With all the photos of cute classrooms making the rounds on Pinterest, I’ve given some thought to what my classroom looks like. It isn’t cute and I’m OK with that. It’s organized, most of the bins match (because I only buy the same semi-indestructible ones), and my students and I can find what we need quickly. But it isn’t decorated. I don’t really have a theme. And I don’t think cute is an adjective anyone would use to describe it.
I guess the reason I’m writing this post is two-fold. First, for those teachers out there that don’t have cute classrooms, I want you to know that it is OK. You’re in good company. There are plenty of us in the teaching world—even in elementary–with functional, student friendly rooms that don’t look like they came out of a teacher’s version of “Better Homes and Gardens.” The second reason for writing this post is a little more controversial. As professionals, how we spend our time and money setting up the classroom matters. It speaks volumes about what we hold important, and frankly it worries me when I see classrooms where more energy was placed into pulling off a jungle theme than building a classroom library.
Here’s why I don’t stress about decorating at the beginning of the year:
- BOOKS—If I have spare money, I use it buy books rather than decorations. In my classroom we call it “Book Christmas” when the Scholastic box arrives, and it’s a pretty big deal. Last semester I spent a small fortune building a cryptozoology section in the classroom library because my kids were crazy about bigfoot, aliens, vampires, ghosts, and monsters that year. I went to every Half Price Books within 60 miles of my house and wiped out their crypto collections. Right now I’m working to beef up my graphic novels tub, but that’s another post! Personally, I’d rather spend money to build readers than buy labels, borders, and notepads that match.
- FUNCTIONALITY—Everything in my classroom serves a purpose. Supply tubs have everything students need so we don’t lose instruction time during activities. The posters and anchor charts that line the room are relevant to what students are learning. Our classroom shelves hold tons of books, reference materials, and science supplies. There isn’t space for anything else.
- WE DECORATE TOGETHER–In fact, the walls are pretty bare when the students come in. I have a cursive alphabet chart up, but that’s about it. It’s our job as a class to fill that space with our learning. If you come back about 3 weeks later, it’s not bare anymore and students have ownership of what’s covering the walls.
- TIME—They say that we make time for what is important to us in life, and decorating is not at the top of my list. When it’s time to head back to school and set up the room, I revise systems so that my classroom will run more smoothly this year, or I plan and prep for lessons. In my mind, there’s more important things to do than put up colorful borders or paint all my tubs the same color.
- DISTRACTED STUDENTS—There are plenty of articles out there about how too much color and bling can take the focus away from learning for students who already struggle to pay attention. Check out this one from Scientific American. Food for thought! The article talks about kindergarteners. I teach upper elementary, but trust me, they get distracted too!
Now, if decorating is your thing and it makes you truly, deeply happy, then go for it. Just please don’t give the side eye to those of us who do things differently. We have our reasons.
And for you brand new teachers stepping into your very own classrooms for the first time, seeing blank walls and empty shelves, I offer this advice… Focus on the shelves first. If you’re lucky enough to have a little cash, buy a few books. Resist the urge to spend your hard earned money on jungle-themed décor. Purchase the essentials, a few tubs, some desk supplies, anchor chart paper and markers. Make peace with your bare walls and know that they won’t be bare for long.
–The Pensive Sloth
Are you ready for Back to School? I’m joining several other upper grade teachers to help you get ready for the next school year, and to give away some AWESOME prizes! You’ll have the opportunity to win something different on each blog in our group, so make sure that you visit the next blog in the blog hop at the bottom of this page. To enter to win the HUGE gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers, visit our group blog, Lesson Delicatessen. Make sure you hop through all the blogs to read all the great back to school tips and be entered to win over 20 different prizes!
UPDATE–Congratulations Cora B.! You’ve won The Pensive Sloth’s Rafflecopter giveaway. You should have received an email with instructions on claiming your prize. Thanks to all who entered and hopped along. Have a great beginning of the year!
School is just around the corner and in no time at all there will be 25 nervous, smiling, excited little people sitting in front of you. Put some STEM into your first week back by having your upper elementary students engage in LITERAL team building. Here’s how it works.
Put students in groups of 2-4 and give each group a stack of index cards. You can start with 30 per group, but have many more available just in case! Their goal is to work together to build a structure that is 10 inches tall using ONLY the index cards. No tape or glue! The catch is, on each card students must write something that their group has in common. You can add additional rules based on your class. I love watching how as students want more cards to build with, they work hard to find creative things they have in common (even if it is that they all breathe oxygen).
Before you start, I suggest making a chart of how to find things students have in common. It seems like a simple idea, but sometimes our kiddos need encouragement. Ideas include things you like, things you hate, places you’ve been, things you have done, family, pets, travel, games, sports, music, movies, etc. The list could go on forever…
Thanks for stopping by.
–The Pensive Sloth
Enter The Pensive Sloth’s Rafflecopter giveaway by clicking the Rafflecopter link below. I’m giving away $10 winner’s choice from my TPT store and a $20 gift card to Oriental Trading. There are 4 ways to win. Good luck!
Then…hop on over to Rockin’ Resources for more back to school ideas and a chance to win some writing resources!
And don’t forget to visit The Lesson Delicatessen for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers!
THE PENSIVE SLOTH’S GIVEAWAY TERMS AND CONDITIONS–This giveaway runs August 4-10, 2014 and includes up to $10 of products from The Pensive Sloth’s TPT page and a $20 e-gift certificate from Oriental Trading. Once a winner is chosen at random through Rafflecopter, the winner will have 24 hours to claim his/her prize. If the winner does not claim the prize within 24 hours, I will spin again and contact the next person. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions. Good luck!
Are you looking for a fun way to introduce yourself to your students? Try a quiz. I’ve done this with my 5th graders for the last 5 years and it is super simple and tons of fun. When I was young, I remember having many questions about who my teacher was. Was she married? What does she like to do? Is she human? As a teacher, I wanted my students to know a little about me and decided that a quiz would be an interactive way to share.
It’s easy, just list 5-10 statements about yourself, some true and some false. You can have students work alone, but I usually have my kids work with a partner and record their answers on index cards. I want my kids to talk to each other on that first day and I love hearing the conversations as they make inferences like “She is wearing a green shirt, so she must like green.” As you reveal the answers, you can explain what makes the statements true or false for you.
Best of luck as you prepare to greet your kiddos!
–The Pensive Sloth
School starts in about a month. Resistance is futile! I have a terrible time saying goodbye to napping and reading by the pool, but I always look forward to the start of the year. Shopping for school supplies and meeting your kiddos at back to school night–Love it! It is just around the corner…and so are those new personal financial literacy standards. Now, if you are like me, the first thing that came to mind is, “How will I fit THAT in?” Followed by, “And will that be on the STAAR test?” One of the new standards has 5th graders defining 4 kinds of taxes (income, payroll, sales, and property) and that sounds like a great way to integrate some social studies! So, here are a few ideas and a freebie!
Enjoy those last few weeks of summer! Oh, and here’s a link to the free “Be an Accountant” activity!
–The Pensive Sloth