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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Alphabet Canvas

Trawling through the local dollar shop today resulted in a bargain find... a packet of colorful letters made from thick cardboard. I immediately thought of an alphabet canvas artwork for the classroom, and rushed off to grab a canvas too before coming home to put it together.

This is a really simple project. Just paint the canvas whatever background color you would like (here I have just pale blue with a touch of yellow). Once dry, position the alphabet pieces over the surface, then hot-glue into position.

I can't wait to hang my super cute alphabet at school tomorrow!


Materials Breakdown:
1x packet of alphabet die-cuts: $2.50 from local dollar shop
1x blank canvas $2.50 from The Warehouse
Small amount of acrylic paint and paint brush.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

News Groups

This term I have decided to have news groups, rather than whole class news sharing. I find that students standing in front of the class droning on and on can get a little tedious, plus I want some key students to develop new friends in the class. I still want one person from each group to report back to the class, but it might not necessarily be their news they report back on (thereby making it shorter and more concise). News groups it is.

Up until now they have been quite free form. We have enough things going on, without locking down our news groups. Now I am getting ready to tidy up the routines and get things really nailed down.

The first thing I have done is to decorate a tin can for each group. Getting crafty with the Modge Podge and wrapping paper has resulted in four tin cans (old tinned tomato cans collected by my students) ready to store the group necessities.


Cans look similar to this but without the pens etc.

While they were drying, I created a table to track student roles. At the moment I want each group to have a leader and a reporter for each session, and for the roles to rotate around the group so that everybody gets a go. The idea is that every time a student gets a turn, a box gets ticked on the chart. This chart will be printed and mounted on cardboard, to be stored within the cans.

Having a role to play in the group is special, but I wanted to make it extra special by creating badges for the leader and the reporter. I used http://bighugelabs.com/badge.php to create two 'badges' for the students to wear when it is their turn. I used MSWord clipart as the image. These would look great slipped in some of those plastic name tag holders. Since I don't have any of those, I will be laminating them, punching a hole in the top and threading a string through, for a lanyard-styled I.D. badge. Here are my badges:



Now I can't wait to start News on Monday (we only do News on Mondays and Thursdays, to keep it exciting).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting Started: Step Three

Ok, this is the moment that you have been waiting for. You have been on a shopping spree, been busily printing, laminating, sticking and gluing and now you are ready to... hang your displays!

But maybe you are feeling a little bit lost... not quite sure what is needed... and just want to get something up on the walls. I will start from the start (a good place to begin) and will give you a few hints and tips to get you going with a simple display. An equipment list will be at the bottom of the post to help you to assemble your gear.

1. You will probably have four key display areas: Math; Discovery/Topic Studies; Art; Literacy (Literacy can then be split into Reading and Writing). For each area you will need some kind of definition of space- like a background color and borders, plus a title for the display. Stick with easy titles ('Math' will always be Math, whether you are studying fractions or square roots). I like to have each area with its own color scheme if possible.
2. Use thumbtacks to hang your background fabric (see Step One for the fabric debate). Thumbtacks mean that you can re-position and alter the fabric as needed. If necessary, use sharp scissors to trim the fabric. Once its in place, attach to the wall using staples (you don't need too many, as the staples in the border will also hold the fabric up). Tip: Try for a solid color of fabric- patterns and pictures can be overwhelming.
3. Use thumbtacks to hang the border around the area. Try to cover the edges of the fabric with the border. Try not to trim the border pieces too much- otherwise your stash will consist of a million tiny bits of border eventually. Once you are happy with it, staple it down. Tip: try using other items as borders- wide ribbon, child-decorated cardboard, old magazine pictures, bunting, flax strips (available from emporiums/ Spotlight). I found a mesh ribbon available in emporiums which can be good.
4. Hang your curriculum area title- it doesn't need to be in the middle, at the top either. Teacher resource centers have awesome pop-out letters for $10-$13 a packet. However, its easy enough to print out your own. I like to cut mine out of interesting wrapping paper/ scrap-booking paper/ thin fabric and laminate for durability.

Once these basics are up, you may want to hang some 'place-holder' resources until you are ready to hang student work.

This is the most simple and easy to create classroom display. Of course you can be way more creative and innovative with what you do- but this is a basic display that will stand you in good stead!

Key Equipment for hanging displays:
*Staple Gun*Staples (try dollar shops for cheaper options)*Thumbtacks*Small spirit level (dollar shop)*Sharp Scissors*Backing fabric*Borders*Title*Pliers (for removing mistakes)*Chocolate*

Getting Started: Step Two

By now the walls of your classroom are begging to be hung with precious treasures and made beautiful. Ignore it. Wait it out. Thought out a wall display? Keep thinking!

This is my fourth year of teaching, and the fourth new classroom I have had to set up. If you do your wall displays now, chances are that your furniture will block some crucial part of one of the displays. If you arrange your furniture and put all your resources away now, you will probably end up moving furniture back out away from the wall in order to reach. Grrrr.

Now is the time to tentatively put out your furniture. Arrange the big stuff- library shelves, tote trays, your desk etc. You will be surprised at how long this process takes at first (don't worry, you get quicker at it every term). Don't bother putting stuff on shelves until you are happy with the layout and your wall display is hung. Keep thinking about how you want to decorate. Remember its nice to create a cosy Library corner nook, or a Math center, with space for several children to sit/ access equipment all at once.

Your classroom may be woefully under furnished. Talk to your tutor teacher and the caretaker/ property manager. There may be furniture in storage that you can access. Otherwise, it might be time to hit TradeMe/ op-shops or to advertise your needs on Facebook (you will be surprised how well Facebook works for accessing resources). Some city dumps have a dump-shop (sounds gross, but its an op-shop at the dump). This can be a great place to pick up cheap stuff too. The process of finding the right furniture can take quite a while sometimes.

If you do purchase furniture out of your own pocket, grab a permanent marker and write your name on the back. You own it. Make sure that no-one pinches it (seriously).

I personally love having a couch in the classroom. Its cosy and fun. You can bribe children into good behavior just by promising they can sit on it. I have often put children down for a lie down (which can turn into a nap) during the day if they are struggling. I have a little lie down before late night meetings. They are cheap to buy (I got mine for $40 from the Salvation Army Dominon Rd). If you are buying a second hand couch, I recommend that you slit the fabric underneath and spray tons of flyspray into the interior of the couch. You never know what lives in there!

Once you are happy with the layout of your furniture, leave it. Take a good look at your display areas again- do you need to re-think positioning/ size etc? Re-measure if necessary. Walk away from your classroom. Leave the furniture where it is overnight- your brain will continue to process and may come up with new/ better placements for things.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Started: Step One

Summer holidays are in full swing, but I know all the beginning teachers out there will be getting themselves organised and into their classrooms. So, in honor of this, my first posts of the year will be about getting your classroom environment up and running.

I believe that classroom environment is under-rated by many teachers. A welcoming, interactive classroom display hooks students, parents and other colleagues in before you even open your mouth- a big help if you are like me and suffer from repeated 'foot IN mouth' disease.

Its very intimidating when you first get those keys and walk in the door. Just take a deep breath, and segment it into steps and you will be fine! Most classes will have their furniture shifted into the middle, so the cleaners can clean around the walls. They then come back again once the furniture is in place (often the last weekend before school starts) to clean again.

While your class is all packed up like this, its a great idea to get stuck into the walls. I can't highlight this enough- prep the walls well. Remove everything that might have been left up- including stray staples, scraps of paper, etc. Lonely staples may seem pointless to remove- but they shine and sparkle in the light and can ruin the look of an otherwise well-thought out display. A pair of needle nose pliers and a pair of wire cutters will be your best friends at this stage- pliers to pull out staples. Wire cutters for the ones that jam and snap, leaving sharp ends. Just snip them off as close to the wall as you can get.

You may think that you will remove the staples later in the year- don't kid yourself. You won't have time. Do it now and do it right, and create the right look from the word 'go'.

While you prep the walls, take a good look at what condition they are in. If they are paint splattered and tatty you may want to cover them with material. Otherwise, I recommend that you leave them blank (cheaper, faster, cheaper, easier) and just put up those borders that you can get from the teacher supply store. Otherwise, measure your display areas and round up your wallet, because you are ready for step two!