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!

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