How I Get My Classroom Ready to Rumble

It's getting close.  It's around the corner.  New faces will be walking into my classroom on August 19th.  This year is no different from the rest.  It's a race to get the classroom ready!  This year it was time to replace faded butcher paper, get new borders and rethink some areas of my room.

Here's an overview of my room:

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 Overview of my classroom
I have a kidney shaped table which I use as my desk but also for small group instruction like guided reading groups. ...  Click READ MORE below to see the entire post. 
  I have the students arranged in 3 groups.  I don't do table groups or team groups for incentives, so the groups are not equal.  Since I have single seater desks, they give me lots of options of how to arrange them.  I like U shapes, T shapes and straight lines.  I want everyone to be able to see the front white board.

The front white board is where I project my computer and document camera.  I have a pull down screen as well as being able to project directly onto the white board.  Above my white board is our Social Studies time line that was supplied with our program.  I have it up and use it constantly throughout the year to orient students to the times and places we are studying.  Behind my kidney shaped table is my teacher "stuff" which includes, manuals, resources, binders, file cabinets with files, and my teacher supplies of paper clips, pens, post its, etc.  In front of the white board is also my meeting area with a 30 square rug.  That is where my students sit for read alouds, shared reading and most instruction.

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Magnetic borders!

This year I discovered magnetic borders!  Where have these things been??  They are great for putting a border on the white board, sectioning off the white board.  I also have another white board that I have covered with butcher paper to use as my math board.  These magnetic borders are great for that because it has always been a challenge to get the paper borders to lie flat and stay on the white board. Let's just say I don't have to use rolls of tape anymore.  Just pop the border on and it stays.  Wonderful.  I also picked up these cool little green bins from the 99 Cent Store.  They fit perfectly into my storage cubby.  I use them to hold extra supplies, games, orphaned crayons, etc.

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Writing Wall

The Writing Wall was upgraded with a new border.  To showcase each student's writing for the year, I take a large mailing envelope and cut it down to about 11 inches.  Then on one side I cut a V shaped to create a pocket.  Every time I score a student's writing, it goes in the envelope which is on the wall.  Other students, visitors, etc can just pull it out and read it.  Since it stores all the writing for the year, it's great at Open House because the parents can see the student's progress during the year.  I also have the students personalize each folder with biographical information about themselves..  

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Math Wall



The Math Wall is empty at the beginning of the year because we will be filling it up with anchor charts and posters.  But I do start with 2 important things already posted because they will be used as a resource all year long:  Multiplication Strategies Posters and Mathematical Practices Posters.  The multiplication posters are something I created to highlight a specific strategy for learning each multiplication table from 0 - 10.  Since I teach 3rd grade, this is a big deal for us.  The posters are available in my store:  Multiplication Strategies and Tips Posters.  They also go great with the related student charts that are found HERE.  The Mathematical Practices Posters are available as a free download from Jason's Online Classroom HERE.  I use the pink arrows to point to the particular practice we are working on that day.


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Close Reading and Vocabulary

I'm very excited about this wall in my classroom.  Last year I blogged about how I changed the way I taught the procedure for Close Reading.  In a nutshell, I believe it is important for students to understand the text structure of the reading first.  By knowing this, the student can then predict the type of information the author will use and what type of information can be gleaned.  But it's also important to include the study of vocabulary as well.  So with our units,  I put important academic vocabulary on index cards and put them under the correct heading.  That way the vocabulary is highlighted, talked about and left up for students to use (after all, that's what we want them to do which is to incorporate this vocabulary).  Along side the vocabulary pocket chart, are sentence starters for citing evidence.  We all know that when answering questions, students must cite evidence from the text.  Those sentence starters, the vocabulary and identifying text structure are vital to teaching comprehension.  The Text Structure posters are available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from Rachel Lynette.  The citing evidence sentence starters are also available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from Leslie Ann.

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Behavior Incentives

This year I am starting out my discipline plan with our school wide initiative on bucket filling.  If you are not familiar with bucket filling, here's a a great read aloud to understand it.  Each student will get library pocket holder to decorate with a bucket.  During the next month, students can earn bucket filling tickets with positive behaviors.  The tickets are then used in a weekly raffle.  I also have my classroom behavior chart next to it with our classroom rules.  The classroom behavior chart I made myself.  The How Be a Friend posters can be found HERE as a free download.  Once we have Back To School Night in September, I will start the ClassDojo point system.  I usually wait so I can sign up all the parents at Back To School Night.

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White board sections

Using my newly found magnetic borders which I found at my local teacher's supply store, I made some headings, and charts that have our school colors and mascot (panther).  I laminated everything and just taped it to my white board.  On the right side of the board will be posted the date and standards or objectives for each curricular area:  ELA, Math, Academic Language Development (ALD), Writing and Science/Science. Using a dry erase marker, I can write on the chart and update it daily.  On the left side will be my daily communication with the students.  It has 3 areas:  Return Tomorrow, Upcoming Tests, and See the Teacher.  Return Tomorrow will include reminders about homework, projects, parent notes, etc.  Upcoming Tests will be used to keep them aware of tests that will be coming up so it's not a surprise for them.  See the Teacher is a catch all for any reason I need to see a student.  I also found a package of brightly colored arrows and speech bubbles which I'm using to highlight or draw attention.  I just put some magnetic tape to the back and they stay on.


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Those Darn Pencil Pouches!

If you read my blog posts on Teacher Wisdom, I mentioned how nowadays students don't come with pencil boxes, but with pencil suitcases.  It has seriously gotten out of hand.  They would put EVERYTHING in it but a pencil!  So about 3 years ago, our team decided to supply each student with a pencil box and everything they would need.  We only had to buy the pencil boxes as pretty much else we already had or the school supplied.  This year, we switched to pencil pouches because we noticed the quality of the pencil boxes had gone down.  These pencil pouches which we found on Amazon HERE, are great quality and hold everything!  The only thing missing from the picture is a box of crayons (I'm still waiting on my beginning of the year supplies to be delivered).  We tell the students that they do not need to bring anything from home.  What's in the pouch is all they need...EVER.  Everything else they have they can just leave it at home to use for homework and projects.  The only thing we ask that they get is a pencil sharpener with a shavings catcher and some extra pencils.  We do send home a list asking parents for donations such as, Kleenex, glue sticks, pencils, white copy paper, card stock.  Doing the pencil pouch has solved a lot of problems. Since we team a lot in my school, the pouch is very handy for the student to carry to another class and have all the materials ready to learn.

What's your experience with setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year?  I'd like to hear your ideas!


Here's a video of my classroom.


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