Saturday, September 5, 2015

Happy NEW Year!

It's a new school year! Fresh supplies, clean carpets, complete sets of markers in boxes, sharp pencils WITH erasers, pointed crayons, shiny floors, new haircuts and clean lunchboxes. I'm super excited to begin my 17th year teaching in 3rd grade. I've taught 16 years in first and second grades - WOW! I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to 'loop' with my students to 3rd (I taught them in 2nd grade, too) This is a new experience for me! So, let me share with you how I prepped for my new year. It all started with a new room and a ... wait for it ... WINDOW!!!! NO WINDOW for FIVE years was tough. In my opinion all classrooms should have a window. It is such a learning tool and BOY did I miss it! Our blinds will always be open. : ) So, I moved to a new room and we got new carpet so everything was boxed and moved for me.
Boxes, boxes, and more boxes...
plus the mandatory Sonic drink!!
One of my favorite things each year is prepping the classroom. Taking something a mess and transforming it to organized and neat and FUN!

Over the years, I've ditched my desk. All it did for me was hold stacks of paperwork I was avoiding, housed tons of supplies I really didn't need at that moment plus it was a clunky piece of furniture that wasn't practical. I don't need to sit at a desk and work - I need to be up to monitor or sitting to work with students. Since then, I've NEVER missed having a desk. Instead I have a u-shaped table. I keep my supplies nearby and have things I need on a shelf behind my table. Often my students like to sit and work at my table, even if they don't need my help - they will work solo while I work with other students.
Mighty messy this day but it also helps me see that if my table is messy
I have some work to do. My goal each day is to clear my table - or at least
 organize it. Why is there toilet paper you ask? Ah... to be told on another post...
I love these stools from IKEA! They are just $5 each and
my students LOVE to sit in them around the room.
I took out my filing cabinets, as well. Just a few years ago I had 2 entire filing cabinets of tons and tons and tons of papers. I realized I had full sets of copies I never even used! What a waste. Plus, much of it was outdated. In education, things change often. Saving a copy of an activity may work for another year but what if those students don't have the same learning needs as last year's students?? Then you have to find something new. And file that. And so it goes. Instead I have a box or two that hold very important ideas - mostly activities that I made or found on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers (for free). But saving papers year after year felt ridiculous to me, plus filing cabinets are yet another waste of space in my classroom. Good-bye, clunky cabinets! Minimize. It feels good!

Several years ago I got rid of a behavior system/chart in my classroom. Like a decade ago, I changed it from names to numbers but that did not give anyone privacy. All students know each other's numbers plus you didn't have to spend much time in a classroom to figure out that 'you-know-who' is number 7 - without looking at the chart. Instead I now just write a quick note in a student's binder if I feel their parents should know of their behavior that day. I try to stay in close contact with parents. I also try to be realistic. I ask parents to keep in touch with me when their children are in need of extra empathy. However, not all parents can communicate that to me. I know this - we ALL have bad days. I have bad days that I hope no one is watching how I parent, teach or am as a friend. We adults sometimes forget that children have bad days, too. Sometimes you have a headache, sometimes your parents were up fighting or your baby sister had a fever and NO one slept in your home... we don't know what our students are dealing with outside of our classroom. Instead, I communicate with my students and their parents about behaviors as needed. I've never regretted this change. It makes our classroom environment feel safe and everyone feels accepted. 

In recent years, I've been working to transition my classroom from a traditional environment to a learning space with flexible seating. Each year I'm adding new options for my students, and really love when they give me input for ideas. 4 years ago I got rid of all the desks and started using tables. I feel they are able to collaborate and communicate more effectively since there isn't a boundary to their own learning space. At first there was a learning curve with supplies and where to locate books and such but we practice community supplies and store books in book boxes or crates at the end of the tables.

I learned a super trick from a coworker to write names in Sharpie on the tables, instead of using name plates. In the past, students would just slowly remove those name plates. Plus, they are expensive! By Open House, I'd have to replace them all. Now I just write directly on the table with Sharpie. You/Students can erase the Sharpie by writing over their names with dry erase markers and then you can wipe it with a wet wipe. All clean!

Some other things we have in our classroom:
*The Tiny Table: remove the legs from a table and students can sit on the floor. They LOVE this table!! Thanks to a Donor's Choose project, students have these wiggle seats. They can use these at the Tiny Table or while sitting in a chair or on the floor. They are perfect for students with sensory or movement needs, but most everyone likes them from time to time.
*The V.I.P. Table: I saw this idea here on Pinterest this summer. I thought it would be fun to provide a cafe-style seating option and added some fun pens, mechanical pencils and fun scissors for those invited to sit at the V.I.P. Table. 
*Lap Table (IKEA) and Floor Chair (Donor's Choose) are also in this photo and popular for optional work spaces.

*3rd Grade Thoughts: I wanted a spot where students could post 'Something That Stuck with You Today' but wanted to make it work with this precious speech bubble and matching sticky notes I found at IKEA this summer. 
*Book Nook: To make things exciting and different with the same students is a constant challenge for me this year. I can't pull from my Teacher's Bag-o-Tricks much because they've heard it all just a year ago. An amazing person in my PLN, Amy Henderson (follow her @iTEACHAmy ) shared an idea with my team to build up the anticipation of your library. Boy, did I EVER!! I covered the book shelves (with many, many new books I bought over the summer) with yellow butcher paper. I also used 'CAUTION' tape that I bought from Party City to close the entry. I had a few yellow cones and yellow safety jackets I bought at IKEA for props. On day 3 I had a HUGE REVEAL and I had way too much fun by being overly dramatic to my students about the exciting new objects behind the paper. We laughed and had such fun!!

After many long hours in the classroom, two FUN trips to IKEA, many stops at Mardel and Target... I'm proud to present our 2015-2016 Classroom:
Our learning environment... for now. : ) I always add things as the year goes on. I'd LOVE to add standing tables. I'm hoping students will try to use the book shelves for standing tables and then maybe we will have a design challenge later this year and create some ourselves. Plus I try to add ideas from my students as the year goes on.
I found a new idea for our Word Wall - library card pockets under
the board will hold Popsicle sticks with words. Students can
take the sticks to their work and use as needed.
I am so excited to have 2 white boards again!
This wall is our FOCUS wall for Anchor Charts
and ideas to share.

I added more lamps and fun lights over the last two years, two new rugs this year and a fun new chair for my sharing space. Some other ideas I've posted about here where I show how my students LOVE to work while in a laundry basket, sitting on pillows and upside-down crates with cushions, and our Share Chair.

Ideally I'd love more options. I would love to offer additional opportunities for flexible seating and I'd love to add a Video Booth. What suggestions do you have? I'd love some ideas and feedback.

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