Classroom Simple

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classroom Makeover

It's over.  A long process, but I love the results of our classroom makeover!  First, you have to see the before pictures.  Can you say CLUTTER QUEEN?  I know my mother always hoped I would improve that attribute.  She's still waiting.

So appreciative of this "intervention" created by Honeywell and Got 2B Safe.  They must have had an idea of how unsafe the students in my classroom were and decided to do something before I lost one amongst the clutter.

When I met with the designer, hired by Honeywell (part of the prize), I tried to be very explicit with the needs of our classroom.  I highlighted the problem areas (though the designer only saw the room empty, not as pictured above), stressed our needs/wants, and explained my issue with being extremely and overly frugal.  I wanted the room to look like something  major had happened.  I was more than willing to roll up my sleeves and sweat in our un-airconditioned building to save money. (And sweat, I did!)
The designer did a great job with meeting my frugal needs and even admitted to me that she wasn't a discount shopper, but overcame her fears and asked for discounts and donations.  LOVED that she did that!  It made a difference and I got nearly everything I could dream of for our room - except the loft.  For some reason, the fire marshal was not impressed with my idea that a garden hose attached to a lawn sprinkler would work for a "sprinkler" under the loft.  (Remember the frugal issue.)

So, without further ado.....
Overall view from the entrance.  Loving the custom made blinds - really reduces the direct afternoon sunlight.  The two white tables towards the front were upcycled and painted with dry erase paint.  No more whiteboards banging against the tables there!

One of my favorite parts - a pegboard wall with wire baskets! Community supplies will go here.  Also, the file cabinets have dry erase paint on them - perfect for word work, brainstorming, and math!
Painted the teacher desk (it was in rough shape) and put it to use. Disclaimer: This is the cleanest it will probably be all year.

Love the rug in the front. The school removed the carpet and replaced it with tile, so was glad to have this makeover to get rugs in place. The new computer chairs are great, too!

Classroom library....still in progress.  Shelves were painted. Need to get the book bins numbered yet and pull third grade books out of storage. I purchased the bins from The Container Store (bulk discount and educator's discount!)

Favorite part of the room for the students.  The pallet benches turned out great and are individual, so will be able to move those around.  Hammock swing...enough said.  The wall art was a poem I found and two local artists created out of wooden pallets.  The tree is a vinyl decal that doesn't like humidity.

Back of the room with newly painted cubby doors and butterfly chair.

So what all did we get for our $8500? Two custom rugs, custom blinds, two butterfly chairs, four ottoman stools, four computer chairs, three flat screen computer monitors, a countertop makeover (cut and turned into an island), four ipads, camera to ipad converter, apple tv, vcr/dvd player, Macbook Pro, upcycled tables and bookshelves, swing, palette benches with cushions, lamps, custom artwork, pegboard organizational system, a tool kit (I was seriously excited about this), two small white bookcases, hand fidgets, bubble gum supply, containers for library, room walls painted, and probably other things that I am forgetting.

We had a reveal the week before open house and I invited my students to come in to view our new learning environment.  Since it was the same students from last year, they really appreciate our new ambiance and can hardly wait to get back!

Here is a link to view the other four national winners of the Got 2B Safe classroom makeover on Facebook:
Got 2B Safe

This once in a life time opportunity is greatly appreciated and I loved how at open house this week, people walked in and said they felt a calming effect overcome them.  Many of my former students were wanting to come back to third grade, too!  I think I might have to bring the cappuccino machine to school (shhh - don't tell the fire marshal because he'll remember my garden hose idea) and enjoy our new surroundings.

Here's wishing everyone a great start to the new school year!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Organizing A Classroom Library

For the first twelve of my fifteen years of teaching, I searched to find the best way to organize our classroom library.  I have evolved in my thinking of the classroom library.  My first students probably wonder if I still keep them under lock and key (I didn't really do that, but I remember it crossing my mind).  Today's students probably wonder when my husband will put me on a book-buying-moratorium or when the fire marshal will condemn the sagging book shelves.  I. Love. Books.

Since I loop from second to third, I am still working on making that transition of our classroom library a bit better.  (Lugging home bags and bins of books I deem for third grade, is not ideal).  That said,  here is how we organize our classroom library:

-I really loved how The Sisters set up their library for Daily 5 framework.  The Daily Cafe (Disclaimer:  Some pieces of their site are members only, but if you have some extra moulah...they are completely worth it!)
-Based on The Sisters' ideas, our library is set up with book bins.  Each book bin has a card on the front naming the genre, series, or author.  There is also a number on this card.  Every book in that basket has the same basket number written on its backside in permanent marker.  For example: Bin #7 is Junie B. Jones and all of those books are labeled with the number seven on the back.  This makes it really easy for students to return books to the correct spot.
-I refuse choose not to label books with Lexile or Accelerated Reader levels because I do not like the mind set it puts children in when choosing books.  We work really hard to teach them how to choose those good-fit books.  (If you haven't read Donalyn Miller's "Book Whisperer", then you are missing out on a pivotal moment in your teaching career. Follow her on Twitter, too.)
-There are approximately sixty-five bins.  I typically start second grade with forty bins, so it is not quite as overwhelming for them and add as the year goes on, up to about fifty.

Due to the classroom makeover, the library is undergoing some adjustments right now.  However, after the reveal on August 21st, I will post some pictures of our system and its new "look".  Fresh coats of paint on some old worn bookshelves was the first step and new baskets is hopefully going to make the budget, too.

The latest piece we are working on in our classroom library is utilizing technology to catalog books.  Classroom Booksource has a FREE app (♥ that word) that you can put on your device.  We utilize the ipad and take a picture of the bar code on the book.  It scans it in to find the author, title, etc. I add the basket number that the book is located, too.  Students can check out the books using the ipad (we might try this feature out next year).  Another feature I appreciate is that I can access the account online, too.  As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Surprise Unbirthday Party

I did something I have wanted to do for a while in our classroom.  We had a surprise unbirthday party.  (Think "Alice in Wonderland".)  I hadn't distributed birthday pencils to the students on their birthdays, many which are in the summer, so I created little paper balloons with my Cruella Cricut and poked the pencils through the slots as the "strings".  (I've named my machine Cruella Cricut because she is evil and tortures me into spending my money and time with her.  Bahahaha!) Beings it is the end of the year, I'm not completely mentally sound, and forgot to take a picture of the pencil balloons.  The kids gave them the thumbs up, though.  Then I threw together the little banner pictured above (thanks, Cruella).

We had activity day and students brought in games to play, so we set those up and had popsicles. I'm not typically a fan of popsicles, except during that second pregnancy, but the Jolly Rancher popsicles are pretty amazing.  The kids had a great time and I enjoyed the look of bewilderment on their faces when I surprised them.

I'm off to fight Cruella and keep her quiet while I take on her evil opponent, Rucus Report Cards. Two and a half days......two and a half days.....two and a half days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sit Like A Scholar

I am constantly amazed at what teachers come up with for management techniques and REALLY appreciate those who share their ideas.  While I feel I do a decent job in classroom management, there are challenges that arise unforeseen.  I try to stay a step ahead of the game and have different techniques to capture attention and help with transitions.  Here are my top three favorites:

1) Ms. Noonan's "Sit Like A Scholar" and "Word of the Day". (This little scholar technique impressed my parent volunteers today on our field trip and the presenter!)

2) Chris Biffle's Whole Brain Learning - The "Class, Class" is a favorite of my 2nd graders and effective.

3) Teacher Tipster - Great little "Silly-Brations" that are quick and easy to do.  I posted the list next to our smartboard to utilize.  (Side note:  I really wish Teacher Tipster would share exactly which energy drink he consumes, because I want what he's having. LOL)

So watch some quick clips and go get 'em!  Lord knows as we get closer to the end of the school year, we could all use some new tools in our toolbox to maintain our sanity!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Could We Get A Disco Ball?

A while back, I posted the idea for the Twitter Wall (which was shared by presenter Kevin Honeycutt). I found our classroom Twitter Wall photo pinned on pinterest, which for some crazy reason made me feel really special. (It's the little things in life that make me happy.)  Early this spring it came time to enter the Got 2B Safe contest.  Teachers, if you have not entered this contest before, you're missing out.  The application process is simple and you have a chance to win the grand prize of a $10,000 classroom makeover.  Or you could win one of the first place prizes of a $500 gift card (typically to Staples).  I have entered this contest for five of the past six years and have always won the gift card.  It's amazing how a $500 gift card can lift your spirits and make you think you can transform learning with that piece of plastic!  My classroom got a wireless printer, two ipod touches, the nice mailboxes (good-bye cardboard!), labels, discs, and many more basic supplies with those gift cards. My colleague across the hall, she won the big prize and got a fabulous looking classroom!  Amazing! All for teaching students four basic rules of safety.

Anywho, back to my original thought of entering the contest (Squirrel! If you have seen the movie "Up", you get this and if you haven't, you really should).  This year I really wanted to focus on digital citizenship and internet safety, so my submitted lesson included the Twitter Wall.  I will now be joining my colleague across the hall with a classroom makeover!  I was notified a few weeks ago and it has been a bit of whirlwind.  Fortunately, I had the head's up of what was to come (remember, my colleague had been through this).  In a couple weeks, my husband and I are being flown to Washington, D.C. for three days, all expenses paid trip.  The itinerary includes a black tie event called the HOPE awards which is sponsored by the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).  Awards are given to abduction survivors, actor/actress that has promoted the center, etc. I've been warned that it is emotional and I will come back a changed educator (too bad that change didn't include a tummy tuck, but I'm good with emotional change). We have the opportunity to meet with our congressmen, do some sight seeing, and will tour the NCMEC.  Not to mention, they are putting us up at The Willard Hotel

So amidst the dress shopping, buying extra deodorant (because the whole idea makes me a bit sweaty...was that TMI?), convincing my husband, the head track coach, that leaving the week of the sub-section track meet will be alright, and preparing my children for their parents being away from them for the longest time ever (no, we don't get out much).....I haven't even have time to dream about what my classroom should look like when this is all over.  I hope the interior designer they send out will be able to transform my rambling, random thoughts into something amazingly beautiful for my students.

Speaking of my students, who will get to loop to third grade with me and enjoy this little makeover, the first thing asked after the screaming subsided...."Could we get a disco ball?"

I think we will have to work that in somehow.  Stay tuned as I promise to blog about the whole process and the finished project. 

Thanks to all the new followers - you are encouraging me to actually try and do something with this blog.  Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaching Heart Giveaway

I always enjoy what Teaching Heart shares, but this really takes the cake!

"Teaching Heart ( ) is hosting their annual back to school party on July 24th till July 30th. Each Day a new prize! Gift cards, Books, Teaching Heart Products, and more!!! Plus a free printable will be posted during the week. You need to visit the blog at;

daily to check out the prizes each day and enter for the ones you want to win!!!"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Binding It All With My Bind-It-All

I just purchased my Zutter Bind-it-All machine from Custom Crops and have been playing a little bit. My first project was to make notebooks. I thought these would make great little gifts for Easter for my son's teacher and our daughter's daycare provider. I purchased some notepads from Target's dollar spot, removed the backing and cut my own chipboard. Using some odds and ends of Creative Memories card stock, foam stickers, ric rac, and twine from Jillibean Soup, I decorated the cover and personalized.

This would also be a great little thank you gift to tuck a gift card into for my paras at the end of the year!