Sunday, November 2, 2014

Losing Sleep

As any great teacher knows, there is a lot of sleep lost the closer  the beginning of a  new school year gets. For me, that new school year marked my 16th beginning. It was August 11. And all summer I was torn about how I wanted to see my classroom. I had two theme ideas picked out. Several years ago I ran across this book called Creating a Yearlong Theme and it really changed me as a teacher. For the past couple of years, I have really gotten into adding that special spark to my room with a theme that I can use all year. Last year, I put together a circus theme, which was great because part of our curriculum was learning about the 50 states. And of course a circus travels all over our country, so I held on to that idea and ran with it.

This year, thanks to Pinterest, I had even more ideas swirling, keeping me up at night. I finally decided that I would do a camping theme and once I decided, I was super excited and ready to get down to business.

 Here's a shot of my entire classroom, which is very long and narrow. You can see my classroom library, but I will do another post about how I organized all that later.

I was most excited about my morning meeting area. I have my master's degree in outdoor education, so naturally I love the great outdoors. I am loving have the feel of a campsite right inside my classroom, and the students were all pretty excited too. That tent is definitely a prime location during Daily 5 reading time. Also I sewed these little log cushions for each student and a felt fire too for the center, so when we meet, we meet around the campfire like a real camp. (So fun!)

Here's a close-up view of the front of the meeting area. I borrowed two Christmas trees from my coworkers and put some real pine cones on the branches along with a bird nest and a bird. Later I added some forest stuffed animals that are not pictured here. You can see the wolf, though, and an old hollow long. I keep a stuffed animal inside of that too. The picnic basket is the perfect place to store my mentor books. We often meet right here during writer's workshop. Also, you notice the picket fence. I have long and skinny flower pots behind that and am planning to fill those with plants or maybe plant some grass. The camp sign was a perfect addition for me. My dad was kind enough to spend some time cutting it and getting it just right. We used an old pallet for the arrows and purchased a 4X4 and 2X4 for the stand.

I could not part with my big "Read" sign. I'm all about reading and getting my students reading and it stayed right where it was from last year. There's also a little desk next to my door. I store a tray of whiteboards there for easy access. We have a bulletin board for announcements and a calendar. My dad also made that bulletin board for me a couple of summers ago and I thought it would still work for my new theme. I dressed it up with a mossy wreath from Michael's and an Owl that looks like it is carved from wood. That owl came from Old Time Pottery. On the top shelf of the bookcase there are four little frames that I purchased from Ikea for 99 cents each. I have my students split into groups that we call cabins (I so stole this idea from Ron Clark, who splits his entire school into tribes). And there is one colored frame for each team and also each group has a tree stump with a matching ribbon to earn honors hanging on the wall (I'll tell you all about that later too.),

If you know of Whole Brain Teaching, then you know about the super improvers wall. This is my super improvers wall. I wanted to take the idea, but also make it my own, so I created these little cards that matched my theme. I will do a whole post about those soon.

My homework club for students who turn in their assignments all month. If they don't turn in an assignment on time, they have their firefly moved to the outside of the jar. I was super excited about how these turned out. I wanted something, again, that matched my theme. Photoshop to the rescue!

I loved the idea of having one little word that could be our inspiration for the year. Ali Edwards has inspired me to do this personally, but I had never chosen one for my classroom until this year. I decided on "grow" because it has so much meaning to a class of students. For me, I wanted to see them grow academically throughout the year. To learn the hard things that, coming in through my door on the first day, they did not already know. I wanted to see them grow in their relationships with each other. I wanted to see them mature as they move one year closer to adulthood. And I most importantly wanted to see them grow spiritually (I teach at a small, private, Christian school.). I think it was important to tell them all that this word meant for us this year. If I had not, most would probably have stopped at the obvious. They will all grow in height throughout our next several months together.

Those letters came from Joanne's (one or two at a time because I HAD to use my 40% off coupons, of course!). I covered them with a mossy sheet that came from Michaels. I absolutely LOVE how they turned out. They are a little tipsy, but I'm O.K. with that because I just used the two mushrooms I got at Old Time Pottery to stabilize them and it all looked really cute together.

I was excited to find this little owl at Kirklands. It was a candle holder, but the moment I saw it, I knew it would be great for a pencil cup.

It may be hard to tell, but this is a board with five vases. There are no flowers there right now, but won't it look lovely? I just love the rustic look and the jars too. Can't wait to fill them with flowers.

One more touch was to add a set of three candy jars to the corner by my sink. It gave just a splash of color and looks fun right there. I filled one far with colorful feathers that I had gotten a while back from Michael's for another project, but never used. Then  I filled the center jar with tiny pinecones from my parents' yard. And the last jar I filled with felted acorns that a friend of mine gave me a few years ago.

I'm so excited about how everything came together. Yes it was a lot of work, but it was all worth it. I love to create an atmosphere like this because it makes learning so much more exciting. Students really get into guessing what my next theme will be. And I love to hear them chattering at open house about it all. And of course it creates an environment that they actually look forward to spending their time each day working in. So there you have it... my room.

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