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My "Not So Cute" Classroom


They're all over the internet this time of year: Those sweet, adorable classrooms with perfectly matched accessories and delightfully painted shelves, and cleverly decorated bulletin boards.  I admit, I love looking at the pictures of the "Pinterest worthy" classrooms, and imagine what it might be like with one of those classrooms. Seriously, if I win the lottery, I'll use some of the money to hire a decorator for my classroom.
 
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!
 

My classroom doesn't look like these. First of all, I don't have the "decorator's eye" that these teachers have. Second of all, I don't have time to sand, paint, and decorate all the furniture in matching colors. Nor do I have the money. (Did I mention I was a single parent, still recovering from sending my daughter to college?) Third of all, I just don't have the time, since I'm busy teaching!


My classroom is real. 

It has furniture I have inherited over 40 years of teaching. 
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

Here are a couple of my chairs, both held together with duct tape. The top one is usually hidden by my desk, where I rarely sit, but couldn't live without, since it's where I pile everything! The bottom chair is a classic. It's one of the few adult chairs where my feet actually reach the floor. It looked great a couple of years ago when I covered it with duct tape. And over the years, it has earned the nickname, "The Drop Chair!" Seriously, anyone who sits in it eventually drops stuff!
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

You can see a corner of my desk here, nothing fancy. I went out and bought these cheap, plastic, white shelves, and have several throughout the classroom. They're not very sturdy, but I need the space. (I'm not completely unpacked yet, these are usually much more crowded with "overflow" from my desk!) Thankfully, these white shelves lighten up the classroom, and offer plenty of space!
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

Speaking of shelves, most of mine don't match. At the top, are some second hand metal shelves. Yes, they make noise when the kids bump into them. No, they're not all the same color. But if you look closely, you'll see all my kids' book boxes match, and I've got tons of great books!
 
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

 
My file cabinets. 
No, the green one doesn't lock. 
Neither do the others.
But they hold my stuff!

My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

 
 The door doesn't work on my closet. 
When you turn the knob, two metal pieces just clang together. When I shut it, I have to tuck it in.
But it still holds my "job chart" just fine! 

My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

 
 My rug was in another classroom before I got it. 
It has holes from pencils, and "permadirt". 
But it's still a comfortable place to sit and listen to stories and lessons.
My easel is new to me this year, but not new to the school. I have yet to get the 3 legs even. It's probably the only whiteboard easel in the school that is NOT magnetic. But it holds chart paper!
 
My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

 
My desks don't match. They are covered in "permadirt" and scratches. The chairs don't match and aren't all good sizes for the kids I have. The legs aren't adjustable, so some kids will have legs swinging and others will barely fit their legs under their desks.
But I have enough desks for them all!

My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

I have a number of shelves and tables throughout the classroom. None of them match, they could use a good sanding and painting or staining. But luckily I have plenty of places to put games, books, supplies, and, of course, children.

I'm still working on my classroom, and it's going to look a whole lot better than it does now. But I've learned not to compare my "hand me down" classroom with those "Pinterest worthy" classrooms. 

Why?

Because that's not what it's all about! Teaching is about the kids. We make the best of all we have, and my focus is always on the kids. I plan to keep them so busy learning and having fun that they won't even notice that our furniture isn't the best!

My "Not so Cute" Classroom: I don't have the talent, eye for design, or money for materials that we see in Pinterest worthy classrooms, but my classroom has just what it takes!

Six Strategies for Success in School!

I had a very challenging class a year ago. I admit, I loved each and every one of them, but the combination of kiddos really was exhausting. I had behavior challenges, learning challenges, and a whole lot of kiddos who needed to talk and who needed to move a whole lot!
6 Strategies for Success in School: after a difficult year, I developed these strategies to share with my new students to help build a classroom community!

I've had all these challenges before, but I never had so many challenges all in one group!

After that year, I made sure I enjoyed these luxuries during the summer:

-extra cups of coffee - while they're still warm
-relaxed conversations with grown ups
-reading books written for adults
-eating breakfast in my jammies
-going to the gym, with energy to work out
and most of all... 
-peeing when I need to!

But I also spent a lot of time thinking about that group, and trying to come up with ideas that I could start at the beginning of the year that could prevent some of the issues I had.


My dad always taught me: 

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

and that's just what I plan to do!

After much thought, I decided on the most important strategies I wanted to focus on in my classroom.


Strategies for Success: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be a Team Player, Be Mindful, and Be an Active Learner

I decided to spend a whole lot of time at the beginning of the school year teaching these strategies for success!



I made posters with an explanation for each strategy.


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Strategies-for-Success-in-School-ActivitiesBooklets-and-Posters-2694185?utm_source=Strategies%20for%20Success%20Post&utm_campaign=Strategies%20for%20Success

I also made these in black and white/ line art for easy printing and opportunities for the kids to color and think about them.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Strategies-for-Success-in-School-ActivitiesBooklets-and-Posters-2694185?utm_source=Strategies%20for%20Success%20Post&utm_campaign=Strategies%20for%20Success

 
Plus, I made mini-posters of each!
Plus, I made some student response booklets.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Strategies-for-Success-in-School-ActivitiesBooklets-and-Posters-2694185?utm_source=Strategies%20for%20Success%20Post&utm_campaign=Strategies%20for%20Success

These pages could also be used in interactive notebooks.

My plan was to take a day or two discussing the meaning of each strategy, listing the children's ideas, giving examples and non examples, and making sure the children really understood what each strategy meant before they completed that page in their strategy response booklets. 

The Mindfulness strategy took a little longer, especially those who came from classes that didn't do any mindfulness activities in the past.

I did manage to find a few websites with some awesome explanations and activities for helping children understand and practice Mindfulness.






I also made some bookmarks for the children to use and remember their strategies.

And I made some self assessments that they were given at a few points through the school year. 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Strategies-for-Success-in-School-ActivitiesBooklets-and-Posters-2694185?utm_source=Strategies%20for%20Success%20Post&utm_campaign=Strategies%20for%20Success


What Happened Next?

After much discussion, we decided on a gesture for each strategy. Every morning, after the Pledge of Allegiance and the school chant, my students would recite the 6 Strategies for Success, complete with the gestures we created together.  My plan definitely had a strong influence on the classroom community!

Feel free to explore this resource more HERE.


6 Strategies for Success in School: after a difficult year, I developed these strategies to share with my new students to help build a classroom community!




What Can We Do About the Hate?

What can we do about the hate? There seems to be a whole lot of hate in our world these days. Here are some suggestions.


I'm sure you're as concerned as I am. We all are. 

It seems to be getting worse. It's all over the news.  

Dallas, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Boston Marathon, Columbine...

Black lives matter, Cop lives matter, Gay lives matter...

 It's about lack of trust. It's about mental health. It's about guns...

Really, it's all about hate.  And it's eating away at me.

So, what can we do about it?
What can we do about the hate? There seems to be a whole lot of hate in our world these days. Here are some suggestions.

That's what I do. Every time I hear of another horror, I pray. 
It's frustrating because I want to do more!

As a teacher, I've been searching the corners of my brain, trying to think of what we can do to turn this around. 

One thing to think about
It's important to teach children to respect police officers. 
How do we do this?

Let them interact with police officers! 

I'm lucky I teach in a small town.
Most of the police officers in my town are former students, or parents of former students.

We take our second graders to the police station every year. 
The whole police staff is amazing to the kids! 
They let the kids climb into the police vehicles.
They let the kids have lunch in their lunch room. 
They give the kids pencils and water bottles with the police logo on them,
and they even take pretend "mug shots" of the kiddos! (and the teachers)
What can we do about the hate? There seems to be a whole lot of hate in our world these days. Here are some suggestions.
I'm such a ham, aren't I?
An interesting point... when the children asked about the "bad guys" having their pictures taken, this is what they heard:

"They're not bad people. 
They're good people who made bad choices."

I try to believe this. There are a lot of good people who have made bad choices: perhaps by how they are brought up, or perhaps because of things they have experienced, or perhaps because of a chemical imbalance in their brain. We need to help these people. Help them learn to make good choices.

I hope there are a whole lot more people out there that insist that people are good, but sometimes make bad choices. 

That's what gains respect... or loses it. The way we see people. 
Are they good, or bad? I believe they are good.

Another thing to think about:
What can we do about the hate? There seems to be a whole lot of hate in our world these days. Here are some suggestions.

Only love will conquer the hate. 
Let the kids see you being kind to others.
Let them see you let that car in that's been waiting.
Let them see you hold the door for the person behind you.
Smile at strangers.
Give up your seat on the bus.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Visit a nursing home.
Offer to babysit for a friend, for free.
Donate blood.
Apologize.
Give money to the poor and needy.
Find opportunities to be kind to others.

And let the children see it. 

What can we do about the hate? There seems to be a whole lot of hate in our world these days. Here are some suggestions.

Here are some nice visuals of people doing good deeds.

I, for one, refuse to let hate have the last word. 
I believe that love will conquer hate.
I believe things will get better.

What are your ideas? 
What can we do?

The "Summer Games" are Complete!

I made it through the last week of school by celebrating the Academic Olympic Summer Games. (See THIS POST)
 
The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!
 

We had an exciting week, starting with our Opening Ceremonies!


We marched up and down each hallway with our flags and banners. The Olympic torch led the parade, and the American flag was at the end. (The USA was the "host country"!) Other countries include: Japan, Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada. (It just so happens I had flags to represent those countries, and a very old CD that has the National Anthems of each country, which was needed for the medal ceremonies! We came back to the classroom, read the Academic Summer Games Oath and Creed, and said that famous phrase: 

"Let the Games Begin!"


The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!


I wish you could see the pride in their faces!


We had many medal competitions during the week. Yes, medals were given daily for behavior, plus there were competitions in sight word reading, math facts, group scoot games, memory games, and brainstorming games. We recited the creed daily, along with the Pledge of Allegiance and our school's promise!
The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!
For a freebie copy of this, and a few other things, check out this resource: 

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

Their banners and some of their medals:

Canada!

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

France and Italy!

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

Japan and Mexico!

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

Honestly, there were double this many medals by the Closing Ceremony!

I think everyone's favorite part was when we had medal ceremonies, which was a lot!
The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

Yes, I actually let the kiddos stand on desks!
Again, I wish you could see the pride in their faces!


Finally, it was time to "sail home", from the U.S.A. back to Japan, Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada! The children made ships from milk cartons and various "S.T.E.M." materials and set sail.
The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!

I confess, I didn't get any pictures of the real ships they decorated. This photo was from a Summer Themed Week we had a few years ago, that you can read about HERE. Their ships were far more colorful and elaborate! I couldn't be prouder!

A few other "Olympic related" resources that might interest you:

 

The "Summer Games" are Complete! This is a review of a week's worth of Academic Olympics to end the school year, including a freebie!


Academic Summer Games! A Celebration of Learning!

This is our last full week of school, and we'll be celebrating learning by having Academic Summer Games!

 
Academic Summer Games! I love to keep the kids busy by adding a little bit of friendly competition at the end of the school year. This post gives plenty of fun ideas on how to do this!

 
My goals:
  1. Have fun!
  2. Give the kids a taste of what the Olympics are like!
  3. Give the children some experience with some of the different countries all over the world.
  4. Review skills from the year!
  5. Liven up these last few dreary days!
  6. Promote teamwork and positive feelings.
  7. Promote individual self esteem
  8. Grab an opportunity for some Project Based Learning.
  9. Did I mention having fun?
Of course, the real Olympics start in August and will be over before we come back to school in the fall.  But I'm a huge fan of the Olympics, and rather passionate about Social Studies as well. What better way to learn about different countries from all over the world?

Here's my plan:
  1. Form 5 groups of 4.  Those students will choose a country to represent, design a banner to represent that country, make a flag for that country, and pick a color to wear on the days of "competition".
  2. We'll start with a "parade of athletes" around the school.  Each "country" will carry its banner and flag, and will proudly display their colors.  
  3. Then we'll hold a number of "events".  I'm thinking a few scoot games, like these, perhaps a "read-a-thon", brainstorming contests (How many nouns can you think of in 60 seconds?), math facts contests, a S.T.E.M. project (something to do with water that can be done outside!), physical contests (How many jumping jacks can you do in 60 seconds?)
  4. After each ceremony, hold a "medal ceremony" for the winners.  I'm thinking some events will be group events, and some will be individual events. Yes, I actually own a CD of national anthems, so I'll play the one that goes with the country they represent, while they display their flag/ banner.
  5. If necessary, I'll come up with my own events, to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to be a winner. (Most people wearing purple?)
  6. Send them home with smiling faces and stories to tell.
Brain research tells us that emotions play a big role in memory. Contests and competition get the blood pumping! Brain research also tells us that the social part of learning is essential. This will include quite a bit of movement, music, artwork, and opportunities for everyone on every team to show their strengths. According to brain research, this will touch on many important points.  

Here are some books with Olympics themes: (Each image is a link to Amazon for more information.)
                                                   
What do you think?  Have you ever done anything like this?  Do you have any ideas for "educational contests"?  Any ideas for organizing it all?

I'm looking forward to your input!



For more ideas and details of my Academic Olympics, as well as a freebie, see THIS POST.






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