Making Over Third Grade!: Making Over Our Learning Space
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Making Over Our Learning Space

First, I have to say that while I know that many teachers are all about soft colors and a single color theme that is SO NOT ME. I always hear the mantra, "You wouldn't put bright colors in your home, so why do it in your classroom?" But the thing is, I WOULD have had very bright colors in our house had Robert let me. He didn't, so we compromised with muted shades of the colors I wanted. Soft green in the bedroom rather than the bright one I loved, a soft gray lilac rather than a bright one.  So having said that, my walls are different colors and I love them that way! (The Skittles explosions in their commercials are about accurate I guess, but my room is like me...loud and outgoing.)

As I have stated before this is a year of change for me. It was SO strange not buying tons of markers, pencils, folders, etc. for my class for the coming year, this is a plus of having iPads in the classroom. Still, after starting the library makeover I really felt that I needed to change several other things in the classroom as well.

Four years ago I got rid of my teacher desk and replaced it with a table for my computer and things. Last year we got wi-fi in our school and there is now no real need for a teacher station since I only really use it after school or in the morning when taking attendance. This home base can really be the reading table, or the counter in my room so I have decided to get rid of the table as well and open up that space for student seating as well. I took that back to school money (and perhaps a bit more -- okay, really a bit more) I went shopping for cute seating arrangements that I could add to my classroom. Last year I bought two carpets at Target for my classroom, one for the library and one more as they were struggling to get all of their bodies on that small carpet. Behind the teacher table that I am removing is my "Hoppy Helper" student job wall. It is on fadeless pond designed paper so I decided to move the second carpet in that corner and add the blue and white table set I bought from Amazon there.  I purchased the table in pool blue and since the carpet is teal I figured that would be the better fit for the classroom than the turquoise, but the paper is lake blue with greens so it was a hard decision to make but decided on the pool blue with two white chairs. With two day shipping I would have them by the time I was back to school and ready to set up for the kids.  Here it is all set up:
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I also changed the names of all of the classroom jobs -- made them more sophisticated and changed the way they are assigned. I will post about soon.

Last year I purchased a blue twitter like bird bean bag chair on clearance at my local grocery store. Amazon had a similar one and of course I had to buy that too! I have posted a photo of the one I bought last year in my post about the library. Again, I keep forgetting to get a photo of the new one but it is a bumpidoodle and super cute. The kids LOVE it!

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Finally, I bought two red Big Joe Lumin SmartMax Fabric chairs for the back of my classroom. (They only had them in red or bright green, and our college colors are red and white so it worked with the classroom set up.) These chairs were $29 each with free shipping when I purchased them. I have noticed that the price fluctuates quite a bit depending on the day of the week when looking at them. The same was true for the green ones.

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I was tempted to buy another white table like the blue one as it was only $15 but I was torn so I decided to wait to see what it all looked like set up before making any more decisions regarding furniture purchases. Here are the red chairs (though they look orange in the photo they are a deep red color) in the back of the room along with a white (daring I know--they are not allowed to walk on it with their shoes on, I'm the one that keeps forgetting this rule) carpet that my mom had purchased years ago from Target:


The kids move these chairs daily. They may be where they are pictured here, closer to the library, together, or apart. They are truly using these as part of their 21st century learning environment and I am LOVING it as much, if not more, than they are.

Last year with the addition of the Apple TV and the big screen I had to take down my writing wall which as any teacher can tell you, is a double edged sword---taking down bulletin boards---it always leads to new ideas! As posted earlier, my writing wall is now in my library. I think that is fitting, all authors together!
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I didn't realize until after the student work was up that the wall goes uphill. That will have to be fixed or it will drive me nuts all year. I am very bad at straight lines. UGH!  Each student name is posted in chalk marker on the same paper labels that I have on the library bins. I like the way they look on the wall and the way it ties the books and student writing together. I will have to remember to take a close-up to show this effect better. You can see here that the anchor papers are just above the coffee table and under the writing wall. Above the wall are the 6 trait posters I got from TpT from A Chocoholic Teacher. They are super cute! Between these posters and the number line at the top of the wall is the "Punctuation Station" The punctuation bulletin board set I got from Trend Enterprises and the information about how to use each punctuation mark is used.  The letters for the title years ago taped them to a sentence strip then cut the stripe out around the letters so that when I laminated them they would be straight.

On the adjacent wall to the the "punctuation station" wall over the library is our "#1 Hits of the Parts of Speech" wall.  I bought this bulletin board set from Carson Dellosa years ago and have always loved it (I loved it so much that when it went on clearance for $6 I bought a second one in case I ever change grade levels and want to try something new with it). I know it is big but I have made it work in every classroom I have had over the last 10 years.  Originally, the bulletin board set came with the jukebox guy, the header, and approximately 30 small CD cut outs.  I took one of those cut outs to Kinko's (when it still was just Kinko's) and asked them to blow it up to the size of a real album. They were able to do that and I then I was able to do what I had envisioned.  I added the bulletin board letters to card stock and arranged it around the large CDs. I then cut out the card stock you could see and made sure the letters wrapped around the CDs.  Next, I put them through the laminator together so that I had one piece for each part of speech seen in the photo below.  Finally, I typed what I wanted in a cute font, ran it off on transparencies (see I told you it was a LONG TIME AGO), and then projected it on the whiteboard where I had my large CD with header placed so that I could trace the lettering with permanent markers.  I like to laminate and then write because if I make a mistake (which is likely) I can wash it off with rubbing alcohol and start the project over.

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In the photo you can see where they came in and placed the lovely wi-fi box without asking and you can sort of see the VERY LARGE black box that takes up considerable space (it is the phone system for the entire "new" wing -- I am the only lucky one to have to deal with this thing in their room).  Around the jukebox you can see sentence strips where I have written details about sentence types, antonyms, and synonyms. There used to be multiple meaning words and compound words as well but when I rearranged the room I lost the space for those.  Below the jukebox are our No Excuse spelling words. I printed those off years ago as well on an MP3 player printable I found somewhere. They used to be very organized so that the same colors were never to close together but when I pulled some of the words I had up for second graders it was either have some colors repeat close together or redo the wall, and while I thought about redoing it I decided I could live with the colors not being perfectly spaced out. In the left hand corner you can see two clipboards with pink ribbons. That was last year's Pinterest project. I modpodeged them and added the ribbons, these two were for kids to track their AR tests and computer usage, both of which are unnecessary now, but I like them so I have to think of a way to repuropse them.  There are two more on the wall by my fire extinguisher for grade level ideas, and things teachers want help with. (I have a bad habit of stopping my work to immediately help others, so two years ago I decided to create a "help" board, others can list what they want from me and the time frame they would like it. If it isn't an immediate request I can do it when I get a chance rather than stopping my projects to get theirs done. I like this immensely.)

Here is a look at our other bulletin boards, most are all covered in fabrics from Joann's which I have purchased over the years during seasonal sales.


We have an AR goal tracking wall where the kids move their turtles as they progress towards their goals. I like this better than the sticker chart I have previously used. The fabric is sagging a bit for some reason so I will have to fix that soon. It is REALLY bugging me. When students read 25% of their goal they will move their turtles to the hammerhead shark, 50% the pink dolphins, 75% killer whales, and 100% clown fish. Each trimester we will reset our turtles. Each time they reach their goal I will add a sticker to their turtle and any points they earn above their goals will also result in stickers. The stickers at the end of the year will result in those students earning a surprise - usually a gift certificate for Barnes and Noble or somewhere else in town close to the school.

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We have a "Turtle Hurdle/Math Maven" wall to track our progress as we master our multiplication facts. We only test a few times a month and then it is timed in one color but finished in another so that they all  work on mastery not on speed. We have a large ice cream party at the end of the year to celebrate our hard work here.  I decided to change this this year with the CCSS so though the wall is staying for now, the way that the kids move their turtles has changed. Rather than requiring them to correctly complete at least 80/100 problems in 3 minutes this year I am letting them move their turtle if they complete the test and at least 80% are correct. If they finish the test in 3 minutes or less (I can tell by the pencil color they worked in) they will get a weeble (pom pom critter) as an incentive.  We took our first "big bad math test" last Friday and the new rules about half of my class was able to move their turtles. Today we took our second "big bad test" and again, most of the kids were able to pass with the new rules.  I think that it is so much better than having them take the same test over and over until they can answer the problems quickly. I mean...they are still doing the test in less than 5 minutes and that shows me they know the strategies to get the correct products; this is what I believe is really important anyway. (The fabric here is bright pink but you can't really tell from the photo.)

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Our adopted college is the University of Maryland, and our colors are red and white. We are all required to have a college board in our room so last year I re-did mine with this cool red and white polka dot fabric and felt letters from Joann Fabrics. This year I asked students to bring in family photos and they are slowly doing so. I am excited by this as I think they are really excited to see their families are welcome in the room the way my family photos are. This wall DOES NOT PHOTOGRAPH WELL. It looks like a hot mess here, but in reality it is very cute. I can't stand it in the photo but love it in my classroom. There is now student work posted in the blank fabric spaces, their names are on the incentive chart, and the center chart is going to be used to highlight the work of one student each week, that of someone who is "college ready." Another teacher at our site did that last year and I loved it so stole it. :)
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In place of our Big Question Board for our reading program I will have a "What We're Learning" board (I got the idea from Pinterest). This is a work in progress and the border and other things are not in yet so I will have to post pics of this later. It's going from monster letters and a bright star border to black and white polka dots. It has evolved from a Big Question board, to a What's Up? board, and now is transforming once again to a What We're Learning... board. I can't wait for the vision to come to life on this one! Of course this wall is purple...I have to have my favorite color in this room somewhere.
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Finally, we have  will have might have a Dog Gone We're Proud wall where the kids can decide what they want to post and why when I get the chance to get it up and ready to go. If 1. I can figure out where I want to put it and 2. I can figure out where I want to put it.

I LOVE the way the room is coming together and becoming more cozy. I am working on ridding my room of school furniture in light of the fact that I don't have access to modular furniture. I had hoped that the kids would love the room and all I can say is their excitement over it was much more than even I anticipated. It makes me so happy to see them love the room as much as I do!