Saturday, July 26, 2014

Step Right Up

When I first started teaching, I chose a fish / underwater theme.

It worked great for the first year, because

1. I hung up a fish net and had an inflatable shark sitting on the bookshelf.
2. My quiet signal was "If I had a fishy wish, I'd wish my class would squish their lips!" and then they all had to make a fishy face at me.
3. I had the most angelic class you could ever ask for and we earned a class betta named Brad Rudolph (named by the class) and that was fun.

It didn't work great for the second year, because

1. I had a CRAZY start to the year, so no fish net or blow-up shark made it to the party. (Then Julie came and visited and spent an hour blowing up the blow-up shark, and then the next morning when it was all deflated, we realized it had a hole in it. So all I had by way of decorations were some paper fish stapled to the walls.
2. My quiet signal still worked great.
3. I had a very.....different class. And we did not earn a class pet, partly because we didn't earn it and partly because I was worried that if we did earn it someone would swallow it and partly because I didn't really feel like bringing the fish back and forth between my house and the school every weekend like I did my first year.

So, last Sunday night, I decided to change my classroom theme.

I can't resist free stuff, and I especially can't resist cute, colorful free stuff on TeachersPayTeachers. So this year, I amassed a lot of cute, colorful free stuff that didn't really fit in with my fish theme, but I wanted to fit in with my next theme.

After a few hours of Pinteresting and googling and pondering, I decided on a circus theme.

{I'm sorry I didn't write that in all caps and with ten exclamation marks at the end, because that would have been more accurate for how I felt about it.}

I'm actually glad I made this decision on Sunday night, because I could barely sleep, I was so excited to go in and start decorating my classroom! I had so many ideas and I just couldn't wait to get to work. #teacherproblems

Here are some pictures of my cute new classroom:

Pull cards charts - one for each class. I got these adorable editable chevron labels from Common Core and So Much More. Click the link if you want to make your own - they're free!

My chair is under the Big Top :) where all the kids sit on the rug
These decoding strategies posters are perfect for my guided reading spot! I got them (also for free) from Andrea Knight and I LOVE them. 
I discovered this week that I can do anything with butcher paper! I'm going to hang up student work in this spot....work that they took "pride" in :) 
I'm trying something new this year: color coding tables! It's a slight variation on The Wise Owl Teacher's Pencil Wars, which is a brilliant idea that I kind of started doing at the end of last year and LOVED. I didn't do it quite as awesomely as she does it.....basically I just got 4 different colored cups for my 4 different colored tables and put 12 sharpened pencils in each cup to start the week. Each pencil had a colored star sticker on it that coordinated with that table. The problem for me was that I had 2 classes, so pencils got shuffled back and forth between two classes and it wasn't exactly fair and whatever.

So this year, I'm trying out these drawers. Each table has a set of 3 drawers. When they are with me and I ask them to get their drawers, they will bring it to their table. When they go to French, they put the drawers back on the cart so the other class doesn't use their supplies.

In the top drawer, I have whiteboard markers. In the middle drawer, there are correcting pens. In the bottom drawer, there are the pencils for the Pencil War, along with a bunch of little pencil sharpeners that I got on Amazon. These are the things that they don't need every day, but for whatever reason they seem to always get lost when I give one to each student to keep track of in their own toolbox. I'm hoping that by keeping all the correcting pens / markers / pencil sharpeners in one place, they won't get lost so quickly! 
Here's my whole class reward: circus peanuts! The class can earn peanuts for good behavior. When all the peanuts are colored in, we will have earned our reward. 
I got these amazing schedule cards from First Grade Parade. She has like a MILLION on that link, I'm not even kidding. I just picked and chose which ones I would need and sent them in for laminating and Velcro. 
I'm also changing up my Word Wall this year. I figured out how many weeks we would be in school in each of the months and put together a list of words I wanted on the Word Wall in that month. I typed them (color coding by month), printed, laminated, and velcroed them, and put them in baggies. Every week I'll pull out how many words from the correct bag, and at the end of the week, we'll move those words to the word wall.  
My calendar corner! I have the class rules, birthday calendar, and Class Pledge posted. We say that err morning. 
Here's a closeup of the rules.
The birthday chart! This year, for birthdays, I made up some crown headbands. When it's someone's birthday, they can spend their morning work time coloring and decorating their crown, and then they can wear it all day.  
I'm so excited about my new lunch choice center! As you can see I didn't bother measuring or anything to put down the highlighter tape in straight lines :) I think the reason I'm so excited about these guys is that when my teacher friend Jessica gave them to me, I discovered this magical thing called magnet tape. It looks like electrical tape but it's SO MUCH MORE! It's super thin and handy and it sticks wayyy better than the magnet roll I've always used. (When did I start getting so excited about office supplies.....) 
I know this is an octopus. I may replace it with something more circusy, but let's just focus on the positive for a second. The labels are new! I got them from somewhere....maybe the Digibutterfly? and just wrote my jobs on. I made this at the end of last year (3 weeks ago) and my kids were all getting jealous. "Mrs. Shimp, why didn't you make this job chart for us?" I have to agree that it's an improvement! 
New word wall! This also incited a lot of jealousy in last year's second graders. 
I can't wait to do this with my new kids! I tried it out to end the year and just slightly changed the poem to say "We must have had a great school year." It was a hit! It is so easy to make and pretty inexpensive. I got the idea, recipe, AND poem from A Day in First Grade
The view from my pink chair
The view from the door 
I found this cute poster and now I can't find it anymore?? If you made it, let me know so I can give you credit! 
What's a circus without horses? These are old plastic...food trays maybe? that another teacher was getting rid of. I cut out some construction paper tutus and voila!

Butcher paper elephant
The book boxes are all ready for kids to arrive! The flags were so easy and fun to make. I'll include a little mini tutorial at the bottom of this post. 
There's my messy desk area. I actually managed to get it all clean after taking that picture....I just don't have any evidence. I have my files behind me, folders to give out on the first day, and my colored drawers that I absolutely could not live without! I put all the handouts I need in those drawers. The clear drawers are for random crafty things, blue is Monday, orange is Tuesday, etc. I can plan out two weeks with these! It's wonderful!
My bulletin board in the hallway. It's not done yet - on Monday, it's going to say "Mrs. Shimp's Class is Coming!" And for their first homework assignment, my kids are going to decorate train cars to link up with mine. 
Okay, so here's how I did the big top. 

Start with 2 long sheets of butcher paper. I did red and white. They don't actually need to be this long; I ended up cutting mine in half.  
Cut it into strips. 
I tried a few different ways and this worked the best. Staple the strips one at a time around a piece of string / ribbon / twine / whatever. I used kite string and it worked great. Once you've stapled them on the string, either staple or tack up the string pretty high on your wall. 
I then stapled the other end of 4-5 "streamers" on a strip of black cardstock, and slipped the cardstock in the ceiling tiles. So, no one tell the fire marshall. I don't know what ceilings at other schools are like, but that's just what worked for me. It was kind of a pain in the butt, but I like the final result!
The flags were a lot easier and faster. All you have to do is cut a bunch of colorful triangles with construction paper or scrapbook paper. For the first one, fold it over the string, staple it down, and then tie a knot to keep that triangle in place. 

Continue to fold and staple until you feel like you have enough.

Hang it up on the wall and you are done!
PS - I also found a super-cute Power Point template for Back to School Night, here. Going along with my circus theme, I'm going to hand out little bags of popcorn with these notes.

Do you have any other great ideas for how I can spruce up my classroom?? I'd love to hear them!

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