School is back in session for me!
Last year I did a complete classroom makeover, (click here to see how I did it) so this year all I did was get myself more organized, make a few adjustments and improvements, and I was ready to go! I took a class last summer that inspired me to create a classroom environment that was relaxing and inviting. The idea is to make it a comfortable place for the kids and I to spend so much of our day. Although lots of colors and stuff can be fun, they can also be distracting. I save the colors and “stuff” for my smartboard lessons and the students’ creations. When the kids and parents walked into my room for beginning of the year conferences, that is exactly the reaction I got from many families!
Walking down the hall and into my classroom
(keep reading for directions on how to make the awning)
The view from the door as you walk in
The kids sit at trapezoid tables that have desks built in underneath. It gives the kids more room to spread out, and the way the trapezoid tables fit together give us more space in the room. These 4 table groups sit 24 kids! I also have a wall flower plugged in that gives off a fresh clean smell that really adds to the ambiance!
Table center pieces
This is in the center of each table group (I have a total of 4 table groups with 6 kids at each table). In the black tubs are supplies that they all share: pencils, markers, small pencil sharpeners, a book of classroom procedures, sticky notes, and a date stamp.
Math, Science, & Writing Area
The shelf (with the books displayed on it) is my immersion area. This is a place where the kids and I bring in things that are related to what we are studying (usually a science or social studies concept) and add them to the shelf for everyone to explore during that unit. The blue tubs underneath are part of the science center. They hold bones, birds nests, rocks, shells, magnifying glasses, and anything that the kids can find that they would like to investigate more closely (as long as it is not alive or decomposing!). The tall shelf next to it holds a lot of writing supplies. Each slot will hold different colors of construction paper, and there are staplers, tape, and word dictionaries on top. The big shelf on the other side is for our turn in basket, homework folders, and Thursday folders. On top there are more writing supplies such as dictionaries, markers, squiggly cutting scissors, sticky notes, etc. You can also see our classroom mailbox on the left. Behind the curtain is our math supplies . . .
(behind the curtain picture coming soon! I forgot to take one!)
I read Debbie Diller’s Book Math Work Stations this summer, and I’ve started using math stations the way she suggests in her book, and I love it! You can see the tubs I’m using as my math work station ($2.79 at the Container Store!), and our other math supplies. I’ve always used math centers, but I love organizing them in tubs the way Debbie Diller suggests! It’s so much easier. Everything they need is right there, and we don’t have to spend time messing around collecting all the supplies, and if they don’t finish that day, they just keep what they need in the tub and they can pick up where they left off the day before. I LOVE it!
My classroom library and listening center
Every year I have to remake the labels in my classroom library because kids are so hard on things–but not this year! My husband (who is amazing!) came up with a great idea to make the labels in my library last! (He just got tired of helping me redo them every year!)
The picture just does not do justice to how amazing these labels are! Keep reading to find out how we made them.
I also made a new discovery this summer that I think will change the organization of my library forever! I’m so excited! I have my books labeled in different ways. I have many different genres, authors, favorite series, favorite read alouds, and Guided Reading Levels — quite a variety. Because I have them grouped in many ways, it’s hard to find enough different colored stickers so the kids can keep them all straight–and they don’t. By the end of the year, I always find many books out of place. But this year should be different! I found circle stickers from 3M that you can run through the printer! I created my own labels complete with picture AND name! Now they have to get the books back in the right place (I hope) because they have words and pictures for reference. I think this is really going to make a difference! I have the labels I made on sale at the Teacher Stuff store if you’d like to try it too! (It’s just a digital item, so you will have to buy your own stickers) Click here to buy them.
Front of room: smartboard, doc camera, meeting area (and you can see the pillows from the classroom library)
I do not have a whiteboard because I have a I have a smartboard instead, and they wouldn’t both fit. Sometimes I could really use a whiteboard too, but I have found ways around it. The frame on the wall is holding a 20×24 whiteboard where I write our agenda for the day. My room is not that big, so to make the most of my space, my meeting area and library space overlap. I don’t really use these at the same time, so overlapping them allows me to make only one big space in my room instead of two.
Sorry about the quality of the picture, but I have the most beautiful view out my window! I just can’t bear to close the blinds!
I don’t have my desk at the front of the room because I only sit at it when the kids aren’t in the room. I just couldn’t get rid of my desk completely because I’m not organized enough without a space to put my stuff. I did downsize several years ago to a trapezoid table which takes up much less space than the big bulky teacher’s desks we have, so I just have my stuff in a corner out of the way. I have a toolbox drawer organizer from the Container Store that I keep paperclips, sticky notes, staples, etc. in since I don’t have drawers. I actually like it so much better than drawers! It keeps me so organized!
This little corner is called “Austrailia”
In the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Alexander wants to move to Australia to get away! So if the kids are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, (or if they aren’t feeling well) we have a mini Australia where they can take a little break and compose themselves before they come back to join the rest of the group. There are also band-aids, Vaseline, and books about getting along with others and following the rules.
Small group area: for guided reading/guided math
Once I have taught the students to work independently at their math and literacy work stations, I begin my guided groups (as I’m sure you do). I use this sign to remind students that if I am working with a group and my sign is closed, I cannot help them and they have to keep working. If they try to interrupt (which they always do in the beginning!) I just point to my closed sign and keep working with my group. It works! They learn quickly when I am available for questions and when I am not. I just got an open/closed sign at Home Depot and added stickers for what I wanted to say. The sign I got said “Come on in” on the ‘open’ side, so I just colored over it with black permanent marker. My sign has lasted for 7 years so far!
To make the little awning you see as you walk into my room you need:
-hinges or a dowel rod
-ribbon-type stuff with little balls that hang down (sorry–I have NO idea what it is called!)
I got this idea from Debbie Diller’s book Math Work Stations, and I made it my own by adding my own color scheme, so you can too!
1. Flip the hinges so they won’t close all the way, and put them under one of the flaps on the poster board so it sticks out like an awning. Use a pencil to mark the holes where the brads will go.
Poke holes where the brads will go and attach the hinges to the poster board with glue and brads . . .
We also used packing tape hold the brads flat on the back.
Now you have an awning ready to decorate! After we got this far, my husband realized that we could have accomplished the same thing by gluing a dowel rod in the bend, and that would probably be simpler!
To attach the fabric we used spray adhesive on the cardboard and smoothed the fabric over it. (I had to cut out a little window in my board so I wouldn’t cover my name plate on the wall).
Then I hot glued the finishing touches! Now I have fun, eye-catching display to welcome students and parents to my room!
To make the classroom library labels (that will never bend, rip, or tear) you need:
-your own library labels printed on cardstock
-3×4 sheet of whiteboard from Lowe’s or Home Depot
-Furniture tacks (5/8 of an inch long)
-Parks Super Glaze Pour on Finish & Preservative Ultra Gloss Epoxy from Home Depot
These labels really are so amazing! The picture really doesn’t do it justice. They were totally my husband’s idea! He is such a rock star!
These labels do take a bit of work up front, but it will be worth it because they should last you forever. We made a few mistakes and had a few practice labels we had to throw away before we got the final product, but I’m SO pleased with how they turned out! Hopefully I can give you some advice that will save you from some of our mistakes!
1. I highly recommend printing your labels on cardstock. I didn’t the first time, and when we poured on the epoxy, the corners floated up and I couldn’t use them. (Those corners were so sharp when it hardened it would have caused stitches!)
Stick the labels down to the white board using double sided tape. Make sure you get the very edges!
Pour on the epoxy, but be sure to mix it EXACTLY as the directions say. We had one batch that we did not mix properly and it didn’t set correctly–it stayed tacky, so be precise! Give it about 24 hours to set just to be safe.
Now you’re ready to cut them apart. My husband used a band saw to cut them out, but a table saw, skill saw, or jigsaw would work too.
Then take off the rough edges, and drill a hole for the tack to go through, and they’re ready!
Because the epoxy is so thick, the furniture tacks were long enough to hold the labels up, and they looked nicer than screws or nails. Now you’ll have extremely durable, professional looking labels!