Blasting Off the Year with High Flying Ideas!

Do you need a few new ideas to spruce up your reading instruction?  Today is your day!  A few of my bloggie friends and I are celebrating the new school year with some tips and tricks we use in our own classrooms.  

Today, I am going to share a creative graphic organizer strategy that I like to use with informational text.  I am a big fan of graphic organizers and Thinking Maps.  I think they help with both comprehension and critical thinking skills.  

Two years ago, our 4th and 5th Graders took a Field Trip to NASA in Houston.  Although my 3rd Graders couldn't attend the field trip, there was a lot of buzz about all things NASA.  So, we studied Ellen Ochoa and made pencil rockets.  This is the graphic organizer we used. 
If you like graphic organizers as much as I do, you can stop by my TPT Store and grab this quick freebie.  

Jana at Thinking Out Loud has a great book suggestion for you!


For my Decorating Challenged Friends

So, since you're my Teacher Bloggie Friends (yes, I call you this to my IRL friends), I'm going to admit something to you.  I have been teaching eleven years and more years than not I have had an
UGLY Classroom
You heard me right, "UGLY."  The first few years I taught Middle School.  Middle School Teachers don't decorate very elaborately.  In fact, if they put up a few cute or pretty bulletin boards and other teachers come around and ooohhh and aaahhh all over them.

Fast forward a few years when I was teaching Elementary School.  Pinterest wasn't around back then. Someone thought they were saving me from my ugly classroom & suggested I choose a theme.
Oh, a theme.  Great idea!!  
So I did what any good teacher would do.  I went to my local teacher store and I found a theme I liked (Hollywood Movies) and I bought all of the posters, decorations, border and even a matching calendar set.  I decorated in black, red, yellow and splashes of silver.
HATED it.  
So, how did I become #decorating unchallenged?  Pinterest of course!!   These tips are things I have learned throughout the years through trial and error.  I am by no means claim to be a professional decorator. Remember, these tips are for beginners who want to create a cohesive learning environment.  If you're passed that point, these tips might seem mundane.    
Start with a plan.  This is going to look different for everyone.  I print everything out & put it together in a folder.  It might seem overwhelming to the #decorating challenged but you can do it in a weekend.  
My plan:
-make a list of my "must haves" (ie: word walls, objectives board, centers, etc...)
-sketch out the layout of my classroom
-use pinterest to find inspiration
-print example bulletin boards
-sketch out the bulletin boards that I want & label them with colors
Decide on your anchor color - black, brown, charcoal, white, navy (furniture might dictate this).  Choose 2 -3 accent colors.  These might be dependent upon the butcher paper at your school.  If you don't want to use butcher paper, fabric is a great choice as well.  

I lean toward lime/turquoise/pink...but when I moved into my new classroom last year I found an UGLY orange wall.  So, my colors changed a bit.  I went with lime/aqua/tangerine.  
I'm specifically talking about bulletin boards now (they might already be in your room or you might make them).  With my current position, I am in and out of a lot of classrooms in a variety of grade levels.  The biggest mistake I see when I walk into rooms is random colored bulletin boards with wild borders - all mismatched and crazy looking.  If you want to do seasonal or decorative borders, I would highly suggest covering your bulletin boards in your anchor color. 

For the best results, go with 2 colors of butcher paper (the anchor color & 1 accent) and 1 or 2 colors of border.  An example of this was when I did brown & sky blue butcher paper with apple green/white polka-dot and pink borderette.  It was so calming!  It wasn't too girly. I made some little birdies out of scrapbook paper and used them to decorate.  It was my favorite room so far.  
Buying things from a teacher store isn't horrible.  But, I remember one day a mentor teacher telling me, " I can't explain it but your room looks cold and her (a teacher friend) room looks warm and inviting."  YES, I do hate it when administration compare teachers.  It creates a competitive culture not a supportive culture.    

What makes it warm and inviting?  A few hand-made things.  Start with 3 hand-made items.  

I hear you.  You're not a Crafty Teacher, then I would suggest buying a few things to make your room feel homey --  lamps and pillows.  
Paint is NOT my friend.  My mom does my spray painting.  Maybe your grandma gave you a vintage stool in her garage, spray paint it to match your room and voila re-purposed and homey all in one!!
This Little Piggy wants to know, how has Pinterest helped you grow as a teacher?            


Creative Teacher - Giveaway!

As back to school approaches, teachers become "busy bees".  A couple of my bloggie friends decided we'd put together a 'crafty' spin on a blog hop.  As you hop through you can enter rafflecopters to win hand-crafted school related items.

Today, I'm going to show you how I made a cute Classroom Library/Reading Center Pillow that brings that comfortable, homey feeling to my classroom.  My students love to use the pillows when they read.
You will need just a few supplies.  The material of your choice (I bought a flat quarter for $2, you can buy a quarter of a yard), Heat-n-Bond (a quarter to half of a yard), material scissors, letters to trace and 1 pillowcase.
Iron the material (no creases).  Layout your Heat-n-Bond so that it covers your material, but doesn't go off of the material (tip: don't iron it to your ironing board)  Iron flat.  
Cut out any letters or designs.  If you have a Silhouette Cameo it should do it for you.  I printed letters onto cardstock, cut them out, laid them backward and traced them onto the Heat-n-Bond.  Remember to trace the letters backward!  
Cut out the letters (tip: don't leave your material scissors at school over the summer, like I did).  Then, lay out the letters onto the pillowcase to find a design you like.  
Finally, iron down the letters!  Iron a few times to ensure that the edges adhere to the pillowcase.  You can put frey-check around the edges if you want to.  The good news, if an edge begins to pull away from the fabric, you can just iron it back down. 

For today's Giveaway, I made a "READ" Pillowcase you can win for your classroom library!  The material colors are blue-green-pink-orange-brown (it looks like black, but is brown) and will match a variety of classroom designs.  My classroom colors are lime and turquoise and this actually matches fairly well.  I know some people have allergies and you should know that this craft was made in a home with a small family dog.  The winner must be a classroom or homeschool teacher, they must live in the contiguous US and all entries will be verified. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want to look at all the crafts, continue along the blog hop.  Your next stop is Mrs. Payton's Precious Kindergarteners!