Classroom Reveal!

This is a bit late, (we started school in the middle of Aug., so this is a room that has been used for a month and a half) but better late than never! I have gone back into the classroom after being a tech coach for the last 6 or 7 years. This year I am teaching first grade, and I am really excited to incorporate flexible seating and a maker culture in my classroom.  Last year, I got to hear keynote speaker Dr. Robert Dillon, author of The Space A Guide for Educators. He talks about the brain research behind designing a classroom with purpose and using the space intentionally. In his article 7 Tips for Moving From Decorating to Designing Classrooms, he says, "Ideally, schools would be taking time to study and design with intention spaces that support excellent learning." Going back into the classroom with a plan for how I wanted students to use the space in their learning gave me a chance to design my new classroom with some key principles in mind. Here is my classroom . . .

I used an intentional color palette instead of a theme–I was going for a cozy farmhouse feel where the students and I will enjoy spending time. Dr. Dillon says, "Research continues to emerge that an intentional color palette enhances learning. Too many spaces look like a bag of skittles exploded with every color of the rainbow represented in the rugs, furniture, and items on the wall. Designers are looking for a base color with a couple of accent colors. Classroom decorators, though, are adding flare and pop, and this rarely helps with the focus or calm of a space." This brain research has actually been around for awhile. In 2005, Eric Jensen published Teaching With the Brain in Mind. His research stated that warmer colors such as red and yellow stimulate students, and cooler colors such as light blue have a calming effect. 

I did a makeover in 2011 after taking a class about how to use brain research to create an inviting classroom. I wrote this advice on my blog which I learned from my class at that time, and it still rings true: "Decorate your classroom the way you would decorate your house. Would you splash bright blue, yellow, red, and green on your walls at home? Then you shouldn’t do it in your classroom either. Pick 1-2 main colors and an accent color. Make it something that makes you feel comfortable because you do spend 7 hours (ha! Usually more) a day there. Use color to draw attention to what you want your students to focus on. When that learning focus is over, take it down and highlight something new. The novelty of changing what you hang on the wall keeps things interesting and it keeps students attention. I wasn’t sure about this at first. I’ve heard it all before, but I was sure my students liked all the bright colors and stuff on the walls, and they probably did. But if my purpose is to emphasize a particular skill or concept, having lots of “stuff” everywhere wasn’t helping me accomplish that. Too much visual clutter can be distracting and then students don’t use it as a teaching tool. Effective teachers focus on one concept or theme to make a students’ understanding deep, not a little bit everything all at once." You can see my first makeover and advice here on my old blog

This time around, I had already gotten rid of a lot of my "stuff" from being in the classroom before, and I am determined to keep things decluttered so the space feels big, open, and inviting. I kept the blue accent color I had in 2011 for a calming effect, but I updated the look of my classroom with a softer gray and white shiplap. The gray rug is from Amazon, and it ties the room together nicely! 

Our school got new cloud tables this year, which I LOVE! They seat 6 students per table. I have 2 tables that are chair height and 2 tables that students sit on the floor to use. They are free to move to whatever space best meets their need depending on what they are working on, as long as they are making good choices. I also have spaces around the perimeter that are less collaborative work spaces that seat one or two students because they need the option for time to work by themselves as well. Dr. Dillon writes, "It is essential that students can choose the seating that meets their learning task and their learning style, but adding neat items to the classroom for novelty will get the undesired effect of students focused on furniture instead of their future."

Empowering them with the choice of where they work is going really well! Of course there have been times that I have needed to choose for some students who weren't making good choices, but honestly, I think my students are more productive when they get to decide what best meets their needs. It's less of a power struggle, and it helps students become more aware and self regulate what they need to do their best learning.

I found the supplies caddies on clearance at Walmart at the end of the summer for $5. Score! They were picnic caddies that were supposed to hold ketchup, forks, etc., but they also work great for our pencils, dry erase markers, glue, and sticky notes!

This is the front of the room. On the left is a chalkboard schedule for my students. My husband made the chalkboard, and I put up words, pictures, and clocks so the students can keep track of when things happen throughout the day. I didn't want a million questions about when recess begins, so they are responsible for looking at the hands on the clock to figure it out. Even if they don't know how to tell time, they can look at the hands on the clock to see where we are in our day and what is coming next. So far, it's working!

This is the front of the room where we gather. I found the chair and the little shelf under the board at Good Will. They just needed a little cleaning and some paint! The pillow that says "gather" and the crate next to the chair with our read aloud books are from Hobby Lobby. The clock is to help students manage their time. I can color in how many minutes they have to complete a task using a dry erase marker so they can see the time elapse. This is a tip I learned from a class I took this summer about helping students self-regulate and organize. It's really helpful!

On top of the little shelf are 3 plastic jars that say "Save, Spend, Give," which is part of our Social Studies standards. We have SOAR bucks as part of our PBiS program, and when students earn one, we put it in our "Save" jar. As a class, we vote on how we want to spend our money using the option board above. 

This tall table is off to the side of the board where I keep my computer and a tall stool. My computer can connect to the projector wirelessly with a screen beam, so I use it as my doc camera too without all the wires and mess! I can just pick up the tablet part of my computer and walk around the room while writing on it, and it projects on the board. It's awesome!

This is part of my classroom library. The shelf in the middle was made by my husband years ago when I was a classroom teacher before. The shelf on the right is from Ikea, I just turned it on its side so I could display books. I got plate or frame displays from the dollar store to display the books. The shelf on the left hand side is also from Ikea. I use it to hold specific authors we like to read. The wall behind the shelves is an ugly collapsable wall, so my husband and I covered it with shiplap paper I got from Lakeshore (yep–I'm a big Fixer Upper fan!). This fadeless paper is thicker than normal paper, and you can even write on it with a dry erase marker. I use the big sticky note chart paper for our anchor charts from the Units of Study Reading, Writing and Phonics lessons. It can come on and off that shiplap paper easily, so I can move the anchor chart around. I love the sticky notes from these programs because I can put them up when they are our teaching point, and when we move on to new teaching points, I put the sticky notes in a folder full of blank paper so we can reference it if necessary, but we don't have to have it taking up space and distracting us from our main learning target.

On top of my bookshelf is a framed print illustrated by Peter Reynolds. It says, "I Love My Library." I was so excited when I found these from You can order them, and even have them autographed! 

My library continues around the corner with a comfy leather chair I got for free on Facebook Market Place, and a pillow from Hobby Lobby that says, "Let's Get Cozy." 

This is my son who couldn't resist reading a book in this space. There is a basket full of stuffed animals next to the chair that make great reading buddies!

There are 2 shelves from Ikea laid down end to end to form a bench with pillows on top that the students sit on, especially during independent and buddy reading time. Under the bench are more books separated by genre and author. Above that is the word wall. On top you can see the 3 verbs I chose to describe the kind of learning that I want to happen my classroom. Dr. Robert Dillon inspired me during his talk when he shared his idea about choosing 3 verbs: "Design requires a human-centered lens that allows you to understand the true purpose of a space. When teachers and leaders know the verbs of their space, they have a deeper level of intentionality. Is your space designed to explore, investigate, and discover? Is your space designed to create, make, and tinker? This clarity makes decoration seem like frosting instead of missional." He also talked about how much of the space in your room is really for the students to use, and how much is unintentionally off limits because it's full of your "stuff." I'm determined to have less "stuff" so I can give more space to the students. I'm keeping my "stuff" digital as much as possible so it doesn't become clutter!

The writing center is also under the word wall, and it has writing tools that the students use everyday. There are blank books with different kinds of paper that the students write their stories in, pencils, crayons, tape, a stapler, and of course Rasheed, our class mascot (from the Lucy Caulkins Phonics program). We are currently word detectives, so he is dressed like a detective!

I got these cute little chalkboard displays on clearance at Michaels this summer, and I used a chalk marker to write on them. 

This super cute crayon caddy is from Hobby Lobby. I got the idea for a crayon caddy from my teammate, Kelsey at Teaching Tiny Techies. If a student loses a crayon, they just get another one. If we find some on the floor, we just put it back in our crayon caddy. It's just not worth the time to figure out whose missing crayon is on the floor!

On the other side of the room are my STEAM bins. These little white baskets (from the Dollar Tree) hold STEAM activities I found from Sarah Cooley on TpT. We have a soft start, which means that students can come into the classroom anytime between 7:40 - 8:00 before the bell rings. They can grab these activities and work on them until the bell rings. We also make time on Friday for students to do these STEAM activities if they have done their homework. They absolutely LOVE them! It's incredible! Create is one of my classroom words, and incorporating STEAM is important to me because I think it is so valuable as a learning opportunity for kids. Dr. Dillon says, "If we keep designing makerspaces, isolated from classroom learning, with no plan to close them in lieu of a maker culture, we are building this decade’s computer lab. We need to instead think about creating a culture of making in every classroom. This doesn’t mean that we are putting 3D printers in every classroom, but maybe we are adding cardboard and low-tech creation items in all spaces. Allow students to showcase their learning in a variety of ways. Don’t limit making to space or specific time of the day." One of the STEAM bins is just an open explore bin that has cardboard, bubble wrap, paper towel tubes, etc. Whenever a we empty a Kleenex box or a box that held snacks, it goes into that bin. They. Love. It! I had no idea just how important is to them to have open-ended opportunities to create, but I won't forget. They have created fidget tools that go into our calming corner, settings for stories that we have read, and more. 

I got another print from Peter Reynolds that is hanging in the STEAM area. It autographed to my class!

This is my technology center.  This is a sitting table with cushions my mom made (thanks mom!). The headphone/iPad stands are from Ikea. We use it for uploading our learning to Seesaw, reading or listening to reading with Epic! and eventually Overdrive, and I also have 2 Osmos that the students have used for math, sight word practice, and coding. They are amazing learning tools! I also have 5 chromebooks that we sometimes use for websites connected to our math unit.

SOAR is our PBiS word which stands for Safe, Open-hearted, Achieve, and Resilience. I used the clock as the "O" in SOAR. The kids made a name banner that is hanging across the top of the board, and there are more flexible seating options you can see next to the technology center. The students love to sit on the floor using the lap desks!

This is my calming corner, which I call Australia from the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. If the students are having a bad day like Alexander, they can visit Australia to self-regulate. There are fidget tools, a folder with self-regulation strategies when students are in different zones that make it difficult for them to stay focused (check out this resource from Kelsey at Teaching Tiny Techies for Self-Regulation Strategies), and this beautiful poem I found on Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog The Poem Farm called It's ok. If you haven't ever checked out her blog, it's amazing! She is a published poet that is the co-author of the poetry chapter in the Units of Study in Writing with Lucy Caulkins. She writes original poetry on her blog with students as her audience, and she records herself reading each one. She often has a follow up teaching point for students too. With this beautiful poem, It's ok, I have students draw something that they may not be feeling great about that is ok. Sometimes I decide students need to visit Australia too when they are having trouble self-regulating. 

This is a standing table that also has tall stools. The kids love to work here, not just as a place for self regulation, but to work too. I love that it doesn't have a negative connotation, and it can be used as a flexible space in our classroom!

Next to Australia is the math area. This shelf (and the matching shelf on the other side holding the STEAM bins) was made by my awesome husband. They hold our math tools and bins of Legos that we use for various maker projects. You can also see the little trash cans from the dollar store that we use when cutting or doing something messy to contain the trash!

With our flexible seating options, the students have a drawer in the back of the room to store their supplies. I tried a cheaper option for them to store their supplies, and it did NOT work. I suggest investing in these Trofast drawers from Ikea. I was not crazy about the yellow drawers (they had no more white drawers when I needed them), but the color is not too bad. They have other color options as well, they just didn't match my room! 😉

This is my small group area.

I got this super cute little light guy from Amazon. When the light is on, the students cannot interrupt. They love it! So far, they've been great about not interrupting!

Behind my small group table is where I keep my teacher stuff. I don't have a desk exactly, but I am not organized enough not to have a place where I put my stuff. There are 2 cube shelves put together from Ikea, and years ago my husband made the shelf that sits on top with basket drawers and little cubbies for each subject across the top. I also have cube drawers on the bottom, and I'm doing my best to stay organized with this great set up! 

And this is my door with student names on the light bulbs (minus a few that fell off). I am loving my classroom, and so are my students! Although it gets a little messy at times, we have done a pretty good job of keeping it clean and cozy. It's going to be a great year!

The #classroombookaday Challenge: How to Share Your Class's Reading Progress

I'm so excited to join the #classroombookaday challenge! It is so important to read thought-provoking, engaging literature to our students everyday, especially for our students who may not get that opportunity at home.

I attended an IRLA (Independent Reading Level Assessment) training recently, and they talked about the importance of reading engagement. The first stage in their book leveling system is called 'Read to Me (RTM).' It states, "The RTM level represents the 2,000 hours of reading experiences (being read to, interactions with books) that is typical of the successful readiness reader to build the vocabulary, background knowledge, language experience, reading identity, attention span, genre exposure, and phonemic awareness to be ready to use the print on the page to read (iv)."

If students need 2,000 hours of experience with books to develop the readiness skills they need to understand how books work and begin to form their reading identity, then we need to be intentional  about making time for that in our classrooms. If students miss that foundational step, and instead we jump right into teaching students HOW to read the print on the page, we may end up teaching kids to hate reading because they have not yet had enough life experience to understand the purpose or enjoyment of reading.

The #classroombookaday challenge is a perfect opportunity to intentionally build that foundation, no matter what grade level you teach. "#classroombookaday was started by Jillian Heise (@heisereads) during the 2014-2015 school year, inspired by Donalyn Miller's (@donalynbooks) #bookaday challenge. With a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year for a #bookaday with her 7th & 8th grade students, 180 complete texts were shared that grew classroom community and reading engagement." Click here for even more information about the #classroombookaday challenge.

I've already started collecting books for the challenge, and I'm compiling a list of book recommendations using wakelet (check it out on the bottom of this post). I'll continue adding to it, so feel free to follow me on wakelet @estout and Instagram @teacherstuff4U if you want to see my collection of recommendations.

I've seen teachers post different variations of huge wall displays in which they make copies of the book covers they read and hang them on the wall to share what they are reading for the #classroombookaday challenge. While it looks really cute, that seems like A LOT of work for the teacher! I'd like to make it easier to share and give the students more buy-in by having them do more of the work. 😉

First, my plan is to have the student with the classroom job "photographer" take a picture of the book we read each day and post it on SeeSaw. I have enabled the SeeSaw classroom blog so we can collaborate with other students and talk about books. Please comment below if you are a SeeSaw user and you'd like to connect with my class through the SeeSaw blog this year and talk about books! Here are some quick resources on how to use the SeeSaw blog:

I'm sure some people are still thinking: But what about the students and adults walking by my classroom? I want them to see what we are reading too. I have a plan for that! I attended a training about innovation with guest speakers John Spencer, author of LAUNCH, and Dr. Robert Dillon, author of The Space: A Guide For Educators. Dr. Dillon talked about the power of the whole learning process, not just the products created by students. Gone are the days of showing off "perfect" products as proof of student learning. The real learning happens when students are problem solving, thinking critically, and iterating. He encouraged us to add pictures of those steps on bulletin boards so we are valuing the learning that happened through the work being done. That gave me the idea to use a digital picture frame!

I got a skylight digital picture frame for Christmas, and I'm going to hang it in the hallway this year to share the awesome work students are doing AND to share the books we are reading for our challenge! The skylight frame seemed like the perfect tool for the job because it is so easy to add new pictures. With this frame, you set up an email account through skylight and just email the pictures or videos that you want added to the digital picture frame. It's as easy as that! No uploading with thumb drives or cords. In fact, I shouldn't have to touch the picture frame at all to add new photos. I can't wait to give it a try!

So I'm ready to start our #classroombookaday challenge on the first day of school AND share our progress! I can't wait to see who else is going to take on this challenge this school year! 

Hands-On Learning With Green Screen

Kids today are expected to learn so much so fast and at a younger age than ever before, and both kids and teachers are exhausted! We have to cram so much learning in that there isn't enough time to let kids just play anymore.  But that is not healthy. The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article in September 2018 that stated, "Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions." 

So how do we stay focused on learning, but still incorporate the creative and innovative elements of open-ended play? I think hands-on opportunities for students to create along with STEAM elements that increase problem solving and innovation is a great place to start in the classroom! This summer I went to #geekcamp19 and I was inspired by a green screen class I took from The Marvelous Ms. M! A lot of the green screen videos we do in the classroom involve kids standing in front of the green screen themselves. That is a great way to incorporate green screen, but I hadn't really considered using things like legos or little toy figures to retell a story, so I am inspired to try a whole new type of green screen experience!

Image result for the reading strategies book and the writing strategies book

Two professional books on my reading list this summer are from Jennifer Serravallo: The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book. I am SO excited about these resources! They are like giant cookbooks for literacy goals. They outline strategies (many of which I already use) and include a common language for the strategy, prompts, and tips. I can't wait to use them this year! I decided to try integrating hands-on learning with the green screen to support some of the strategies in these books. Here are a few examples of how that could look:
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1. Reading Goal: Fluency - Make Your Voice Match the Feeling 

(from The Reading Strategy Book by Jennifer Serravallo)

Thanks to my mom and dad who donated the book Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea that came with adorable Narwhal and Jellyfish puppets, my son (who just finished 1st grade) and I read the first chapter of this book using the puppets and green screen! A collapsible green cube was our background, a green lego baseplate was the floor, and we each wore a green latex dishwashing glove to hold the puppets. (We have since learned that if the lighting is better, you do not see the gloves in the video.) I used this tip from goodwinnovate to add a pastel colored background using pic collage so it looks like the book. We had a lot of fun creating this video and really trying to match the feeling of the characters with our voice. Narwhal and Jellyfish are funny, animated characters that are a great fit for this reading strategy.

I also have the stuffed animal characters from Mo Willems' Pigeon, Piggy and Gerald (from the Kohls Cares program), as well as characters from the books of Oliver Jeffers, Pete the Cat, and Eric Carle's Brown Bear Brown Bear. These would all be really fun options for using the green screen with this  fluency goal!

2. Writing Goal: Generating and Collecting Ideas--Writing to Change the World!

(from The Writing Strategy Book by Jennifer Serravallo)

Reading Goal: Strategies for Thinking About Characters- Role Playing Characters to Understand Them Better

(from The Reading Strategy Book by Jennifer Serravallo)

My son wrote this story and drew the character puppets in it. I love that his story was about how to be happy! What a great platform to let students create videos about social emotional vocabulary or concepts that you're teaching. This would support the writing strategy: Writing to Change the World! After he drew and cut out the characters, we taped green straws onto them and used the same green cube, green lego base plate, and green gloves to tell the story in front of the mini green screen. Next he chose a background on google images as his background, but students could also draw their own background. Then after their green screen telling of the story, they could glue their puppet to the background they drew and add it to the words they wrote to keep as a paper copy of their story.

The same idea can be used in reading. Jennifer Serravallo writes, "Sometimes the best way to get to know our characters is to stand in their shoes--to do what they do, say what they say, and act how they act. With a partner choose a scene. Using puppets or props, act out the scene (p.172)."  This is a great opportunity to have students create their own characters using crayons, markers, paper and glue. You could also throw in wiggle eyes, jewels, and patterned paper if you want to let them get really creative! I have A LOT of scrapbook paper that I will never use, so I put it in the writing center and let the kids use it to create. You can also use other mediums to let them tell their story. If you look closely, you can see that we used clear light blue glass stones as a pond and little toy turtles as part of the setting. You can get a lot of inexpensive props like this at the dollar store so students can add details to their setting and then go back and add those details into their writing too. This technique would support the writing strategy from Serravallo called: Add More to Your Pictures (Then, Maybe More to Your Words!)


3. Reading Goal: Strategies for Understanding Plot and Setting --

Summarizing What's Most Essential

(from The Reading Strategy Book by Jennifer Serravallo)

On  Amazon Prime day, I got the boxed set You Are (Not) Small which includes 3 books by Ana Kang with stickers from each of the 3 stories. I put the stickers on green Astrobright paper and cut them out. Then I glued on a green popsicle stick so we could use the stickers to retell the story. We used the same green cube, lego base plate, and green gloves as the green screen backdrop. I also used the same tip from goodwinnovate to add a pastel colored floor and white background using pic collage so it looks like the book.

While I love the creativity of kids using crayons, markers, scissors, and glue to create the characters, sometimes, you just don't want to take the time for that. This is another fun, novel way to work on summarizing what's most essential. It also provides a scaffold for kids who are struggling with this strategy. If you give them pictures that support the most essential parts in the beginning, middle, and end of the story, it will help them focus on the important parts to retell. If you do not have stickers for a story, you can make copies of pictures in the book, or cut out the pictures from favorite stories that are falling apart. This summer, I weeded my book collection, and I had several favorites that had pages falling out. Instead of throwing them away, I decided to cut out the characters for students to use when retelling a story, or even create their own stories with these pictures by standing on the shoulders of those authors and using the same characters to write a new story. David Shannon books are going to be another favorite series that we retell in this way this coming year!

4. Stop Motion Commercials

Image result for Doink green screenImage result for stop motion app
Lego stop motion movies can also be used with green screen! Using the same mini green screen set up with the green cube as the backdrop and a green lego baseplate for the ground, I moved the lego people a little bit at a time snapping pictures inside the free app, Stop Motion. Once the movie was complete, I saved it and uploaded it into the Doink Green Screen app and added a background. You can now use iMovie to create the green screen effect too, however, I still prefer the Doink Green Screen app. In my opinion, it's easier to edit. 

This stop motion movie is an example of a procedure we teach at the beginning of the year--line basics. (But I learned from now on, always use an iPad stand when snapping pictures for stop motion!) Having students create little commercials for beginning of the year procedures and rules is an engaging way for them to internalize it and teach others. After students create these little commercials, we will add them to a class book using book creator to remind students of the rules and procedures in our classroom. We can revisit this class created book when we get new students, after a long break, or when students seem to need a reminder. I use a variety of apps to create these commercials in the classroom. Stop motion and green screen are two great choices, and I also like the apps Superhero Comic Book Maker, Draw & Tell, and Princess Fairytale Maker for students to create easy animated videos that teach rules and procedures. This is so much more interactive than a boring lecture on rules!

Image result for book creator app Image result for superhero comic book maker app 
Image result for Draw & tell app Image result for princess fairytale maker app

Another cool new innovative way to use green screen is with the worm hole effect. Have you heard of it? Using green Play-doh, you can reveal just part of an image creating a worm hole effect. The blog post, Space Saving Green Screen Ideas for the Classroom from Erintegration shows some really innovative examples of how people created this worm hole green-screen effect. Of course, we had to try it! 

We created a monster using green Play-doh and a wiggle eye. Using the Stop Motion app, we made our monster walk forward. When the video was done, we uploaded it into the green screen app and added a video of blue flames to make it look like the monster was on fire. This step was more work than I would probably do in the classroom, but I'm thinking of a lot of ways to use the general idea in the classroom. Another blog post with more ideas about how to use this in the classroom will be coming soon!

How will you use academics, innovation, and the elements of open-ended play in the classroom this year?