Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Reading Centers Bulletin Board

I finished putting up my reading center bulletin board. Here it is!

 My Reading Centers

The two skinny pocket charts on the left will house my vocabulary words and other spelling words for the week. The new common core is focusing on asking an essential question and teaching certain vocabulary words each week or unit. I need a place to put my vocabulary words that we are currently focusing on in a separate place other than my word wall.

I am also still debating whether to take these little pocket charts off and put reading anchor charts there instead. Big decisions, I know ;)

My Reading Center Board:
  • At the beginning of the school year, I teach what each reading center is and how it is supposed to look like and sound like using T-charts displayed next to that center. We practice one or two centers for an entire week and add one or two more the following weeks.
  • The top left card displays the day of the week.
  • I like low maintenance work for me. All I do daily is switch the top headers (group 1, 2, and 3) and the day of the week.
  • Centers stay the same Monday-Thursday (4th grade reading buddies come on Fridays). I only change ALL centers once a week, each Monday. On Thursday, they do the same centers they did on Monday.
  • Each group does 2 center rotations a day. Each center is usually a 10-15 minute rotation.
  • Towards the bottom, under the group 1, 2, and 3 headers, I print off the reading groups and insert there (groups based on reading level), so when it is time for their daily guided reading group, they all leave their reading center and meet with me.
  • I am at the back table with a guided reading group. 
  • My little friends know that they are not allowed to interrupt me when I am doing a reading group unless it is an emergency. I start reading groups a few weeks into the school year, after I've completed reading assessments. Hopefully by then, I have taught the centers thoroughly and they are independent to do them on their own. The anchor charts are up for a few weeks for reminding. When the timer rings and I am in the middle of a reading group, they know that it is time to clean up and switch to their next center.
These are what my centers cards look like. I cut and mounted onto colored card stock and laminated them. 
Reading center cards

Anyone want them? I can try to attach the document that has all the center cards and pictures...still learning how to do that! If anyone can help me out, I would appreciate it!

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Creating Classroom File Labels

Last week was an incredibly busy week!! I signed my little 3-year-old up for twice-a-week swimming lessons and it was my husband's birthday yesterday. I've also been so busy setting up my own classroom (The Green Room) and helping my friend Ana set up her classroom. We've been working hard and are putting the finishing touches in her room! Lots of good changes and I will post pics soon!

Also, this past week, I was able to arrange my own classroom furniture around because the carpets have been shampooed! Yippee! Although it is still looking like a war zone in there, it's progressing slowly but surely. I have also been working on the insanely HUGE task of organizing my files. After switching grade levels, I needed to sort and throw out files and things I won't be needing in 2nd grade, so I decided to create new labels for my files and labels for my room! 

Also, two days ago, on Friday, there was a HUGE fire on the mountains behind our home! The fire burned almost 6,000 acres. 250 homes were evacuated and we were one of those families :( My husband was at work and I was packing for my little family until he came home. It was so scary! While on evacuation and waiting for the evac order to be lifted, I worked on files in my classroom. Crazy teacher!!

I have been playing around with different fonts, images, backgrounds, and learning different picture layering techniques to create my own labels. Here they are! What do you think? 

I created these labels to place around my room such as on cupboard doors and shelves. They are 3x3 inches. I will get these laminated and glued on. I think they would really complement the green wall in my room because there would be hints of green throughout the room.


Also, as mentioned in a previous post, I used these label templates to create my binder labels and spines. I will arrange my binders in different sections of my filing cabinets and shelves grouped by file types (colors). 

I customized my labels by: 
  • changing the fonts and font size
  • size of actual label
  • changing the graphics
  • adding my name on the bottom of the labels



  • Green: Teacher Files          
  • Blue: Holidays                 
  • Red: Math                                                                                          
  • Orange: Reading           
  • Yellow: Writing             
  • Purple: Science
  • Blue: Social Studies 
They will look like this (as seen in previous post, Cleaning Up the Clutter).


To go along with my green and white polka dots with blue accents classroom theme, I bought an alphabet chart that will totally fit in my room. I was so excited to add this to the space above my main white boards because it isn't too tall, unlike other letter posters I've had in the past. The only thing I didn't like about this poster was that the numbers poster was tiny! I mean, like 3 feet in length! I will have to put this tiny, tiny poster on my math bulletin board and not above the letters poster :(

I got this here! Also, my matching green and white borders finally came in! I was able to finish the borders on my other bulletin boards
Anyway, these are the things that have kept me busy this past week (other than the fire)! I am looking forward to a more calm and evacuation-free week! 

Please let me know what you think by commenting below and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE follow me on this blog! I feel a little lonely on here sometimes ;) I would really like to meet more teachers, former teachers, aspiring teachers, and anyone! 

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cleaning Up The Clutter

Mrs. P. - "Your classroom needs to make you happy. It needs to be your sanctuary! My blog says so."

Ana - "Ughhh. My classroom stresses me out every time I walk in!"

Ana and I went to college together many years ago and she is one of the few college friends from the same cohort (a small batch that goes through the education program together) that I still keep in touch with. At my school, there were 4 of us hired from the same cohort!! It is fun seeing old friends from college working at the same school.

Anyway, due to changes in her life, such as getting her Masters in Education or having a new baby, it seems like every year, Ana has switched schools or grades to fit her needs. Each summer and each time she moves classrooms, I help set her classroom up. That's what teacher friends do ;) This week I will be featuring her classroom as we do a TOTAL CLASSROOM MAKEOVER and implement classroom organizing tips to make her life easier. Here we go!
Before Pics:
Just to clarify, this was what her room looked like the entire year...this was just a few days ago with furniture moved to one side for cleaning. And no, this is not her first year teaching ;)

Steps we've done so far:

1. I've noticed that classrooms nowadays are moving away from themes (i.e. beach or pirates) and are looking to have a more uniform and organized look by gravitating towards a certain color scheme or look that is consistent throughout the classroom. We are going with light yellow with white accents. Black letters will go on these walls and bulletin boards. We are also working with yellow with white polka dot accents.

 more before and after classroom pics to come!

2. Files need to be cleaned up. Ana doesn't have a lot of shelving and cupboards, so the furniture that she has, is open for all the world to see. Not pretty. We know that organizing files are a beast so those are what we tackled first! We are brave ladies! We bought these cute binder labels and spines to go on her binders and on an open shelf. 

These labels? I have to say that this has been the BEST TPT purchase ever!! Why? Because I can change the labels and spines to how I need it, unlike some files I've bought where I have to print and write on them - I hate writing on my labels because I want them typed and printed :(  

Check out how it looks in Mrs. H.'s, from Once Upon a First Grade Adventure, room!
Now that you know how it can look like in your own classroom, buy the labels here!

How I customized my labels:
  • Changed the fonts.
  • Changed the pictures so they are consistent throughout the files types I created. (Love how this TPT file was created in several colors for certain files!)
  • Added Ana's name on the bottom.
  • I re-sized the label so it didn't fit the entire page and I wouldn't use too much ink. I was able to fit 2 labels to a page.
  • Cut the label, leaving a white border around it.
  • Mounted to same or similar colored card stock to complement the label.
  • Put label and spine in the binder! 
Before (2 hours earlier):
We took things out of her shelving unit and resized the heights of the shelves. We will put the different colored files in different sections of the shelving unit. It will definitely make her shelves look consistent and professional. 
A picture of her revamped shelving units with file folders and crates will go here.

3. Borders need to be consistent throughout the room. Ana had thick, colorful stripes on one wall, math symbols for her math wall, and green skinny borders next to that wall for her vocabulary wall. It was too busy. See examples below.

Before pics:

After pics:

(on the way!)

So we've decided to go with the light yellow fabric that she already has up in half of her room (to lighten up her dark room) and stick with the yellow with white polka dots border. I will post pics up this week to show the finished work!

Get yellow with white polka dot borders here.

I will pictures up of the finished walls and borders up this week!

We will continue to make Big and little changes to her room this week and throughout the summer. Come back and check out our progress in her and in my own classroom!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Techie Tips For The New Blogger!

At 9 a.m. this morning, I was literally pleading to my computer.

“No, no, no! Please don’t do that!” Then it did it. On purpose. I wailed, “Noooooo!” as I shook my fist at the screen. I almost did the sobbing-against-the-wall-as-I-slide-downwards move. Yes, it was THAT dramatic. Even my 3-year-old boy started to shake his fist in the air and yell “nooooo!" Drama, drama, just like his mama.

What caused this uproar and wailing, you ask?
4 mean, little letters to the untrained eye: “HTML.”

Using a basic Blogger template, I tried HTML coding for the first time (just by watching a 3-minute YouTube video that didn’t have anyone speaking or enumerating instructions, go figure!) and it made my blog all funky. The margins were off and the text box became white and off-centered. It was bad.

Basically, what I did was this: I looked through every single html line and tried to type a “yes” for a “no” in the middle of thousands of random numbers, letters, and symbols that I thought it would fit. Smart. Then, trying to undo it, I couldn’t remember where I plugged the random “yes” in. New bloggers you know what I’m talking about!

Desperate, I went to a few teacher blogs and guess what? Others have already figured out the most common HTML codes for teacher blogs! In language and instructions I can actually understand!

BIGGEST TIP: When you do find yourself in the huge HTML page, hit “CTRL+F” and type in a snippet or paste whatever you are trying to find in the search box. This will help you find whatever you need in that crazy language. Then plug in given HTML code as directed. I wish I knew that this morning.

Here are a few of my favorite (and easiest) HTML coding tricks so far:

1. Feedjit: We are all curious to see who visits our page! This tracks who visits your page and where they are from. Every blog has this.

Click here.

2. Common Core Widget App:
Because we need to know if the TPT file we’re making aligns with the common core.

Click here.

3. Take off the annoying “verify you’re a human” typing box for readers:
It’s one less step to do before a reader posts a comment on your blog. It’s so dang hard to read what those made-up verification words are anyway so you get them wrong anyway. You probably have this default setup on your blog too. Maria at Kinder-Craze shares this tutorial!
Click here.

4. Scroll to top:
After reading a really long blog post, readers want to just get back to the top of the page. Here’s how to do that. Andrea at Cheers to School shares this tutorial!
Click here.

5. Create a link within your text:
I used to just copy and paste the actual web address onto my blog and told readers to “click here!” So you saw this insanely long address within my blog entry. Here’s how to take it out so readers would just have “click here” when trying to get to the link you’re providing. It makes your blog post look less messy. Cindy at In The Teachers' Lounge shares this tutorial. Click on example below.

Click here.

6. Erase shadows on pictures:
The best tip ever!! I tried to erase the “shadows” or white borders around pictures and clip art using picture editors, etc. It was time-consuming, ridiculous, and I gave up. Then I saw this tutorial on how to take the white borders off pictures! My mouth dropped. So easy! Cara at Teaching My Calling shares this tutorial. Check it out!

Click here.

I hope these beginner blogging tips help you with your own blogging adventures. I will try and add more of my favorite (and easiest) tips since I’m still learning too!

Hours and hours later, my brand new blog looks like a pro’s…oh how I wish! :) But I think that if I can do it, you can too!! Let me know how it works for you!

Thanks for visiting,

I Can...Be Organized!

Yay! It's summer!

I love summer because not only do I get to do whatever I want to my kids want to do for a couple of months, I also look forward to August (or September) when we, as teachers, are given a fresh, new start!

My summers are spent with my own kiddos, but during their nap time, I catch up on my t.v. shows (Suits and Big Bang Theory!) and also think about how the new school year will go. Yes, I can't stop thinking about school. I'm crazy.

I enjoy creating new things and revamping my classroom each summer so I can make my life easier for the upcoming school year. I like my classroom to be clean, organized, matching, and most things to be accessible and easy for my little friends and I to use. Sometimes I’m at school longer than I’m at my own home, so I definitely need to feel comfortable and feel like it is my sanctuary!

The posts on this page will feature organization tips that I have incorporated into my classroom and you're welcome to see how I do things in class. I wish that when I was a new teacher 7 years ago, someone helped me figure out the importance of keeping everything in order. I hope I can help you out too!

Please check back here to see pictures of how I'm arranging my new classroom, unit files, my classroom library, etc.!

Thanks for visiting,

Beware: A Work In Progress!

“It’s okay, Joelle! I can see that there is a method to the madness!”

My sweet co-teacher assured me when I told her that I didn't know what I was doing with my classroom. She told me that she had walked into my classroom earlier this week to see how things were coming along. How embarrassing! I KNOW what that room looks like and it ain't pretty! Everything is on the floor and scooted to the middle of the room...and I mean EVERYTHING!

Thank goodness she has more faith in me than I have in myself!

I am taking the place of an awesome, awesome teacher (seriously, the principal and her teammates got a little teary-eyed at the end-of-the-year luncheon!) who will be staying home with her baby. I told her not to worry and to leave anything she didn't want to take home. I would take care of the clean up and I was totally okay with that. I would HATE to bend over and scrub tiles and wipe down counters at 7 and a half months pregnant!! Been there, done that! Not fun!

What I didn't realize was that I would have to sort out MY things and HER things. I guess the HUGE pile of "stuff" in the middle of the classroom is now a bit overwhelming! So I procrastinated and ignored the huge mess and instead worked on projects that were NOT on the floor: my bulletin boards!

Anyways, here are a pictures of a few projects that I have been working on!


My first paint job! Nice and shiny! But up close, there are a LOT of uneven paint spots.
  • Side-by-side, these 2 cubby boxes will go under the big main white board in the front of the room.
  • Brown cardboard cubby box inserts for each student to put their things in.
  • The cubby box inserts will house extra supplies, books, and folders.


This fabric will be used for my curtains for my three big windows.

I can't do math miscalculated my measurements so I miraculously bought enough fabric for ALL 3 windows!! Imagine that. Originally, I was measuring the fabric PER WINDOW :( Ummm....yeah.

My mom will sew them for me. She asked if I also wanted ruffles on top (yes!) and extra fringe and attached designs on the bottom (no thanks!). I will tie them back with solid green ribbons. I asked our school custodian if I can have curtain rods drilled into the walls and he said that I can do "whatever" I want to the room! Yay! But I think I'll stick with the 3M Command hooks so I don't get in trouble later :)

Word Wall

Do you like how I discriminated against the letters "v, w, x, y, and z?" I ran out of room and I figured there really aren't 
that many words that would go under those letters :)

  • I typed up all the word wall vocabulary words with vowels in red letters and consonants in blue letters.
  • cut and laminated the words.
  • stuck magnets on them.
  • put up each word after they're learned and they stay up the remainder of the year.

The Common Core is incorporating a lot more vocabulary words in all subject areas, so this word wall will have the new vocabulary words posted (laminated and stuck on magnets). In years past, I put all my high-frequency/sight words on my word wall, but I think this year, I will just attach a laminated sight word list in each student's writing folder or in a totally separate folder. 
Math Workshop Rotation Board

  • I covered my bulletin boards with white poster boards first.
  • Added these little border beauties.
  • I used a whole pocket chart instead of cutting up 2 skinny pocket charts in half.
I have no idea if this Math Workshop Rotation board will work with the new core curriculum, but I will try it and see how it goes. If not, I'll be very sad when I have to take it down. It worked really well in my 1st grade class last year.

Got the lime green polka dot bulletin board here.

Got the Math Workshop Rotation Board here.

Reading Strategies Board

All good readers need strategies when they get stuck on a tricky word.

I got the strategies from here.

I am still trying to figure out where I found those CAFE posters.

I added 2 of my own posters (One-To-One Iguana and Blending Bumblebee) because I wanted to fit all of our old reading strategies with the new reading strategies. I also changed the font and pictures because I wanted cuter posters.

Those are my finished projects for now!


A couple of things I want to add to complete my classroom decor would be:

1. Green and blue pom pom balls above my reading nook:

2. A lamp shade in the corner of my reading nook:

A teacher in our school had this in her room. SO cute!

3. Blue and green polka-dot pennants on my white board that I've been seeing a lot in teaching blogs.

4. I would also like to put a little matching curtain in my doorway windows and a little corner table and green lampshade by the doorway.

5. A Dr. Seuss saying in vinyl lettering, and other vinyl lettering sayings, to put on my walls.

I've been on Pinterest and A LOT of other teacher blogs trying to find my favorite ideas to add to my room. Did I mention that my classroom NEEDS to be set up before I leave for my month-long, overseas trip next month? I get back 2 DAYS before the first contract day!! I planned that soooo wrong! I hope I get it done before I leave for my trip and so I can spend more time with my own kiddos this summer.

I will share more pics of the entire classroom when I have it all set up. Then I'll worry about my files - yikes! But I am really excited to see the end results!!

Thanks for visiting,