me, and any other adult or child that comes into our room.

You matter.

Leveled library.

Our book nook carries through with the baseball/Mets theme, with reading levels written in Mets colors on baseball gloves. Students choosing to use the book nook can sit in bean bag chairs, use the listening center, and read to stuffed animals like this monkey. As an added wrinkle, one of the Mets stuffed animals in the book nook was a gift from a student my first year teaching.

Read to me?

World Series Writers

Continuing the baseball theme, students’ published writing will be hung on a board that says “World Series Writers” with a pennant commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Mets 1969 World Series win. As you can see, pennants are common through the room. One of the activities I am so excited for is having students create their own pennants on which they write their dream for the school year. They will hang in our room as reminders for us to work to achieve our goals, whether as Grand Slam Scientists or Major League Mathematicians.

Major League Mathematicians

Grand Slam Scientists

Community supplies

My community supplies idea took on a different look once I got to setting up the room. Here are some less frequently used supplies that table leaders will be responsible for retrieving. On the tables, there are already bins with scissors, pencils, pens, erasers, post-its, staplers, staples, and glue. That way, no one is ever without something they need. Not a novel idea by any stretch, but certainly a step in the right direction for someone like me, who is almost chronically disorganized.

Making global connections

This is one part of the room that almost became an afterthought because I didn’t plan for it properly. However, my goal is to have students mark on the world and United States map any blog comments or Skype sessions we have. I am excited about broadening my students’ worldviews this way.

Some surprises...

An elementary teacher needs not lose sight of the fact that it’s elementary school. Because of that, I hung some Mets decor that doesn’t really serve an educational purpose, but rather just lightens the mood. I think it will surprise the kids when they see it, plus, it’s just fun. It’s not in a place that interferes with instruction, so why not? Of course, as colleagues have stopped by this week, I have dealt with my fair share of ribbing and accepted my fair share of compliments on the Mets stuff. And for anyone who asks “What about the kids who don’t like the Mets?” I say, “They’ll like them by June!”

...just for fun!