Sunday, January 14, 2018

Graduate Teacher Tips Series: 3. Classroom Setup

 I feel the need to put a disclaimer about these posts: there is no one right way of doing things. I am in no way suggesting that this is what every teacher should do in their classrooms. This is for multiple reasons! Every school is different. Every teacher is different. Every classroom is different. Every student is different. All of these will influence how you need to set up your classroom.

The purpose of these posts is to promote ideas for what teachers can or may like to use in their classrooms. With that being said, here is some food for thought regarding classroom setup...

Once you get a look at the shape of your classroom (and boy are there some interesting shaped rooms out there) and what furniture you have, try to sketch out a mud map of how you'd like your room to look.
This image is from the text Handbook for Qualities of Effective Teachers.

When coming up with your mud map, you need to consider how your students will be seated. Today some classrooms use flexible seating. If you choose to adopt this strategy, you will need to carefully plan out where your seating options will be around your classroom. If your room will include student tables or desks, this is also something that needs to be thought out very carefully.

Can we access emergency exits?
Do my students need to be facing a whiteboard?
(In the early years of schooling, this is very important for developing left-to-right direction for handwriting and letter formation)
 Can students and teachers easily move between tables/seating areas?
Will the sun be hitting the desks and cause distractions?

There are endless factors to consider.
All you need to do is Google 'Classroom setup ideas' and thousands of photos of classrooms all around the world pop up. Below are some links to some possible desk arrangements:

My Favorite Desk Arrangement and other Back to School Wisdom, Ideas for getting you school off on the right foot

11 Desk Arrangements for your Best Classroom Yet

For the older classrooms, 'Teacher, Teacher, I declare!' uses the following system with sticky notes:
 Below is a great read about setting up a classroom for students with ADD/ADHD
ADHD in School: Room Set up
Some classrooms will be a part of a large building and may not have many windows to consider. Others may feel like fish bowls, for every passing person to gaze in.
Different schools may have certain expectations or rules around windows. For example, some schools allow teachers to paint their windows to stop little ones being distracted from outside factors. On the other hand, there are schools that do not allow anything to be covering windows at all. Make sure you seek advice from your school administration before deciding what you're going to do.
If you choose to go down the cover-up road, here are some ideas from other teachers:

A beautiful 'stained glass' inspired display by Art with Mrs J.
The Charming Classroom made this simple ocean theme window covering.
Reggio inspired rainbow window that casts color around the room
Epic Classroom has some great ideas for rainbow windows.
Something I've learnt over my teaching career so far is that a lot of the time 'less is more'.
Yes, it is exciting to find beautiful posters that fit exactly with what you are teaching. However, they do not need to all be on display at once from the very beginning of the year.

My displays are now these (keep in mind I am in an early years classroom):
Alphabet charts
Number charts
Birthday display
Handwriting charts
Visual timetable
Classroom rules
Yep. That's it. That is all that goes up on my classroom walls from Day 1 and stays the entire year. Almost everything else only goes up when I teach it. This makes the posters or charts more meaningful to the children. When I teach letters and sounds, we create the posters together and then hang them for future reference. When I teach reading strategies, we introduce a strategy at a time and then hang that poster up - one at a time. Otherwise it is information overload for the little ones and has little meaning to some.
Like I said, just some food for thought 😀

Here are my go-to student labels for an early-years classroom:

Name tags
(for Kinder/Prep/Foundation/Reception and sometimes Year 1/First grade)
Desk plates
(above Prep)
Tidy Tray labels
 (for extra school equipment, if this is how your school sorts these things)
Class names window display
(fitting with theme)
Bag rack labels
(for the younger ones)

Some teachers like to prep name labels for classroom jobs or behaviour charts, too. Again, not every teacher will want or need these.
Last, but most definitely not least, please, please, please prioritise your 'to-do' lists!
If you're anything like me, you think of things you want done for your classroom, write them down on your lists and then have this overwhelming urge to get absolutely everything on that list done immediately.
Real talk: you don't need to and you will end up draining yourself of energy!
 Don't worry about what you see others doing for their classrooms on social media. Prepare what you need to get done first and then work on that 'to-do' list.
For example, those awesome addition games can wait to be made/purchased. They don't need to be done for Day 1.
Your Week 1 plan? YES! Do that! That is a high priority!

Something I learnt from my wonderful father is to write my list of everything I want to get done and then number them in priority of what needs to be done first. This keeps me on track and stops me from doing things that I want to do before things I need to do.

I'd love to hear how some of you are going with your preparations!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Graduate Teacher Tips Series: 2. Classroom Essentials!

When I entered the classroom for the first time as a graduate teacher, I had no idea what necessities I should have in my room. Today social media has made it so much easier to know what others have in their rooms to guide graduates. BUT it can also be a lot of pressure to see established teachers with all of their years of resources piled high and ready to go.
Don't forget, every school has some resources (books, games, etc). Yes, some more than others. You don't need to have every...single...thing printed, laminated and ready to go for Day 1 (this is something I still have to keep reminding myself).

SO if you are heading into your very own classroom for the first time, some of my teacher friends and I have put together a list of some things that every classroom should have and we can't teach without.

Thanks to my friends for contributing:
From the PondClassroom PonderingsLittle Bookish TeacherTeachable Moments Creations

Whether you are heading in for those first few days to start setting up your room at the start of the year or you pick up a contract after school has started, the following are absolute MUSTS. Believe me, you will need them and if you're in the primary years then you will need them daily! Make sure you set aside a designated area for the following, out of reach of little hands.

Liquid or foam pump soap (this is for you AND the students!)
Dishwashing liquid
Chux, sponges or microfibre cloths
Hand towels (lots)
Dustpan & brush
Baby wipes (yep, you'd be amazed at how handy these are)
 Old sheets/towels for messy projects
Spare plastic bags
These are essentials for general classroom organisation for primary:

Good quality Sharpies
Laundry marker
Easel pad/butcher's paper (giant writing material)
Bell (or something to get the students' attention)
Whiteboard markers/chalk
Rolls of clear contact adhesive
Safety pins
A 'finished work' tray
Teacher letterbox/tray (for students to put permission slips or notes)
5-10 great picture books to start off
Welcome poster
Stop watch & Timer 
Multiple printed class rolls
Visual timetable
Velcro dots
Stapler/staple gun
Blu tack
The last list is all about you! Those first few years of teaching are pretty full on - stressful but so exciting! It is important to remember to look after yourself, too. Preparing these few things will help you when you're too busy to remember!

Spare water bottle
Pressed powder
Lip balm or lip stick
Coffee, tea bags & cup
Raincoat or umbrella
Hair bands
Chocolate/Snack stash
Warm jacket (to leave in the room)
Ballet flats
Spare coins (for emergency coffee)
A spare phone charger

Click the image below to get a printable copy!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

FREE Group Tin Labels

How do you organise your stationery supplies in the classroom?
Are students responsible for their own equipment?
Do you have group tubs, tins, boxes or caddies where resources are shared?

I am teaching Prep (Foundation/Kindergarten) again this year. I want the children to build responsibility for their equipment over their first year of schooling. In order to do this, we begin the school year with group tins where we share equipment that I supply. These tins include:

* Writing/lead pencils
* Coloured pencils
* Crayons
* Scissors
* Glue Sticks
* Sometimes felt pens

I model how to use the equipment safely and appropriately. I also model how to take care of it all by putting lids back on glue sticks and putting things back where they belong. As the year goes on, we introduce their own pencil cases where the children are then responsible for their own stationery.

To help remind the children of what to do with the shared group tins, I put a label on it for them to clearly see.
I include clear visuals for students to follow and some simple words for classroom guests (or even the those ones who may already be able to read).

If you'd like a FREE copy, click on the image below.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Editable File Folder Labels

 Happy 1st day of 2018!
I'm about to go into my ninth year of teaching. It's safe to say that I have gathered my fair share of resources over those years. I started getting frustrated with being able to locate and find resources that I knew I had but could not for the life of me find.

I needed a system. Something simple and easy to use. I'm a visual person so I knew I needed pictures and colours to help me with this.

I already had a bunch of file folders that I had just thrown some resources into but there was zero method to my madness.

So, I put some method into it and came up with this:
I sorted all of my smaller laminated and printed resources (games, posters, etc) into their own file folder and attached some labels that I made. I put one large one on the front and then two small ones at either end on the top of the folders so they are easily visible. I have so many Literacy and general classroom resources that I already have to folders for both of them.
I'm super happy with my new system. Everything is so much easier to find. No more second guessing myself about a game or set of display posters that I thought I'd printed but could not find.

I have put together a set of labels for the file folders plus an editable file for teachers to customise in our TPT store.

Click the image above to see what labels are included.
If you have any suggestions of labels to add, let us know!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

FREE ABC Word Wall Headers

Are you looking for an easy and simple way to display your word wall?
We have made these simple alphabet headers for display in the classroom.
The wonderful thing about them is that they can be used flexibly for children's learning.
Here are some ideas:
Alphabet word wall headers
  Alphabet wall display
Write the room
Alphabet hunt
Letter identification
Alphabet ordering
There are so many uses!

Click the image below to get your FREE copy!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Graduate Teacher Tips Series: 1. Getting Work

2017! It's here!
This can be a very anxious time for graduate teachers. Some have been given permanent positions, some have been given contracts and some have not been offered anything at all. This was me when I graduated. I was heartbroken. However, I had my cry and then got straight into getting my name out there! Within a year I had gone from having no work to having done relief work, short contracts, long contracts with my own class and then was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position.
If you haven't been given a class yet - don't give up! I wasn't given a position straight out of University either and had to work very hard to secure a contract :)
Here are some tips:
Do up a clear, professional CV that has been proofed by as many eyes as you can get. Poor grammar and spelling does not make for a great first impression. Include some of your hobbies or interests, as they may be a part of the school community that you aren't aware of.

Call schools before students go back. Staff will be there the week before students return. Make some phone calls to local schools and ask to speak to whoever is in charge of employment. Don't forget to mention your name! After you've made some calls, dress professionally and physically go to your local schools and hand in a hard copy of your CV. Mention your name again (hopefully they remember from your phone call). It's scary and will push you out of your comfort zone but it shows initiative and puts a face and name out there.
 Now that you've put your name and CV out there, it's time to get back in contact with some of those people you connected with over your practical experiences. Email and/or call them! I was offered by a school to return to do some training on PM benchmarks, as I hadn't had any experience at that stage. I decided to do just that and while I was there the principal put my name down for relief straight away.

Do you have family or friends who are also teachers? Speak to them and see if you can volunteer at the school.
 Make sure your name is down with a relief pool or company. Don't assume you won't get work during the first week of school. I got plenty of single days that turned into short contracts.

Say YES! Try not to turn down any work. If you visit a school and make a good impression, they will ask to have you back again!

HUGE tip: If you take a relief class, PLEASE write a short note about how the day went and what work you did/did not complete. It is very much appreciated - trust me!
 Dress professional. Speak professional. Be professional. Yes, you might see other teachers in schools you visit wearing short shorts and thongs and joking with their colleagues. However, don't assume that means you can/should. Remember, first impressions count. Be polite to anyone you come in contact with (including librarians, cleaners, other teachers, parents, families and students) and thank them for any assistance they provide.
There is no such thing as too many questions. Don't be proud. ASK. Always ask.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The stamp that changed my life

Hi friends!
I need to share something with all of you that I feel as fellow teacher-friends you will all appreciate and love as much as I do.
I am a part of an amazing collaborative group for Queensland Prep teachers on Facebook and one of my wonderful friends posted a picture of a stamp that she was getting made up through a company called Family Tree Fine Crafts.

Crazy good ideas like this pop up in this group all the time but this one I NEEDED to have. Take a look and I feel you will see why...

(No, this is not a paid post. I actually love this stamp!)

I use this stamp two ways:
1. For my own reference. I tick what the students have used and I like to asterisk the things they need to work on. It is quick and easy for me to look at, when I flick through their books.
2. It's fabulous feedback for students. I have Prep (Kindergarten) students and, yes, it absolutely works a treat for even the young ones. The visuals match perfectly as a reference for them. I have even blown up a big version of the stamp on my whiteboard for whole class modelling. I usually go through the check list with them during conferencing.

Now, it hasn't been the cheapest teaching resource investment that I've made but golly gosh it's one that I use daily and will continue to be able to use for the remainder of my teaching career. It has hands down been one of the best things I've ever bought for teaching and worth every cent.
They have created a range of stamps that target different age groups, too. Check out their Facebook page to see more.
Oh, AND they don't just do teacher stamps. They also do other incredibly beautiful hand-crafted wooden creations, too.

The lovely company Family Tree Fine Crafts are 100% Australian owned and operated (which I love). I spoke to them before I wrote this post and they have been generous enough to offer a deal for Classroom Chit Chat followers.
If you mention 'Classroom Chit Chat' when you make an order of $100 or more, they will throw in a free ink pad. Early Christmas presents, perhaps..?
At the very least, make sure you go and visit their Facebook page to see what I'm talking about.