Day one of the school year is complete and I was finally able to snap some pics of my room… I am in LOVE! I have always been a fan of creating a unique home for my students with some sort of theme or even just a color combo, and this year may be my favorite yet. I have a deep love for New York City which inspired this year’s classroom design. I always have a sense of joy, energy, and excitement when I visit NYC and my hope is that my students will feel the same in our classroom throughout the year. My sixth graders were so excited when they walked in the door day one, so curious about their new learning space. It was such a pleasure to see weeks of effort come together so nicely for them.
So, without further ado, Welcome to the Big Apple!
One of the major changes I made for this year was to do away with most of the traditional desks in the classroom. As a middle school science teacher, I loved having lab desks pushed together which gave my science students ample working space. When I moved back into the elementary classroom last year, I attempted to create the same feeling with the individual desks I had, but something just didn’t feel quite right. I found that the individual desks led my students to become more territorial about their space. I’d also cringe when I’d peer inside their desk and it looked like they had moved into their own apartment and dropped all their belongings… messy desk syndrome. With tables, there are no boundaries to each person’s learning space and I find that my sixth graders treat their desk space more like a group home. They work together to keep it clean and tidy. We organize their materials in a few different spaces, including the “towers” shown below.
I’ve also added a U-shaped table for working in small groups, and some other more flexible seating options.
As much as I love fresh, untouched, perfectly designed, pinterest-worthy classroom pics, I love shots that show a classroom in use. This was actually taken the third day of school (we hadn’t organized all of their supplies in their official homes yet).
I am also using these “towers” that each table’s president manages. Thank you Walmart ($9)! They pass out materials and manage the supply bins which I found at the local 99 cent store. So far, so good.
This space is just behind my desk and makes me smile every time I see it. The “HIGH FIVE!” sign actually lights up and the red “teach” bin holds the emojis I pass out to tables doing exceptional work. It’s a take on the classroom management system I purchased from Upper Elementary Adventures. Basically, if the table is performing exceptionally, they get to pull an emoji and their table “president” holds onto them for the week. If they earn 3-5 emojis in one week, they each receive $5 of Big Apple Bucks (download my Big Apple Bucks here). Tables earn more if they exceed the goal… but more on my classroom management systems another time.
I love teaching sixth grade… I get to enjoy working with students at such an interesting time in their lives. I want my students to know that in my room, they have the opportunity to build their skills, build their work ethic, build their confidence all while being their unique selves. I value each story that walks into my room. As one of my favorite people, Bill Nye, has said, “Every person you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”
This shows a big of my organizational items and one of my favorite summer DIY makeovers… my read aloud stool. You can see just the corner of my Absent Assignment Binder, an idea I got from one of my wonderful colleagues, Mrs. Poist! Students are in charge of completing all of their absent work, but I always found it tricky to catch up students on assignments other than worksheets that were collected at their desk. Inside I have weekly planner sheet where I record all classwork they may have missed. I try to fill it out just as school gets out. It’s helpful because the responsibility is on the students to ensure they have made up everything they have missed.
As mentioned previously, I use Big Apple Bucks as my classroom currency. I like having a class economy system with my sixth graders. Each student holds a job and gets paid twice a month. They can save up their Big Apple Bucks to make purchases in the class store and also owe me $20 a month for rent and supplies… first month free! This picture above shows some of the other costs and earnings in my classroom.
We will be starting science this year by learning about engineering design. My students will be building both towers and bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge, which I recreated on the front wall of my room, will be a topic of research for them. Above my board I have posted the statement, “All good structures start with a great foundation”. We will discuss how our class is a “structure” that needs a strong foundation as well as learning how this applies to physical structures through their design projects. The bricks on the pillars of the bridge have phrases that I believe should guide our behavior in the classroom and one of our lessons this week will focus on creating student-based foundations to add to our list. In my mind I went totally philosophical here… the bricks make up the pillars which are the foundation of our classroom… structures need strong foundations… see what I did there? Perhaps that’s a little too “deep” for my sixth graders, but if nothing else, it looks pretty cool.
I love the nod to Broadway these encouraging words bring. More to come in this area… my students are stars!
Meet Bill (with the bowtie) and his buddy Neil! Go Koalas! Neil is rocking my solar eclipse glasses from August 21st.
I found the adorable skyline backdrop at Target in the superhero party supply section. I added it to the tops of a few of my classroom cabinets to continue the skyline feeling.
My students are so excited about this comfy space… and I was so excited to pick up this rug for only $20 at Ikea (why are all other rugs sooooo expensive?!). These red tables ($13.99 LACK) and white stools ($4.99 MARIUS) add more fun to the reading corner. They black table was another summer DIY project which you can check out here. I had the cubbies which were practically unused at home, so into my classroom they came.
Other classroom library shots…
My students are excited about my buddy books. I didn’t realize how many double copies of books I had until I was reorganizing my library this summer. This gives them the opportunity to check out a novel at the same time as a friend in class, creating a mini book club. My hope is that it will encourage students to persevere through a book together.
Homework board and “Ketchup”, “Must-do”, and “May-do” labels for the white board in the back of my room. One of our classroom secretaries has the job of recording homework on the board as I record in our planner (projected on the document camera) in the afternoon. Time saver!
This is my late work and absent work station. When a student is absent, my attendance clerks place a “Ketchup” folder on the student’s desk (sidetone: I LOVE these folders mostly because every time I look at them, I think of the delicious soft pretzels sold on the street corners of NYC. I’m telling you, I’m living on the wrong coast!). The clerks also place an absent slip in the anchor chart. When students return their work, they take the absent slip and attach it. I also have the yellow late slips here. These are filled out an placed in the chart when an assignment is late. Then, when they return their work, they attach it to their assignments. I love this system and it makes keeping track of missing work much easier for me. I plan to write a more detailed post on my classroom management systems soon, so keep your eyes peeled. If you’d like to download these late slips, check my freebies page, or grab them here.
Close up on our turn in bin… my aunt and uncle gave me this rainbow set of drawers for Christmas during my first year of teaching. I was in heaven opening it up that Christmas morning and have used it every single day of my teaching career since. When I was teaching middle school, each period was color coded. I know Michael’s craft store and Costco carry similar versions. They are well worth the investment.
Quick view of my cubbies to return work each week. My classroom secretaries file work to be returned each week and students empty the cubbies each Friday. The book bins around the room were temporary. I had bins with different genres placed around the room for students to choose an independent reading book day one of class. Reading is a major focus for me this year (as I’m sure it is for most teachers). Our class will be completing the “Just Read” 40 book challenge that I picked up from The Sweetest Thing on TpT. I introduced the Challenge day one and my students were eager to get started.
On top of the cabinet, I have frames with “I can” statements for each subject (also shown in previous picture). I think I picked the frames up for about $2 each. I use dry erase markers and change them as each unit of study shifts focus. Super simple!
If I haven’t mentioned yet how much I L.O.V.E. my Cricut Explore, I’ll go ahead and do that now… I LOVE IT! LIKE, SOOOO MUCH! I love the unique letters I was able to create for my bulletin boards this year and can’t wait to make more… swoon! Since purchasing it on sale last year, I have certainly got money’s worth. It’s my best friend.
Every member of my class has a job and we rotate jobs every two weeks. I think it is important for every student in my class to have a job. The students take pride (for the most part) in completing the tasks required of them and Payday is that much sweeter because they’ve earned it. I whipped up the name clips using some adorable red sparkle clothes pins I found in the Target dollar spot, then hot glued laminated name labels onto each. Altogether it took me about 20 minutes to create, and I love them.
This is my single most favorite thing in my classroom. My mother was an artist. She was also the greatest example of love, kindness, and creative energy in my life for the 22 short years I got to spend with her. She passed away just before I started my teaching credential program. I was close to opting out of the program in the months following her passing, but I knew she would never stand for that. I actually remember her and I jumping and squealing when I opened my acceptance letter to the credential program. Teaching has always been in my heart and I consider it an opportunity to show others what she taught me. Although she is never far from my mind, this visual reminder of her brings a smile to my face every time I look at it. It’s as if she designed it for my classroom all those years ago in her college class when she created it.
I added this sign to my small group supply space after I found Inspired Elementary’s adorable stop sign freebie. I made mine to fit my classroom theme, but I love the simplicity and effectiveness of the original.
I have so much more to share that wasn’t captured in this post, but I promise to bring it to the blog soon. I can’t wait to get my student’s work on the walls to really bring my room to life. Here’s to a great school year… Cheers!