Bystanders to Upstanders: Resources to Help in your Classroom

Back to school time means lots of thinking on how to make your classroom the best for your students.  Supporting their social development is just as important as their academic development. 

Bullying has been a hot topic in schools for quite a few years now and with that has come a different message than when I was in elementary school: SPEAK UP!

Of course we want students to do what is right, but I don't remember ever having open discussions on empowering those who see bullying happen and how to help stop it when I was a kid. Now, it is an expectation (especially with the program we use), but how can we get students to do this?? It's asking quite a lot of them to defend those who are getting bullied, knowing there is risk and even danger if you try to step up for others.

As always, children's literature comes to my rescue. They are great conversation starters and reminders when we need them. I've used these books to teach students about standing up for others and have implemented some things to help translate it to our classroom.

The first book we read during the first weeks of school is the book, One by Kathryn Otoshi. It is cleverly written using numbers and shapes and has a super powerful message. This author has come out with other books called, Zero and Two. I have read Zero and it also has neat message (haven't read Two yet, but would like to).

We've done this water color activity in years past to go with the water color look in the book. Plus, it's our first project with water colors after we do our guided discovery on how to use them properly.

It made a great display and students wrote ways they could help someone out as they learned, "It only takes one."

The book Say Something is similar in the way that it shows lots of different students getting bullied and the main girl seeing and hearing it happening, but not participating in it. The tables turn when it is her that is being picked on and she wishes that at least 1 person would help her out. However, that makes her realize that she could help those that are being bullied by befriending them and learning the importance of getting to know others.

The Juice Box Bully is also a great read. Now, I will say that it is a pretty "ideal" scenario- which makes it a great example of how powerful it can be when we stick together to help others. But I also like stories sometimes that don't end happy, as this is often times our reality. Anywho, this book is a great one for showing the power of standing together and to hold each other accountable. After we read this book, we initiate our Bully Box, which I have renamed:

I allow students to submit notes or messages about bullying behavior they may see by placing it in this box (I've used a cardboard box before too- this is a new addition this year). We create a reporting form together and I run copies and put them in that little pocket about the defender drop box. We do a lot of talking about the difference between tattling and reporting, but I also let students know that if they don't know if it's tattling or reporting, they can put it in the box and we can discuss it. You might think I get floods of small tattles, but surprisingly, I haven't. And it can be very insightful. This is also a 'safe' way we discuss on how to be an UPSTANDER and stand up for others. If you don't feel safe enough to say something in the moment you see bullying happening, if you report it, it's better than nothing! And this system has allowed me to track common/repeated behaviors, hot spots, those who exhibit bullying behaviors, those who are supporters of that behavior, etc.

When we create our form, we try to keep it as quick as possible, by adding little check boxes. In years past we included the following information on the reporting form:

Reporter's name, victim, person showing bullying behavior, supports, and bystanders

List of common places bullying occurs

Type of behavior
List of possible behaviors such as physically hurting, teasing, name calling, threatening, gossiping, etc.

We also include a space to check if this is the first time it's happened, or if it happens often

Which adults were around/who have you told

Note Section
They can elaborate here

It sounds like a lot, but it takes students less than 3 minutes to fill them out because a lot of it is just checking a box.

I know I want to empower my students to stand up for what is right- but I also know how hard that is to do. Giving them tools and chances to do this in a safe way is a great place to start.

What books do you use for teaching students about bullying?



Keepin' Me: Clean, Comfortable, and Presentable

I'm sure most teacher are like me where our classroom is like our second home. We spend so much time there in between the actual teaching we do, planning and prepping, meetings, conferences and open house... I'm there more than my actual home!

But that also means that there are things that happen at school that send me into freak out mode:
"I'm meeting with a committee in 5 minutes and I've got poppy seeds all stuck up in my teeth! If only I had some floss!"

"I knew I shouldn't have worn white. It like a rule that if I wear white, I will spill my lunch on it. If only I had some Tide To Go."

"Ohhh conferences starts in 10 minutes and I just got done teaching and feel like I smell like dirty gym sock that's been stewing for months. If only I had some deodorant."

Have you ever had any of these things happen?

I'm not taking any more chances this year and I finally put together a little tool box to keep me at my best for whatever comes my way when I'm at school and I'm sharing what's inside!

I bought everything at Target and it probably cost me like $30 (including the drawers). Kinda spendy, but literally, I have no worries that if a little 'oops' pops up that I'm ready! I've got 3 drawers that each serve a different purpose:

This drawer is all about sprucing myself up, especially for meetings or conferences. It screams, "Look, I DO care about my appearance actually.... just ignore this messy bun on the top of my head."

Static Guard | For those winter months
Hair Spray | This one will need to be replenished more than once- I love my hairspray
Burt's Bee Tinted Lip Balm | I LOVE this stuff- it hydrates and gives a little subtle color
Lint Roller | For all those fuzzies
A Nail Clipper | For those chips and hangnails
Tide To Go Pen | To clean up any stains that I get while I eat (which is a daily struggle)
Vasline Lip Stuff | My lips get real chapped

This drawer is a MUST! I get stinky during the day thanks to no AC and always being up and moving. Confession- I did use my teammates deodorant a few times last year when I hit crisis mode and needed it. #noshame #iwasntstinkyanymore

Deodorant | Let's face it- sometimes I forget in the morning
Body Cloths | Sometimes I need to wipe the sweat from my body before a meeting. That's life
Travel Size Toothbrush and Toothpaste | For those staff meeting "Everything" bagels
Floss Picks | For those poppy seeds

You know there are those days when you just feel 'blah.' But we gotta push on because we all know sub plans are the worst!

Zicam | Zinc tablets save my life!! At the onset of a cold (and I get them at least 2-3 times a school year) I start popping these and if it doesn't erase my cold, it really cuts the severity down. I usually carry a bottle in my purse, but I'm keeping one at school this year.
Pain Reliever | Sometimes our nurse's office has it, sometimes it doesn't... I feel guilty asking for it, so this little travel size is perfect for those headaches that just won't go away
Feminine Products | I'm a lot more at ease when I know I'm prepared for anything... even when Aunt Flo decides to visit!

So this little toolbox will sit in my closet out of the hands of my little ones. And I already feel better knowing that no poppy seeds will be stuck in my grinning smiling and that my B.O. will be in check! And that's a win for everyone.

Should I add anything? Add your idea below in the comments!



Back to School In a Flash: Student Engagement (Freebie Included!)

It's the final week of our Back to School In a Flash link up! Many of you are already in school or are heading back very shortly!! As you read this, I am sitting on an island up in Northern Minnesota enjoying some rest and relaxation still. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking of school (I CAN have fun and think of school at the same time... at least at the beginning of a fresh new school year- I'm so excited for it)! I'm using this extra time this summer (we start after Labor Day still, so it's pretty late) to continue to get prepared and feel confident that this back to school will be the smoothest yet. 

Hey, a girl can dream right?

This week is very much a catch-all...

Sometimes, I feel like I'm on stage performing to try to keep my students engaged! But there is some truth to that... I don't like learning from boring presenters who aren't taking my "learning style" into account when they are sharing new information. That goes for my students too. I want to have fun with our learning! That is important!

I dug back to some old posts to find some ways I keep students engaged! Here are a few things I do to make our learning fun and for getting everyone involved.
Integrating Games and Game Boards

Throughout the year, I try to turn some of our learning into games. I made many different game boards and put them into plastic sleeves. Students can make the game even more exciting by adding in their own spaces (loose a turn, roll again, etc.) before they play to buy into it even more.

I've used it learn multiplication facts, with task cards, and more! Even though I introduced this last year in January, by June they were still asking to use the game boards!
Strategy Seminars

Last year, I tried to integrate strategy seminars. Seminars are different, as students decide what strategy they will work with as opposed to me assigning it. I of course give them suggestions through my feedback, but it's ultimately up to them. Choice is a huge encourager. And I actually found that many students wanted to visit ALL the seminars to improve their writing. SCORE!

The beauty of these- they are student guided. I provide some resources and structures and then students work together in groups to navigate the strategy to understand it, practice with a common example, and then apply in their own work- it's a great gradual release and as I said, students were so focused during it! It also gives me a chance to float around and check in with all students.

Response Protocols

Do you get stuck sometimes on getting all your students to participate in whole group settings? Me too. I was very inconsistent (and still get into my ruts) and would allow kids to blurt out sometimes.. and then get upset when they did other times. Can't they read my mind??? The same kids would be wanting to share and the same kids would want to try to hide and not get involved. 

We have done a lot of work around being culturally responsive with the help of Dr. Hollie. He has been our keynote speaker for the last 3 years at Back to School Week and we did a book study on this book here. One of the take aways was being very clear on how you want students to respond to your instruction- and to make it responsive. So to help, I created visuals and posted them on my SMARTboard. The visuals are for me- to remind me of all the different ways I can have students respond to my questions and instruction. I can also just point to one and let students know how I want them to respond. 

I saw participation shoot up in our whole group because of this because MANY of the response protocols requires all students to be prepared to share- by either sharing out in unison, using white boards, in small groups, etc. 

Naturally, I had to make a new set to match my new color scheme and I changed out some of the pictures.  

But then my PowerPoint was giving me problems. So I couldn't make it all TpT ready to share with you! Sad day. But fear not! I uploaded what I could to my drive and you can snag these response protocol reminders here! I included 2 different color schemes and 2 different font options so hopefully something works in your room! I also included what each one means (to the best of my explaining abilities... they aren't perfect though- fair warning).

**And if there are any issues with the download- I apologize, but I won't be able to to help until after I get back from vacation so please be patient. :)

Head over to the other fabulous bloggers below and grab some new tricks to keep your students engaged this year!



Let it Go: Part 3- Grand Conversations

If you missed my first two posts on how to let go of certain things in your classroom, check how to put the rule creation process into your students' hands and get your students labeling materials and spaces in your room. 

Today is the last tip I have in giving up some of your control in your room and it is perhaps one of the most powerful ones. 

Oh I'm so guilty of doing this. I sit on my little low swirly chair and just start talking... and talking... and talking... and I feel myself just getting more frustrated and sad. And then I'm always thinking, "Hmmm how do I segue out of this and back to our content? This is a little awkward..."

And I can hear my students thinking, "I wonder what I'll play with at recess..." 


"I can't wait for brunch for lunch... it's my favorite lunch option."


"Is Mrs. O still talking?"

Instead of you lecturing when a problem arises, try having students facilitate the conversation- you'd be surprised what they come up with.

We use grand conversations for literature discussions and our class meetings often. Quick run-down:

Grand conversations are when I pose a thought, a question, or a problem for the group. Then, the students carry on the conversation. They use our accountable talking stems to keep conversation going. I stay out of it for the most part. I listen and take notes on the content of the conversation and who is participating. There's no hand-raising to talk; you simply just "play the field" and share. Students learn how to let other share their idea first politely if 2 people talk at once. Students who aren't participating or are struggling to jump in, well, I have devised different ways to get them involved:

  • Use talking chips or counters to offer a bit of control on how often each student can speak
  • Have students pause and turn and talk with a neighbor near by (this allows everyone to share an idea even if it isn't whole group)
  • "Mute" my active voices for a time to let my listening voices have time to chime in
  • Play "ghost" and whisper encouragement in my listening voices ears

Let's show an example:

One day, I went down to the lunch room to hear the entire 3rd grade class getting scolded for their rowdy behavior by our lunch staff. Not a proud moment.

We got in our line and went upstairs to our room. Instead of getting into our groove for math, we needed to have a class meeting about this. I simply said, "Gather for a class meeting." They come and sit in a circle. And I quickly type the problem/talking point on the Smartboard (I do this so that students can see it often during the conversation).

For this one, we started with this talking point: What was our behavior in the lunchroom and why is it a problem?

We have some ground rules:

After students shared about this, I might move to the next talking point: How can we fix it this time and prevent it for next time?

Same rules apply.

When we are done, I do a recap out loud (based on my notes). This might take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, depending on how long you want it to go. We can then ease back into our work and I don't feel like I'm going through major mood swings and students are actively engaged. Plus- it's real life. When we have a problem, we need to address it and we need to work on fixing it and preventing it. 8 year olds are smart. They now more times than not right from wrong. But they make mistakes and instead of me drowning on about it, this let's them learn from it and show me and themselves they are capable of problem solving.

Again, does it take time away from content. Yes. Yes it does. But it also is teaching valuable life skills (problem solving, conversation skills, building character) which is JUST as important (if not more) in authentic ways.

If you are thinking of doing a cannon ball into letting go or just sticking your pinky toe in the water, I strongly encourage you to find SOMETHING to try to pass the control over to your students. Coming from a super control freak, it really makes a different! And I realize when I do it, how proud of them I am for how they are growing and becoming independent.

I'm still trying to let go of many things... we'll see what other things I try this year! What are you thinking of trying??



Let it Go: Part 2- Student Labeling

If you missed my first tip, check out yesterday's post where I shared how I get my students involved in our rule creation.

Today is actually a time-saver for you (in terms of prep) and let's students gain some ownership of materials and spaces in your classroom. I'm sharing today how to let it go when it comes to...

This is an area I continue to struggle with letting go. There are some things I will label... ok many things... but I am turning over more of the things that students have direct "ownership" of into their hands. Some of it includes bulletin boards like the ones below. However, you will still see lots of labels on other things in my room that I've done... especially with things that I can reuse another year for another group of students.

I shared with you about our rule creation process. I have students write out the rules then on sentence strips now and post up them on the board. I do the same with our library expectations. After we discuss them, students write them out and draw pictures to match the words. This is a space they are directly using, so it makes sense for me.

I have NOT always been this way! One of my teammates began doing this more and I was worried it wouldn't look 'nice.' But it does look nice! It's just a different kind of nice! And it helps balance the room out- I don't want it to be all of me and my computer fonts (although I'm addicted to fonts)... it is not just my space.

This is one I'm slowly turning over. I use to put labels with student names on them on all their notebooks and folders. I did their name plates for their desk. I did their name plates for their hooks. It was actually a lot of work for me. And to be honest, students never really appreciated it.

I've started to have students start labeling their own materials. Sure they don't LOOK as fancy, but I have to be honest- it's not my folder or notebook. It lives in the students' desks. Why should I care? This was more of a control thing than anything else, but I did enjoy saving my own time, plus students took more ownership of their materials as they labeled them.

This year, I am also not putting name plates down before open house. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!? Nope- I'm simply putting their name on a post-it quick and putting it on a desk. 2 reasons:

1) Some students have nick names. I've found that sometimes parents decide that their child will be called by a certain nick name they were given in kindergarten and then they get to 3rd grade and they don't really want to be called that. If a child has a nick name listed on our roster, I put 2 post-its on the desk and let the student decide. Often times, parents didn't realize that their child didn't want to go by the nick name anymore and it gave students the chance to voice it. Other times, the parents rip the given name off the desk faster than you can say, "What's your name?" and go with the nick name. I at least like to give the option.

2) I want students to make their own name tags this year. They can print their name neatly (or I can see who can't and get them some practice) and decorate it a little bit. How many times do kids doodle on the name plates on any little white space they can find? And you know what... I would too! I'm not fighting it anymore. It's a great first morning work job that is low key, yet important that says, "Welcome to your space.... make it yours."

I have one more tip on how to let go of some control in your classroom that will give your students more ownership and benefit you in the long run! See you tomorrow!



Let it Go: Part 1- Rule Creation

EVERYONE has a reason for how and what they do what they do in their classroom. Students' demographics, expectations from administration, and a variety of other factors come into play when we decide things. I really try my best to assume positive intentions and believe that everyone does what they do with a reason... and hopefully those reasons are because it's what is best for their students. But let's face it- we can't learn it all overnight- or even in a year- this profession doesn't work like that. I suppose a lot of professions don't.

I consider myself a MAJOR work in progress. As I enter my 4th year,  I'm still very much a newbie in this game. Some things I did my first year of teaching, I don't do anymore. Not because they didn't work (although sometimes that's the reason), but mainly because I continue to evolve as an educator. Working with my colleagues and co-workers, and most importantly my students, I'm slowly changing some of my practices so that I am doing what I think is best for students. I bet I'm in good company with those of you reading this who are in the same boat. I like to believe that most teachers are always in a growth mindset and are looking to become better versions of themselves.

One thing that has taken me a while is letting go of certain things in my room. Especially if it means letting it go and handing it over to my students.

The answer to that question of who in their right mind would do that...


Each year, I do slowly begin to let more and more go and pass it onto my students. And it pays off in many ways.

Through letting go of these 3 things, my students are taking ownership of the classroom and it becomes OUR space, and not "MRS. O'S BECAUSE SHE DECORATED IT."

One more thing before we dive into this: I know a lot of what we do as teachers is to save time in the classroom. These changes DO take time in the classroom, but I don't see it as wasting time, but rather showing students that they are leaving a mark in this classroom. Ownership of space is not wasting time... it's making our time spent together better. As I often say, go slow to go fast.

Are you ready to make like Elsa and "let it go??"

Today, I'm sharing why I choose to let it go when it comes to...

This is one thing that I have done since my first year, as it follows the Responsive Classroom model my district supports. It is laborious folks. I warn you now. But the entire process from Hopes and Dreams to the awesome discussions to the students' handwritten rules- I love it all.

Instead of me picking out and wording the rules before students arrive, we go the first 2 weeks or so with "no rules." You might think it looks like a zoo with no cages or fences perhaps. Not the case actually. Now, we don't really have "no rules"... we just don't have the specific ones for our room yet. Students still know about basics from their previous school year and we review "expectations" that I've put into place. So really- there are rules... they just don't really know that.

During the first week of school, we begin to discuss our hopes and dreams (goals) for the year. This leads to our discussion on rules and how we create them the following week. Head over to this post- I describe it a bit more in detail.

Since I'm obsessed with children's literature, we read lots of books during this process. Here are a few of the read alouds I use when we are preparing to brainstorm and write our hopes and dreams:

Once we write and create our hopes and dreams, I make students realize that in order to make these happen, we have to respect one another and their goal. To do that, we'll need to make our room the best it can be and we'll need to put some rules into place.

Once again, I turn to our read alouds:

What If Everybody Did That by Ellen Javernick: HILARIOUS! And it shows how ridiculous everything would be if we didn't follow simple rules (even the smallest actions can have big impacts).
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann: I loved this book as a kid. The colors were so vibrant and I loved Gloria. It also shows the power of having rules in place.
The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson & Maria Dismondy:This one showcases what can happen with everyone works together to follow rules to make sure everyone is being treated with respect.

Even though it takes up some time and may make you freak out because there are "no rules," students totally buy into it all- setting up goals, supporting each other towards reaching these goals by establishing rules, and having consequences for breaking these rules.

Check back tomorrow to see my next tip to let it go and pass the responsibility to your students!



MMI: Possibly the last hoorah

It's be a fun summer linky up with the fabulous Tara for Monday Made It! I've been so inspired to create things for my classroom and have connected with so many awesome people!  And even though I still have about 3 weeks of summer yet, this is probably the last time I'll be able to link up. My next 3 Mondays are as followed:

Next Monday: I'll be up in Northern Minnesota on our own little private island for a family vacation.
Following Monday: We will be closing our our first home
Monday after that: Teacher workshop week begins

Besides, I'm sure many of my "Made Its" I will be doing will be probably for our new home! Did I mention we are redoing the kitchen, floors, and painting? How fun!

This week, it'll be short and sweet because of this:

I spent the week preparing things for the classroom and then went in on Friday for a good 6 hours and got it mostly all put together... including cleaning out those cupboards and opening up my library.

I'll be doing a full classroom tour around our Open House time. There was a mini- tour yesterday for our Back to School in a Flash Linky. Go take a peek if you'd like.

(1) Door Decor

I've really stepped my door decor up since my first year. I like to see what new things I can do. My door isn't finished quite yet, because I want to wait until I get my class list. But I HATE covering my door because it's a chore and sometimes things don't stick well because of the humidity in our building. I won't be surprised when I go back in and there are leaves on the ground.

I tried to tape it really well, but my 3D leaves proved to be a bit difficult. So I tried to problem solve.

I taped a piece of white computer paper underneath the leaves. I then taped the strip onto the door. I layered them to hide the white and took some green table cloths from Dollar Tree and crumbled them up and taped them in spots where I couldn't cover the white. 

I reused the blue table cloth for my door background. I cover my book shelves with sheets and table cloths to keep dust out over the summer. Instead of wasting them, I give them a quick wipe down, flip them over and used them to cover the door background. The trunk of the tree and the dirt is also made out of a table cloth. I like how table cloths have easy pull and aren't as stiff as butcher paper. The grass is a border I got at a teacher supply store.

These are the little seeds that will have student names and be added to our door. I played around with my Silhouette to get a little white border around my letters and my images and love how easy it was to cut these out... because the machine did it all!

(2) Water Bottles

I saw these water bottles in a 2-pack at the Dollar Tree and knew I wanted them to be my "Back to School" welcome gift for my students. Kids always complain they are thirsty and don't have a water bottle at home... now they will! But how will we keep them all apart? I didn't want to wait to get their names on them, because that would take a while, especially during my back to school time... that's precious time I don't want to spend on this project. So I came up with an idea:  They will choose their bottle based on what it says. I printed 24 different positive character traits. They can pick out one that they think represents them or one they want to try to improve on. We will also write our classroom numbers or names on them later with a sharpie or something, but this way, they are mostly prepared and ready to go. I used vinyl of course for the words. And for now, they are stored in these baskets I got at the Dollar Tree and hung with command hooks. 6 fit perfectly!! But that's not what I'm using the baskets for. Makes for a great display though, don't ya think??

(3) FOOD

I have a bad relationship with food. As in, I don't eat the best because I am often picky. I'm trying to break out of my shell and force myself to eat better. I do good for a couple days and then we go out with friends and I feel like all my will power is gone. I hope I can get it under control. So I've been trying some new recipes. They still aren't the best, but I want to get away from eating out so much and eating crap.

I'm loving Strawberry Salads right now. I use a honey mustard vinaigrette and add some sliced nuts. Here I used almonds. I love almonds.  We also have been trying some new pizzas. We are making pizzas for the family on vacation so we wanted to try some new toppings. This is a "white" pizza. We made some garlic infused olive oil and put it on the premade Boboli pizza crust. It's delicious. Then we sautéed some chicken in olive oil and garlic, added in some mushrooms, then some spinach. I took some fresh mozzarella and  sliced it up and spread it around, then added the toppings. I put a little bit of extra shredded mozzarella on top, put it in the oven for 8 minutes and it was done! It was SO good! We used a bit too much oil on the crust and it got a little soggy, so we'll only do a tablespoon or so next time. 

I'm off to go look at the other link ups now! If you are back to school, I hope you have a great year! And if you are like me and still have some sweet summer time left, I hope you enjoy every moment.



Back to School In a Flash: Decor and More

It's our 3rd week of the...

and it's probably one of everyone's FAVORITE topics:

I'm sharing just a few snap shots from my room this year. We don't start with students until September 8th, but the next 3 weeks are filled to the brim with so many other things that room set-up was not in the picture. Luckily, July and early August weren't that busy so I prioritized to get in there and get it done so I could focus on other things.

And I'm one of "those" people.

I really do think that if my classroom is a place I want to be, I am a much happier teacher. So I do put energy into it. Do you have to go crazy nuts and have it look like it's in a magazine to be a good teacher- nope! But I go along the lines of: Do what you think will bring you joy so that you may pass it on to those you work with. Not everyone may appreciate it, but it brings me joy right now to do it.

This is my 4th year in this classroom and I officially switched it up. The last 3 years, I went with the color combo of teal and yellow and I loved it. It was the perfect combo of calm and energizing. But then I started to throw in other colors and it became just too busy. I like organized and clean. So I changed things up big time... meaning... I switched the yellow out, but kept the teal.

I'm addicted to teal.

I just can't get enough.

So it stays and greens and blues join in.

I'm obsessive over a few things when it comes to classroom set up and decor: Colors, Cleanliness, and Organization/Function. I'm sharing a few examples of these obsessions in my room for this year.

Shall we begin?

(1) Bulletin Board Headers

I like to label everything... including bulletin boards. Mainly because it helps ME keep things organized and gives everything a place. This also makes it easier for students to "find" what they are looking for. I don't think they'll miss these huge letters over the bulletin boards up front!

I've also made some "make-shift" bulletin boards... er... chart holders. It'll allow me to hang even more charts in our room and the foldable curtain can still be opened and closed and my charts won't be ripped! I've learned to live with the ugly color. Or at least I keep telling myself that. 

(2) Homework Pockets

I saw the original idea to use these pockets for homework from the amazing Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files. I've used the pocket concept now for 2 years and I really like them. I can quickly glance while students are coming in during the morning and remind them to turn in homework if I notice they've forgotten. Also, I have a classroom job where one student goes around and takes the homework out of the pockets for me. And it's already in alphabetical order because of my number system. Makes it even easier to check it in... now I just need to check it in myself each day and not let a pile begin to grow. 

The pockets wrap around my room. Some of them are located on the lower cupboards as you can see above. Typically, this might be wasted space, but now it's functional, while not taking up "prime real estate."

(3)  Cohesive Colors

I take my color themes serious. Often times, too serious for many people. I can't help it. It's a disease. But I do think a cohesive color theme makes things look more organized.

Here's our door and board right when you enter the room. The door isn't done yet, but the bulk of it is. I have little seeds that I'm going to put on it with students' names.  I hope my seeds are, "Ready to Blossom and be Awesome!"

Our library even has some of the colors through the use of rugs and bulletin boards. The rugs add some color, but they can also be moved around the classroom during reading time along with our pillows and bean bag (that are stationed under our easel). 

I made the floating shelves out of foam board, duct tape, string, and command hooks. Want to make your own? Visit this post and I break it down. I've had them up now for 2 years and they haven't fallen! I'm such an engineer. 

Stop and go look at it now. You'll know what I'm talking about.

Isn't hers gorgeous?? Don't you just want to browse all the books and lay on that comfy carpet??

My board is nowhere as beautiful as hers, but I'm excited about the pop of color and I tied in some seed clip art (you can't really see it). I still need to add a little quote. The other blank board will be where we come up with our library expectations, book shopping schedule, etc. 

The pockets I made for our spelling center tie the color theme in a place that is hard to cover up... the side of a filing cabinet. These pockets will hold commonly misspelled words for each student. My husband and awesome in-laws also spray painted some magnetic letters to match (they had the space... I didn't want to do it in our apartment garage (2 weeks til' we close on our house!). Vowels are green and constants are navy- to help students notice patterns. 

So those are just a few parts to our classroom this year. I can't wait to get the year started! My group last year was such a group of sweethearts... I'm sad they won't be back in this room with me. But I hope my next group is just as great in their own way.

Go take a peek into the rooms of other teachers by clicking the link below! And don't forget to link up yourself! I'd love to see your space!


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