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Flexible Seating Storage

You're ready to try flexible seating and now the big question...

Where do kids put their stuff?

The good news is that it's not as tricky as it seems.
The really good news is that it actually makes your classroom more organized!

Here are the 3 things teachers LOVE!

1. Pencil Box Name Tags
Pencil box name tags are my number one must have for flexible seating!

They make it easy for my kids to move around the room and keep their references. I love being able to teach math without passing out 120 charts or number lines. I love being able to say "look at your log in on your pencil box if you forget" rather than passing out computer cards. They save me so much time!

The name tags fit all of those standard plastic pencil boxes that cost around $1 at superstores, craft stores, and drug stores. I print and laminate my tags and then attach them with hot glue around the edges. Some other teachers like Velcro or tape so you can choose the option that works best for you!

2. Storage drawers
In addition to art supplies, each student will still need a place for her folder, notebook, finished work, or items like that. I think drawers are the best!

I love my Trofast storage drawers from ikea. My students don't have lots of big textbooks so they work perfectly in our classroom.  Here is what they keep inside:
  • take home folder
  • math workbook
  • pencil box
  • personal items (like chapstick...not toys)
That's it!

Having drawers eliminated the mess hiding inside desks! Papers for parents are more likely to go home on time and kids aren't wasting time digging for things that are lost! I have 5 sets of drawers spread out around the room so everyone isn't cramming into the same space at once. 

All of the teachers on my team use drawers, but they have some different styles. The rolling carts with drawers work well too!

3. Bins or Magazine Holders
We use reading workshop so at any given time, my students have a collection of 10-12 books that they are reading. I like keeping these books in a book bin. 

It makes it easy for them to move the books to their reading spots during workshop. It also keeps their drawer from becoming too crowded with picture books.  

I have these placed in different spots around the room so it doesn't get too congested at one spot when we start or end reading workshop. 

Are you ready to organize your students supplies? Your students are fortunate to have a teacher who is working to make their classroom the best space to learn! If you have more questions about flexible seating, check out  Flexible Seating Secrets to Success! I would love to hear how you keep student supplies organized in your classroom so please leave a comment. 

First Week of Reading Workshop

Whenever I thought about starting reading workshop, I felt so overwhelmed!

What should I teach first? 
How do I get the kids into a routine? 
When do I give them partners? 
Where should they sit?

If you're feeling overwhelmed too, it's okay! You can set up routines and expectations that will help you make the most of reading workshop all year! I am sharing all of my lesson plans with you so you can see exactly how the first week of reading workshop looks in my classroom!

I devote the first week of school to getting "Ready to Read." I use this time to teach exactly what reading workshop looks like in our classroom. Even if my kids are familiar with reading workshop, it's a great way to introduce your expectations and routines. If you have any kiddos who are new to a workshop model, this week is perfect for them!

Here are the lessons I cover:
  • Readers choose a smart spot to read their books
  • Readers do their best to always do real reading
  • Readers share their books with partners
  • Readers use mats to plan and track their reading
  • Readers know that reading is important 

Building enthusiasm and excitement for reading is just as important as the lessons! I squeeze lots of fun reading activities into the week so kids see how much fun reading can be! I also use this week to learn about each of my readers!

Our absolute favorite read aloud for the week is Madeline Finn and the Library Dog. You can read it aloud or watch it on youtube. Madeline Finn is a very reluctant reader who adamantly says she doesn't like to read. When she meets Bonnie, a dog at the library, everything changes! Kids love the surprise ending and sweet characters!

We even make our own reading dogs so everyone has a mascot for reading! At the end of the week, these sweet pups go home to encourage students to keep reading! You can read about all the details in my lesson plans. 

Here are some of our other favorite activities from the first week!

We sort Real Reading and Fake Reading so kids know exactly what they should or should not be doing during reading workshop. You can make your own cards or print pre-made cards. You can always add something that's specific to your class. Notice that I added a "When is lunch?" card because we did reading workshop right before lunch last year.

We also learn how to use reading mats this week. In my lesson connection, I tell a story about going to yoga class without a yoga mat. I explain that even yoga teachers and experts use a mat to help them do their best. Readers can use reading mats to help them do their best.

The first week is a great time to introduce partner routines. It's an awesome way to establish a community of readers who help each other! We do fun activities to build teamwork and celebrate successful partners too! You might be able to assign permanent partners or just use temporary partners.

If you're ready to start reading workshop for the first time or just looking for a new way to roll it out this year, you can download all of my lesson plans for the first week. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who works so hard to build establish routines that will make everyone successful this year! If you have more ideas about starting reading workshop, please share them in comments!

Bright Classroom Decor

I always loved my classroom, but one day I decided to change almost everything!

This was my list of classroom design must-haves:

  • clean and bright
  • less clutter and more space
  • kid-friendly and teacher-friendly
  • organized and accessible
  • flexible but manageable

This is the classroom I am happy to share with my first graders every day!

Here's how I turned that must-have list into a reality. 

  • clean and bright

I designed classroom posters with lots of white space, bright colors, and crisp photographs. I also covered all of my bulletin boards with the same fabric. It has tiny little flecks of color so small marks and staples won't be noticeable! After all, I want everything to last a long time!

I collected white or light colored furniture pieces. I know that sounds crazy when working first graders, but I promise it's okay! I've had my big bookcase for 12 years and it still looks great!

  • less clutter and more space

I wanted a room where my kids had lots of space to move, wiggle, and play while they learn! The solution for me was getting rid of some student desks and my teacher desk. Getting rid of my desk also eliminated some clutter! Trust me- the drawers were a disaster!

I had 27 kiddos on my roster when I was setting up. It was important that they all have a solid work surface for when the art teacher comes to the classroom. I was required to keep some desks in my classroom so I turned them around to make small tables.

  • kid-friendly and teacher friendly

I added different types of seating to make the learning environment match the needs of my students. I took the legs off one table to make it low and raised another up high for a standing surface.

I found some smaller tables that are perfect for partners or kids who prefer to work alone.

I also added laundry baskets with pillows for a relaxing Smart Spot. I highly recommend buying pillows with indoor/outdoor fabric so you can wipe them off and clean them.

We have scoop rockers and clipboards in bins so kids can grab what they need and find a Smart Spot to work. There are also kid-friendly chairs around the classroom for reading and working.

  • organized and accessible
I have to tell you- my classroom has not always been organized, but this one tip has really, really helped! 

I started labeling EVERYTHING! It's the best, because I know where everything goes and the kids know where everything goes! They love to help clean up and now they won't ask you where to put something a hundred times!

 I love my teacher tool box and Sterilite drawers to organize all of the things that used to be in my desk. I got them both from Amazon. I store my copies, books, and materials for upcoming lessons in these drawers too. All of the labels make it easy for me, my kids, and substitutes to find supplies! You can download the storage drawer labels for free!

I use lots of baskets and bins for our community supplies but they all have labels! The kids can quickly see where everything is organized, and clean up quickly!

Our library is organized with labels and matching stickers too. I have one area with topics and genres and another that is organized by reading level.

  • flexible but manageable
I can only keep my sanity if things are well managed in the classroom. I wanted our classroom design to help with that management. 

My kiddos all have personal supply drawers for their writing folders, take home folders, math workbooks, and pencil boxes.  They also have book bins for independent reading. I have the drawers and bins at different spots around the room so 27 kids aren't all trying to squeeze into one space at the same time. 

And now the finishing touches!

I wanted a bright, clean look, but I strongly believe in the importance of environmental print. I only hung things that I knew my kiddos would use as they grow as readers and writers.

We use our word wall and word sight helper posters  ALL. THE. TIME! The posters have a rhyming picture (like flower and our or hay and they) to help with reading and spelling tricky sight words.

Are you ready turn your classroom into a space you love even more? Your students are lucky to share this space with a teacher who understands how the classroom space impacts learning! If you have questions or ideas about creating a bright and clean classroom, please share them in the comments. 

If you want to save some time, all of my photo classroom decor is ready to download and print!

Flexible Seating Classroom

I'm back in my same classroom this year, but it got a transformation! A teacher who retired from my building saw my classroom pictures online and asked where I was teaching now! I didn't realize how different the room looked with a few updates!

Last year I tried flexible seating for the first time. I learned SO much about how to make my classroom fit the needs of my students and me! Before I started setting up my classroom, I had a vision of what I wanted and needed from our space. I WANTED our classroom to be bright and welcoming. I also NEEDED our classroom to be organized and functional!  Finding just what you need is important so I included affiliate links if you're looking to find anything for your own classroom.

Here's how things looked when I walked back in for the first time in August....

and here's how it looked when my 25 new first graders came....

One of the biggest changes I made to my classroom this year was covering my black chalkboards with white contact paper. I don't typically write on my boards so I used plain contact paper. Dry erase contact paper would be awesome too if you need that surface for writing. If you're wondering, the boards are still magnetic and didn't require any special magnets. Here's my original board and tools for cutting and smoothing...

...and now you can see my covered boards! The back board will be our magnetic word wall. We will be adding words to our wall throughout the year. The front board will be our math and calendar wall.

As I was setting up this year, I really needed to consider my curriculum and how I would be teaching. I will be implementing Reading Workshop this year so I needed a lot of open space for anchor charts. My bulletin boards are covered with fabric, but I intentionally left them blank so we can fill them together. 

Keeping our classroom library organized and functional was even more important this year. We have one library area that is organized by topic, character, genre, etc. Last year I used large Sterilite bins (without the lids) to keep these shelves organized. I needed some more specific labels this year, so I got some smaller clear bins from Target too! Using 2 different sizes of bins works best for the collection of books that I have now. 

We also have a library area in the front of our classroom that is organized by text difficulty. A few of our bins didn't fit in this area so you may see them tucked in other spots around the classroom. All of these books have matching stickers so we can easily borrow and return books. I added some curtains and plants to this area to make it look more inviting. This is where I will do most of my whole group instruction.

Our favorite read aloud books got a special place in the classroom too! 

Last year, I had a large table in the front of the room that I used for our community supplies. I moved that table behind our futon this year for extra seating. Our community supplies needed a new home so they moved to a shelf at the front of the room. My firsties share all of things in these bins.

My first graders keep their personal supplies (pencil boxes, folders, journals, and math workbooks) in drawers. They keep their books for independent and partner reading in bins. I spaced the drawers and bins out around the room to keep the areas from getting too crowded. 

My teacher supplies are still organized in Sterilite drawers and a teacher tool box. I sprayed my tool box white to freshen it up! I haven't had a desk in a years, but I still need a place to keep everything. 

Most of my flexible seating choices are the same this year, because they worked out very well last year. I added a futon and some bands to my chairs, but I still loved everything we had! Here are some of the places where my first graders can choose for their Smart Spots to work or read. For my secrets to success for flexible seating, click here

The low table is always a popular spot. It can be used with or without wobble cushions. I just removed the leg extensions from a standard table. 

These two little side tables and step stools make a great space for partner work. I have another  matching table and stool on the other side of the room. 

I have 2 tables made from desks in my classroom this year. Each table has 2 ball chairs and 2 regular chairs with Fidgeteez chair bands. Although I have 25 kiddos, I have found that having 4 of each seating choice works well. I was allowed to remove my extra desks this year so I only have 8 desks!

This table doubles as a small group table. My stools are from ikea, but I found bright cushioned stools Amazon that I love too!

Our classroom futon is perfect for reading and partner work. This specific style is out of stock, but here is a very similar futon from the same company. Our stools from Otto Storage are the best. One is used to store cushions and one is used to store clipboards. They are both used a seats and tables too!

There are several cozy chairs in the classroom for reading and working. Our back table has 4 wobble stools and there is a basket of scoop rockers too! Another corner of the room has a stack of laundry baskets and pillows that are fun for reading!

We call our flexible seating choices "Smart Spots." We used our Smart Spots book so much last year  that I had my copy made into a book for my classroom. We read it every day for the first week of school, and we will reread it again throughout the year as much as needed. 

Thanks so much for stopping by our Happy Place! 

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