Schoolroom Swag

Elementary Teacher

Having fun in the classroom and "balancing" life!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

4 Ways to Make Room Decoration Easier

Some of us are running out of time to get our rooms ready. Some of us have not changed our rooms in 5 years or more. Some of us don't know where to start.  Some of us just need to be eased into adding a little pizzazz to our rooms. Here are 4 ways to make it easier:

1) Plan your furniture and its uses.
It's always a good idea to have a space for collaboration, a space for independent work, and a space for individuals to be alone if they want it. If you teach primary grades, you'll want a space for large group teaching and meeting. There are online resources to help you with furniture placement, such as,  or Of course, you can always use the "paper-and-post-its" approach. Write the name of the furniture or other items on post its and arrange it on a piece of paper, which represents your room. Then you'll be ready to move them into place.

2)Plan your colors.
Choose 3 colors to use as the focal point of your room. Your borders, bulletin board paper, and accessories will use these 3 colors. You can vary the tints and shades of these colors with lighter/darker versions in order to add depth. If you're on a budget, go in search of what you already have, or what the school has on hand. If you don't want to change your colors from year to year, you may want to choose black or gray as one of the colors. It's neutral enough that you can change out one or 2 of the other colors for a cheap way to achieve a new look.

3)Use more than 1 border.
If you add 2 (or more) borders to a bulletin board, it adds huge dimension and interest. It might take a little more time, but it's so worth it. I tape the 2 borders together before I hang them sometimes. It saves a little on time. If you put up manufactured posters (only because you use them to teach!), put a border around it. It will add weight to the poster and give it a frame.

4)Add some comfort.
Even if it's just one comfortable chair, put it in a corner with a small end table, a pillow and a blanket. Yes, you will have to tell kids the pillow is not for heads. In my room, pillows are for arms, elbows and bottoms. But yes, you will have to take them home to wash it. Or have a parent volunteer. You'd be surprised at the difference a pillow and a blanket can make.

Remember to leave some blank spaces for kids work. My bulletin boards are solely for curriculum use. We post anchor charts, standards, vocabulary, essential questions, etc. I post kids work around the room in other spots.

Adding a little character and warmth to your room doesn't have to be difficult or expensive. It just takes a little planning and time. And if your short on both, use your students! They would love to help you. What better way to work together than to create a space in which you all have ownership!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 4, 2017

3 Reasons Classroom Decorating is Important

I think I am afraid that teachers don't believe classroom environment is important. But that might be a myth. Are there teachers who don't think environment is important? I would guess there are. But why? It's not valuable? It detracts from the kids attention or engagement? It's rudimentary for their grade level? I say 1-that's not true, 2-only if you let it, and 3- it is even more important, the older the students get.

I think you can debunk the myth that classroom "decorations" are not important in 3 ways. 

1-Kids notice, which gives it immeasurable value.

I hear comments that kids make when they walk past my room. "Cool!" "Did you see that?" It gets their attention. They see it, and it makes an impression. Isn't that our goal? Isn't that why we got into teaching- to make a positive impression on kids and the future? "Decorating" does it. And whether or not they consciously make the connection between time spent creating an environment, and your love for them, that connection is still there. One of the greatest compliments I ever got on my classroom environment was when my niece Olivia showed an Instagram post of my classroom to her friend. Olivia is 14. My classroom made enough of an impression on a 14 year old, that she showed it to another 14 year old. And her friend's response was "That's her classroom? How come our classrooms never looked like that?" It made an impression- they noticed. And yes, it is one way I show my love for them, and for learning. 

2-It creates a feeling of welcome and engagement.
You can add decoration without busyness. Often, busyness in classroom decoration comes from adding random items without thought. That's the opposite of creating environment. It's hanging unused, manufacturer's posters, using too much and varied color schemes, patterns that clash, etc. It can become overwhelming. When you start with a plan for color, use cohesive materials, are inspired by a place or things you love, it becomes an environment that gives others a feeling of warmth and caring when they enter it. It's welcoming, or exciting, or fun. We all want to be places that are welcoming, fun, relaxing or exciting. And when kids enter your classroom, feel those positive emotions, and experience that sense of caring, they will want to be there. It's your first step in building relationships with them. If you feel that environment will be distracting, give them time to absorb it. Explore the room with them. Show them the details you have added and how they will use them. Let them touch stuff if they need to. That distraction will dissipate, and what will remain is the feeling of care you have shown to them.

3-It's for all ages and subjects.
Going back to my story of Olivia and her friend from #1- I'll say it again. They're 14. Do you know what 14 year olds are like at home? They don't like their parents too much, and often show their irritation with all things familial. Their main hang out is their bedroom. With the door shut. Their phone is never more than 6 inches from their bodies at all times, including when they're in the bathroom. So when a 14 year old shows their friends something ON THEIR HOLY GRAIL OF A PHONE, it's a big deal. And when said 14 year old friend responds with "Our classrooms never looked like that."  it tells me that is is still important, even though she is starting high school. The theme of a classroom will change, or the color, or the scope of the environment. But the time put into the preparation, the love you are showing the students, the sensations you are creating are still important to those children of all ages that we are serving. As they get older, I believe it becomes harder to retain the sense of love, excitement and joy in learning. That's when environment and those first impressions become even more important. It's one more hook to draw them in so you can do your job: changing the world through the children you touch. 

Now, to all of you non-decorators: I get it. Creativity is hard work, and it might not be work that interests you. That's the reality of it, and honestly, it's what makes the world go 'round. But that doesn't excuse you. You just need to get help. I am not interested in learning how to fix my car. I take it to a mechanic because getting around town IS important to me. I hate science class. It's fascinating to me as a part of God's creation, but I don't want to learn it or talk about it. So I get help because I have to use it and teach it. I research, I ask questions, I read. It's the same thing with classroom environment. You're not excused from it. It's still out there, like this big dead end, to borrow from the always great "When Harry Met Sally". So get help. Ask a decorating teacher- you know some. Read, research, ask questions. Decorating teachers LOVE to help you, in the same way that science teachers LOVE to talk science. Let them.

If I have convinced you that classroom "decoration" is important, come back again later this week. I'll give you a few easy ways that you can actually implement to make it happen. 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Making a classroom feel like home...

I've been thinking alot about what I want to do with my classroom this coming fall. It's time to decide once and for all. I love all the bright colors of fun bulletin boards with their pompoms and tissue paper flowers. In fact, I helped create some for a friend last week.  

But I really want to feel at home in my classroom this year. I want to walk in and feel like I'm in a home, not a classroom. I'm afraid I'm going to miss the bright and fun of the colors and the pompoms, but this year I'm changing things up. I'm really going to try to use decor items that I would use in my home. Some of what I would like to do, I know I can't. Frames around bulletin board instead of borders. Warmer paint color. Wallpaper. So instead, I'm using what I can. I have only just begun, but here's a start:

I spray painted my plastic tubs silver. I love the way they turned out. These were lime green dollar store plastic. I also covered them in a spray topcoat, to try to minimize the inevitable chipping. I love lime green, and it hurt me a little to cover up all that bright fun, but do they make me feel at home? Do I have lime green plastic tubs in my living room? No. That's my goal. Not eliminate fun colors, just be more intentional about feeling at home.

Here's my next step: recreating my reclaimed wood wall in the form of bulletin boards.

 I found this here on Amazon. And I'm not sure if it's because I have Amazon Prime, but it was free shipping!  So I've been dreaming of wood bulletin boards for the last 2 days. Seriously. DREAMING of it. In my actual dreams. Trying to think of what to use as a "frame". I would use pieces of fence post actual wood, but it's too much wood. The one in my house doesn't have a frame around it. So what to do to frame it in...a white fence post frame??? Hmmm...there's a thought. That sounds like a ton of work, though, if you ask me. And at this point, I don't think I have it in me. So a paper border it is. But I'm keeping it simple: white (flip over one of my 5,000 already purchased borders) and gray. But I still need some color on my bulletin boards, so I'll be thinking that over.

One more hurdle: reduce, reuse, recycle. I'm trying not to buy 12 rolls of new border, "new" Goodwill furniture, more bins, baskets, organizers, name plates, whatever.  Some purchases are inevitable. But I'm trying to use WHAT I ALREADY HAVE! It's tough. And even though I haven't made big purchases at the teacher's store, and honestly, I probably won't, my friends in the spray paint aisle at Home Depot are getting to know me very well.

 Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Seeing a Home in My Classroom

I'm thinking more and more about setting up a classroom to be more like a home. Look more like a living room. Or a family room. Or even an office. Just a warmer, more homey feel.I LOVE to be at home. So do my kids. Probably because we are NEVER there. (I also think that's why it's so messy.) But even with the laundry basket on the floor, and the carpet that needs vacuuming, the half-empty Wendy's cups on the counter, and the 5 pairs of shoes next to the couch, we all want to be here. Maybe because it's comfortable. Or because that's where WE all are, even though we don't love each other every second of the day. But I also hear my students say from time to time "I wish I were at home." You can't blame 'em, can you?
I know it's empty. But my point is;can you see school books in baskets on here? A comfortable and pretty chair next to it instead of a hard plastic one?
That's what I want to capture at my school. That feeling of home. Next year I'm changing schools. Again. I'm thinking a lot about it, too. How do I want my new home to feel? Just like that- like a home. So I'm trying to look differently at pictures I see and articles I read about home decor. I'm thinking about how I can apply those things to my school. And I'm thinking more in terms of "my school" than "my classroom". When we think of our home, we think of it as the collection of rooms, not just one. Our family is a unit, not one person. Our school is more than just our classroom, it's the entire place, from the office to the janitor's closet. 

Is there anyone who hasn't jumped on the rustic farmhouse bandwagon yet? Come on it, the water's warm! I'm looking at that folder bin on the wall, thinking "I could use 3M hooks to hang that bad boy. It would be great for turning in papers!" That's MUCH more homey than my plastic tray sitting on the counter looking messy!
But to begin, I will start in my classroom. And I'm using  a new eye. One that is full of a love for all things HOME.

. Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Higher Level Thinking with Morning Work for 3rd Grade!

I'm pretty sure in a former post I mentioned that I'm teaching 3rd grade this year. So that meant many things, one of which was: I needed new morning work!

One of my goals for spring break was to make my morning work for 4th quarter. And yes, it's the Saturday before school starts again, but I did it!! Whew! Time for a nap.

I like to use higher level thinking with morning work, just to give them some practice and make morning work a little more engaging. Each day has a theme, but the pages change three times within that theme. So for instance, Monday is Math Monday. Three weeks are spent practicing counting money, three weeks practicing time, and three weeks for fact family practice. On Mondays, we use it like a scoot game, or scavenger hunt, where the kids find a numbered envelope with a problem in it.

Disclaimer: there is a teeny tiny bit of prep work involved, but I tried to keep even that as simple as possible. You also need to have a few items on hand, but they're very common, and you may not even have to buy them. Or if you do, they're cheap! And it's only for a few days. Most days are just print and go. But I want to let people know that. I kept the price low ($3.50) for the whole quarter's worth of work.

Tuesday is "Touch it Tuesday", which speaks to the early childhood teacher in me. There are three Tuesdays of using chopsticks to pick up objects (or letters) and then write about them, three days of writing about goop they will make, and three days of writing spelling words in different kinds of substances (like canned pumpkin or shaving cream).

Wednesday is more simple. "What is the Question Wednesday". I give them an answer and they write 5 questions to go with it.
Thursday is "Thoughtful Thursday". Analogies, hink pinks and literary equations. I'm a word nerd, so I love that day!
Friday is "Fun Friday". Riddles!! Some are harder, some are easy.
It took me 'til the 11th hour to get it done, but what a relief! Now for that nap. You can find the morning work here. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Friday, February 26, 2016

Blues and Coral Decor

Here are some of the inspiration pieces for my next classroom d├ęcor pack. I've recently become a fan of navy. It's such a classic color, but I never really liked it. Isn't that a Jerry Seinfeld joke about navy? "What's the deal with navy? It's not black, it's not blue. It makes me uncomfortable." Can't you hear Jerry Seinfeld saying that?

Navy is for sure a classic color. If colors had ages, it would be 2,000.  But paired with newer, hipper colors, like teal, turquoise, gray and coral, (of course gray is an old color, too, but it's like Han Solo- it's totally cool and will never age) it takes on a whole new look. It seems to ground the rest of the colors. It brings maturity to the young pups.

So I've just STARTED working on my next year's design. It's barely even a passing thought, but I wanted to at least get something down on paper. On computer. You can get the first page of labels/word wall/name tags/calendar pieces/whatever you want them for at Teachers Pay Teachers. It's free and editable. You'll see there is no coral in it yet-that will come later. I used four different shades of blue because I think different tints of a color bring depth to a room. There is also texture in the color. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

Have a great FRIDAY!!!
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Cave, A Campfire, and a Watering Hole

I just read about an interesting guy named David Thornburg. He seems to live in Brazil and the United States, from what I can tell.  He is a future-thinker and has some cool ideas. I like the way he thinks about new classroom spaces helping students to learn, and more importantly, to "think".  He has developed some easy to implement ideas in classroom design. He encourages classrooms to have these parts (as soon as you see them, you'll understand what he means):

Watering hole
Mountain Top

Here's what he means:
Watering hole: a place to come together to exchange ideas
Campfire: here is where we share stories, exchange ideas and allow the group to build on each others’ ideas.
Cave: a place to withdraw from the noise of the classroom to be alone with your thoughts and reflection. A place to explore questions and make connection
Mountain Top: where we celebrate and share learning ‘one to many’. You ‘sing it from the mountaintop’.
Sandpit: here you play, prototype, and experiment without worrying about mess, water or damaging surface

This analogy appealed to me because it's true in our personal lives, and should also be true in the classroom. We can achieve these places in our classrooms using what we already have. We don't need new and expensive furniture. We just need to put ourselves in the mind of our students. What spaces do they need each day? Can they go to a corner and cool off? Can they engage with each other to share learning? 

As I read more about classroom design, some of the ideas out there seem to me to be exactly that. "Out there." Maybe not bad, maybe even great, but also not exactly realistic. I try to remember these 3 key ingredients:

all things in moderation
balance, and
some is better than none.

That's why David's idea of the cave and the campfire appeal to me. It's easy for me to process, understand why it's desirable, and then implement. I can use what I already have.
A "cave" in the corner.
A "watering hole"
See that rug area in the front? Our "campfire."
Find these areas in your classroom. You probably already know where they are. If not, take 20 minutes. I bet you can move some desks just a little, and there they will be.
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]