Quick and Easy Classroom Art Gallery

Many teachers have their students do art projects or academic projects with an artistic component. Too often, it seems like only the artist and teacher see each piece. Here is an easy way to fix that:

As your students finish their projects, have them affix them to the classroom whiteboard, either with tape or a magnet. This serves several functions:

It gives slowpokes or off-task students a visual cue that others are finishing.

The students know that others see and appreciate their art.

The students see examples that might influence their work.

The shared exhibit space helps build community—the students can chit-chat and exchange compliments while they display their work, and consolidating the art in  symbolizes community.

If this is a project you didn’t intend to grade (which is likely), then you don’t have to go through the fuss of collecting work, holding it a few days while you “process” it, and returning the work. Just peruse the art, clipboard in hand, and make a few notes, grades or check marks.

If you want a longer-lasting exhibition, have students display their work on a bulletin board or taped to the classroom door.

If you are short on space, students can simply display their artwork on their desks and the class can have a gallery walk. With this method, you lose the benefit of consolidating the art and providing a visual cue that it’s time to wrap up the project.  However, it’s certainly better than nothing. At least the kids know their art was seen and appreciated.

I hope this tip adds to your class’s pleasure in creating works of art.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 31, 2012


Class Antics: Best Back to School Advice EVER!

A National Board Certified Teacher shares tips, tricks and time-tested advice to help you get ready for back to school.

This Best EVER! collection is a must for first year teachers, but veteran teachers will enjoy it, too. I sincerely hope that these tips ease your worries as you face back-to-school stresses.

How to Set Up Your Classroom

Part One: Facing an Empty Room: this will help you get started on that terrifying first day you see your new classroom.

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards: there’s more to it than you think, and this post will help you slap something respectable up so you can get back to work on more important things.

Part Three: Decorate the Walls: whether you have supplies or have to beg, borrow or steal (just kidding!), this post will help you cover those institutional cinderblock walls.

Part Four: Basic Management Systems: from managing your pencil supply to organizing work turn-in, this post will help you get the bare-bones systems in place.

Meet the Teacher Night/Open House

How to Organize Supplies from Meet the Teacher Night: if you can only read one post, make it this one! Learn how to save HOURS and HOURS by setting up your classroom so families can organize the back-to-school supplies.

Meet the Teacher Night: A Guide for Families: learn how to get the most out of back to school night.

Have kids sort the community school supplies: a fun time-sponge (soaks up time) activity that helps you organize the classroom and build community! A great way to deal with those Meet the Teacher Night supplies.

The First Day of School

A Sample First Day of School Letter Home: feel free to use the whole thing if you like! This sample letter will save you time so you can get back to setting up your classroom and planning a fun first day.

How to plan for the first day of school: the first day of school is a day like no other. Learn how to plan well so that the rest of your year goes smoothly.

The New Teacher’s Complete Sourcebook: this Scholastic Professional Book is very, very helpful to first-year teachers. You will especially like the minute-by-minute schedule for the first day of school. There is a unique schedule for each grade, K-4. I was incredibly glad to have this book!

Give kids a snack on the first day of school: this tip helps you break the ice, practice birthday treat protocol and ingratiate yourself with your students!

Don’t forget to TEACH on the first day of school: here is some good advice on how to inject some academics into the first day of school. Students, parents and administrators will appreciate your effort!

Throw Down a Challenge the First Week of School: coordinating nicely with Don’t Forget to TEACH on the First Day of School, this post tells you how to give your students a motivating challenge that builds academic skills, confidence and community.

A typical elementary school day schedule: this is really helpful for first year teachers. Get a sense of how a typical day is scheduled. Also helpful for parents who want a sense of what their child does at school.

Greeting Visitors Procedure: teach your students this charming greeting that also functions as a “principal’s here” alarm bell. Practicing this on the first day of school is super fun and can soak up half an hour, easy!

Set up class jobs right away! Years of experience tells me this is the BEST way to do classroom jobs. It’s really easy for you, and setting up the jobs on the first day gets kids into the swing of things. This activity soaks up half an hour or more!

First Week of School: Learn the Names Challenge: are you worried about learning all your students’ names by the end of the first week? Well, if you use this tip, the kids REALLY won’t care whether you know their names or not! They’ll be rooting for you to make a few mistakes!

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 24, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 4

Part Four: Basic Management Systems

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Through blood, sweat and tears, you have created a decent learning environment out of a previously forbidding and forlorn empty cinderblock box.

Now it’s time to set up a few classroom management systems.

A Pencil System

Decide on a good place for your pencil sharpener. Decide on a system for dealing with classroom pencils. I recommend the two-cup system: dull and sharp. New teachers, dealing with pencils is actually pretty complicated, so here are several posts to help you out!

Pencils, Part One: Managing Your Pencil Supply
Pencils, Part Two: Some Advice About Pencil Sharpening
Pencils, Part Three: The Pencil Drive

Turn In Work System

If you can afford it, buy Literature Organizers (their proper name!) at a teaching store or office supply store. Use pieces of index card to number the boxes 1-30 or so. On or before the first day of school, assign numbers to your students. They can turn everything in to these numbered boxes.

You will really, really appreciate having this system in place for receiving all the back-to-school forms.

If you can’t afford literature organizers, there is still hope. One idea is to tape down plain old manila file folders to the countertop in a long line. The student work slides into their numbered folder.

Another idea is to use existing cubbies or whatever your school provided for backpacks. On the first day, at least, you might rather receive paperwork in these cubbies and have kids hang their backpacks on their chairs. Trust me, you will like having all the back-to-school forms alphabetized!

Or you can just have a few paper trays out, like one for each subject. Then at least student work is organized by subject. You can enter these grades in the gradebook haphazardly, arrange papers in number order before you enter grades, or if you teach older grades, ask a student to put the papers in number order for you.

Lunch Count/Attendance System

A lot of schools have 2-4 choices for lunch each day, plus sack lunch from home. Many teachers set up a magnet system with numbered magnets for each student. Each morning, the kids put their magnet under their lunch choice. Whoever’s left either forgot to move their magnet or is absent.

Set this system up in a corner of your whiteboard, or you can use the side of a metal desk or filing cabinet. Here is an example of a lunch count system with magnets.

Organize your Bookshelves

My favorite way to organize bookshelves is with clear plastic shoe box bins. I sort the books by reading level, but earlier in my career I just sorted them by genre. Kids will keep the books very nicely in these shoe box bins. If you just put the books on the shelf, you will have a mess before long. Of course, it will look okay for Open House, so you might just want to set the books out and buy some bins next week!

VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT LABEL YOUR BINS WITH MARKER! WRITE ON A NOTE CARD AND TAPE IT INSIDE THE BIN. You will repurpose your bins so many times; don’t tie yourself down with permanent marker labels!

Organize School Supplies

I organize school supplies in plastic shoe box bins. My classroom comes with open shelving, which I covered with plastic blinds from Lowe’s, about $15-20. This keeps the classroom looking serene.

Try to avoid organizing with cardboard boxes of any type. They look tacky and smell funny after a while, particularly if your school is humid.

Extra Credit: Set up for the influx of supplies that students will bring on Meet the Teacher Night. You REALLY, REALLY want to make time for this! Read my blog post on how to do it.

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems (this post)

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 3

Part Three: Decorate the Walls

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Once you have arranged the furniture and covered your bulletin boards, put a little time into decorating the walls of your classroom. You will need some posters or wall decorations.

There are many sources:

Shop for educational and motivational posters you find at teaching stores, office supply stores, and DOLLAR STORES, which are often a lot nearer to you at any given time than a teaching store.

Ask veteran teachers in your school if they have extras to give or lend you. Most teachers have a lot and are willing to share!

Required posters, like for curriculum programs, character education programs, whatever the school gives you and insists you display.

I prefer relaxing and beautiful artwork to school posters. I have assembled cool artwork from around my house, DOLLAR STORES, cut-up calendars, discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx, and poster sales. You might also find that your parents or relatives have canvasses or framed prints that could look good in your classroom.

Ideas for if you have no posters:

A quick homemade poster of class rules. Principals like to see this display. Don’t make your rules too complicated! It’s just a poster; it’s not magic and it won’t inspire kids to behave like little angels. Just write a few be-safe-and-respectful type rules and get on with it.

If you can’t get your hands on decent posters before school starts, fill the walls with grids of construction paper ready to display student work.

Using black marker on construction paper, write BIG and use several pieces of paper to illustrate basic educational concepts. Six traits of writing, vowel sounds, mathematical operations, whatever. Just keep these really bold and graphic.

Use pieces of construction paper or butcher paper to create blank graphic organizers or thinking maps. Put clothespins on each piece of paper so you can clip things to the map during the year. Here is a simple example.

You can hot glue clothespins to the wall, then clip posters or construction paper to them. You can put student work out as soon as the kids arrive. Click here for a good example.

How to hang your pictures and posters:

If you are lucky, your classroom’s walls are easy to work with. You can hang things up with pushpins and staples.

More likely, you have a classroom lined with cinder block walls. It is really hard to hang things on them, but not impossible. Here are some ways to affix your posters and decorations:

Hot glue holds the posters really well, but will come off the wall when you are ready. With hot glue you have to work quickly, so an extension cord can let you dot the glue as you hang. A quick Internet survey showed that hot glue is the hands-down favorite for hanging things on cinderblock walls. Get a glue gun Wal-Mart, Target, or a crafts store.

Adhesive products: I like the 3-M mounting strips and sticky stuff. Get it at Wal-Mart or similar stores.

Adhesive products with Velcro: Get these at Wal-Mart or similar stores. You get a sheet of squares with velcro. Arrange them the way you want on your poster and put the Velcro that’s gonig on the wall right on the Velcro on your poster. (You do not want to mess with trying to line things up!) This will hold a while, but not as long as adhesive products without Velcro or hot glue.

Framed pictures are nice because you can drill into the wall, set up a hook, and hang them. (Confession: I don’t know how to do this; my dad always did it for me. But here are some online directions.)

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls (this post)
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 10, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 2

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Most classrooms have at least one bulletin board in the room and one in the hallway.  Set up your bulletin boards before you worry about other wall decorations.  Your boards don’t need displays on them for Open House, but it helps if they are at least outfitted with butcher paper and a bulletin board border.

Get the butcher paper from the school’s supply and use it to cover your bulletin boards.  You can skip this step if the bulletin board looks good without butcher paper.  Don’t discount the nice clean effect of plain white bulletin board paper.  It doesn’t fade during the year and it looks good with a construction paper grid for displaying student work.  (see below.)

You will want to use bulletin board border.  This can be found at teaching stores, office supply stores, and sometimes at dollar stores.  If you are in a hurry, just ask a veteran teacher for bulletin board border.  Most of them have extensive collections housed in special bulletin board border storage boxes.

You can get by without bulletin board border if you do a really nice clean job of setting up the butcher paper.  In my experience, first year teachers have not yet acquired this skill.  Cover your mistakes with border.

You can put displays on the bulletin boards, but this might not be a priority if you are facing an empty room with nothing on the walls.  Many teachers put the students’ names on interesting shapes for the bulletin board in the hall, but this has to be replaced early in the year.

I like to create a grid of construction paper for displaying student work.  I arrange construction paper in a pleasing pattern on the bulletin board.  Then, during the year, I attach student work with a thumbtack.  The bulletin board can stay up all year while the display changes.  This grid is really easy to do and probably your best bet as a beginner.

You can have students create bulletin board displays on the first day or week of school.  Have the kids decorate a 4 x 6 index card, a piece of paper, a shape like a paper plate, whatever.  You can have the kids just do pictures, or you can add a writing sample or getting-to-know you aspect.  This work can become the first thing featured on your bulletin board.

Later, when you are not so overwhelmed, cover the bulletin board with fabric rather than butcher paper.  Thisbackground can last a school year or more.  I recommend dollar-a-yard fabric; don’t go much more expensive than that.  I usually find fabric at Wal-Mart, but crafts stores also have good selections.  A bulletin board fabric should be either solid color or with a really small print.  It’s nice if your solid-color fabric can have some texture to it, but it’s not necessary.  It is very important that you IRON the bulletin board fabric before you staple it to the board.  This makes all the difference in the world!  No amount of wrinkle spray or stretching will give you the nice clean look of ironing.

First year teachers: just cover the bulletin boards with butcher paper, cover mistakes with a border and move on.  You have a lot to do!

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards (this post)
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

P.S. In the photos above, I covered a bulletin board with fabric, used monkey decorations from a bulletin board kit, and stapled construction paper in a grid.  Then, as my class achieved learning goals, I had them all sign a paper relating to the goal and we used a push pin to display it on the bulletin board.

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 3, 2012