Saturday, 20 July 2013

Teacher Area Optimum Organization {PROJECT CLASSROOM SERIES}

It's that time of the week! Optimum Organization time! 

I'm sorry to say that, for the second week running, my organization is going to be planning-based with nothing concrete to show for it. We don't break up until Wednesday so at the moment my classroom is completely stripped of any paper, furnishings or trimmings and the kiddies and I are decamping to the field outside for all our lessons whilst another class uses our space. Therefore, I thought I'd use the opportunity to take some time to consider the organization of the central hub of our room - the Teacher Area.

Last year, my old room didn't have any space for a teacher area. I just ended up with a battered old desk tucked against the wall. This year, I decided to take action and commandeer an entire corner of our classroom as MINE! 

The only problem is, that corner of the classroom was pretty spacious and I consequently became pretty complacent about the space. I kept telling myself that it was neat and ordered and tidy and organized and shiny and beautiful and exemplary... You get the picture. That is, until I saw this photograph:


Feel free to turn away now. I won't be offended if you never return. Who am I to provide organisational  tips with a command centre like this?! It doesn't get any better in my surrounding area either...

So, as I'm moving room again this year (4 years teaching, 4 different classrooms!), I get an opportunity to rethink these areas and have them ready mentally for when I move back into my new room in 3 weeks' time. (The setup there is very similar, with only the position of the shelves being different. I will still have the same amount of storage thank goodness!)

To do this, I'm going to use my 2 stars and a wish system that I use to mark the kiddies' books. (Although I definitely won't limit myself to those numbers!). The stars are what I like and the wish is what I would change. Here goes...

- The amount of storage I have! It's fab having all this space for the things I need and to have everything in one handy place.
- My hanging file organizer. This has revolutionised my paperwork organisation and general day-to-day life.
- My Teacher Toolbox. I heart this. See above :)
- My red and blue trays for homework and notes/lunch money to come in (although I'm definitely not precious about the trays themselves - just the system!)

- Baskets, baskets, baskets!!! For all the shelves, everywhere, lots of them.
- Labels!
- Some sort of the system for my maths resources. We don't have many manipulatives as we use a scheme that requires just a set few but I can't seem to find a good system to get them ready when I want them in lessons. Maybe tubs? Here are some ideas from some other brilliant bloggers:

Shelves and drawers from Fourth Grade Studio

Clear plastic tubs from A Cupcake for the Teacher

Rolling drawers from Mrs Freshwater's Class

What do you think? Probably clear tubs are the way to go for what I have mind.

- Contact paper/paint for the back of the shelves to cover the old walls
- Maybe some curtains to cover up the top/middle shelves. I don't use the things on there so much and  the curtains might cover and smarten things up.

So that's it for my rather measly contribution to an otherwise fab linky. Thanks to Kristen (Ladybug's Teacher Files) and Elizabeth (Fun in Room 4B) for hosting! I'll be off for the next couple of weeks on holiday but will hopefully have more to show after a few days in my new class. In the meanwhile, I'd love some suggestions with your thoughts on what I could do. Please let me know if anything springs to mind! :D

See you soon!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

I love my Liebster Award! (and quite a bit About Me!)

Yesterday, when looking through comments from my first Monday Madness post I was absolutely gobsmacked to find two nominations for the Liebster Award. I am so utterly flattered, amazed and grateful to Katie and Mary for thinking of me and my newest venture. Let's hope I do them credit!

As I understand it, the Liebster Award is presented to new bloggers, with fewer than 200 followers. Liebster, a German word, means...

What a lovely award to receive! I feel all sparkly and twinkly. Thank you ladies! My part of the job is easy. :) I get to answer some questions about myself, which were posed by Mary and Katie, then list 11 random facts and nominate 5-11 further new blogs as my Liebsters. Here I go...

Questions from Mary

1.  How did you come up with your blog name?
My classroom always used to be known for being the messy one and although I'm getting better at it, I will always sacrifice short-term tidiness for the enjoyment and learning of the kiddies and that's the way I like it. :) I really wanted my blog title to reflect my personality and teaching priorities and explain how fundamental the children are to my classroom. Focus on the learning, not the teaching! 

2.  What type of music do you like?
Anything and everything. My iPod on Shuffle is one of the most hilarious/embarrassing things you will ever hear. Who doesn't love a blend of Killswitch Engage/Craig David/Taylor Swift?!

3.  What is your favorite sport to watch/play?
None. I am definitely an indoor gal. Unfortunately, my otherwise wonderful MJK is a devoted sports-lover and so I would have to say, my favourite sport to watch has to be football (soccer) when his team, Tottenham Hotspur, wins, as it ensures a very lovely evening in the Messy household :D.

4.  How many siblings do you have?
3! How lucky am I?! I have 3 fabulous sisters and I absolutely love it. As I grew up they were my playmates and now that I'm older they are my confidantes, cheerleaders and best friends. Huge thanks to my wonderful parents for all their devoted love, support and care which turned us into the people we are today.

5.  What is your favorite restaurant?
Farmer Brown's in Norwich. I love wandering into town with MJK on a balmy evening and enjoying some delicious local Tapas in this eclectically-designed and laid-back treasure.

6.  What do you enjoy doing most when you are on vacation?
Chatting, reading, laughing, singing, hugging, catching-up and spending time with people that I don't get to see nearly as often as I would like.

7.  What do you enjoy most about teaching?
The people I spend my day with. How amazing is it that I get paid to spend all day with 30 sparky, interested, kind, caring, supportive, polite and interesting kiddies?! What an amazing opportunity!

8.  What are your hobbies?
Crafting!! Reading, shopping (does that count? :D), baking, travelling and most recently, blogging!

9.  What is your favorite children's book?
This one is so hard! I suppose it has to be A Place To Call Home by Alexis Deacon. It always makes me cry and think about everything ahead of the little people that I teach and all the things they will achieve and places they will go!

10.  What do you enjoy most about having a blog?
The community! I've received such a wonderful, warm welcome and it's such a pleasure to share in all your great ideas and voices. 

11.  What do you like best about where you live?
That it's quite and safe yet vibrant and lively. That I get to live the city-life but am a 7minute drive from the countryside and 25mins from lots of glorious beaches. The very, very best bit is that MJK lives there with me! What a joy it is to wake up next to someone you love. :D

Questions from Katie

1. If you could hop in the car and take a road trip anywhere right now, where would it be?
To my parents' house. Although I love where I live, I really miss being so far from them and my sisters. I really can't wait until they invent the teleporter!

2. What book/magazine are you currently working on reading?
At the moment, I'm reading Bartimaeus, which was recommended to me by one of my kiddies. It's fab!

3. How did you choose to start a blog?
I was tired of sitting on the sidelines! I was so impressed by all the wonderful ideas and suggestions out there but felt that I couldn't really join in or even say well done until I had put in some work myself. Turns out I'm absolutely loving it!

4. If you could get paid to do anything, what would it be? 
Teaching! I seriously adore my job, love Mondays and can't think of anything better to do. I can come in on anyday with a grump, feeling tired and within 5 mins of being in the classroom I feel energised, positive and so happy. Where else would I be able to combine that with a reason to buy a corner rounder I ask you?! :D

5. Favourite classroom theme?
All of Schoolgirl Style's designs. She is fabulous! At the moment, I'm all about the navy/coral combination (see my Classroom Breakup post to learn more about this dilemma!) but, if I lived in the States and could find a wider range of bulletin board papers and trims, I'd love to go for Tattoed Teacher's new Vintage Chalkboard theme. It's just so pretty!

6. Best teaching moment?
I couldn't possibly pick! One of the most recent moments however was this absolutely dear message from one of my boys, who had had a bit of a tough time in previous years. He and I have absolutely meshed this year and he has grown and shone and exceeded everything we could ever have dreamed for him. He hid outside the classroom one afternoon and came in with this note. Needless to say, I sobbed...

He even accessorised it with glitzy polka-dots for me!

7. If you had one wish, what would you wish for? (And none of that wishing for more wishes nonsense!)
Health, love and happiness. That's it. I feel so blessed that I don't need to wish for them at the moment. 

8. What is the strangest food you've ever eaten?
I'm pretty gastronomically boring and mellow unfortunately. Maybe frogs at my grandparents' house?

9. Who was your favourite teacher growing up and why?
Mr Pashby - because he had a reputation as the fiercest, strictest teacher in school and was actually the most fun and engaging teacher you could dream of. I try to emulate him in my teaching and wish I could go back and watch him again. What an inspiration!

10. What is your favourite trait about yourself?
Empathy (MJK calls it my scary stalker mind-reading!). Although sometimes I have no idea how to support people with their worries, I like knowing that I'm aware of the people around me and that I will always put the people I love first.

11. If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A golden labrador. What a loyal, gentle, happy creature. Who wouldn't want one?!

Phew! That's it for this huuuge Q&A About Me section. Well done if you made it to the bottom of this section!

What I'm going to do (and I hope Katie and Mary don't mind too much), is pop one of my 11 random facts into each of my next 11 posts, instead of making you read through another huge section all about me.

Instead, let's now celebrate some other fabulous new bloggers and give them their chance to share in this virtual circle time. :) I have to admit, I've broken the rules here. I haven't been able to limit it down to my 5 favourite blogs under 200 followers, but instead I've looked at some brilliant UK-based blogs, which contribute lots of resources and ideas to the system. Under the radar stars! :)

So, without further ado...

My nominees are:


Congratulations to all of the above. Brilliant blogs a-plenty and I hope you all enjoy discovering some new blogging adventures. :D

See you all soon!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Welcome to the Great Classroom Makeover of 2013! {PROJECT CLASSROOM SERIES}

Pheww. Huge sigh. Slight empty feeling. After a whole year of the hardest work I've ever done (and my fab colleagues and brilliant kiddies too!) the inspectors came this week and have now left. We've done our best and what will be will be but it's such a relief to know that I've played my part for the school and I can now enjoy the final few days (5 left!) with my kiddos and focus on making next year even better. Plus, I'm moving up to 5th grade with them so I can really enjoy it without the usual end of year bittersweet moments.

The cherry on the cake is that all my crafty, creaty, designy moments are now justified and I'm actually properly allowed to think about next year and how I want my learning space to look. Inspired by Amber's great series of classroom summer project posts, I've decided to imitate her great system and be brutally honest about all the various areas of my classroom. Hopefully, it should help me sort the wheat from the chaff and make my next room really purposeful for all of its residents!

My classroom has mutated over my past 3 years of teaching and this year has definitely been the most practical and suited to how I teach. Also, thanks to the ever-fabulous Clutter-Free Classroom blog, I completely revitalised my organisation processes and can now actually function. I haven't lost a single piece of legal paperwork, bank statement or tooth in any of my 'strategically-placed' piles all year! (That definitely didn't happen in previous years, all in one week, during the critical observation period. No sirree!)

Anyhoo, I'm a much happier bunny this year but there is always room for improvement. So I took to my camera (read iPad) and snapped away. Having now looked at them in the very cold light of day, there is unfortunately far more room for improvement than I had anticipated. (I think my rose-coloured glasses embedded themselves over the stress of the past few months and I lost my sense of anything!)

So here I go. Today is going to be a short tour of my classroom through the wonderful medium of pictures and then, over the next few days/weeks, I'll take each area, one at a time, and give it the 'Two Stars and a Wish' treatment. (For those of you that don't use this, it's a marking strategy. I put my kiddies through it every day so may as well practise what I preach - although I think I'll probably have more than just 1 wish for improvement!)

Teacher area first - this looked so much better in my head. The middle photo is shocking!

My back wall with my working walls for Maths and Literacy, hand signals and Communication Station.

Newly revitalised Book Nook, which still looks dated and shabby :(

Front Wall and Interactive Whiteboard

And last but not least, the kiddies' cloakroom area with our Brownie Points trays and calendar.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! Please feel free to offer some pre-emptive critique of things that really stand out as quite shocking. I'm already super excited about analysing and revitalising the whole affair on my move to my new room! Can you tell that I'm in end of year mode? Look out for drooping borders, battered pompoms and missing labels! Think of it as a treasure hunt :)

Monday, 15 July 2013

My Very First Ever Monday Madness!

How exciting! All year I've been drawing such inspiration from the fabulous posts and today I'm joining in!

I'm actually writing this on a Thursday (teehee - so sneaky!) because I'm super eager to get there but I promise and I'll be good and wait to post until Monday. See you at midnight GMT! :D

Anyhow, my Monday Made It this week is my Writing Process Chart. I am super excited to get to use this and the kiddies are already moving their pegs and thinking about their Next Steps based on the chart. What a positive impact from one small craft.

I was inspired for this project because I realised that although they've done lots of fabulous writing this year, they've never had a chance to see the whole process of writing through to a finished text or book. I then stumbled upon this brilliant YouTube from Harper Collins called 'How A Book Is Made', which details the entire process in seven, short (about 4 mins each), kid-friendly videos. We only intended to watch one but actually spent the whole lesson going through the series, making notes and collecting Top Tips as we went.

Here's Episode 4: Creating the Art as a sample of the idea.

As we discussed the process, it became really clear that the children wanted some guidance on the steps to take, so I decided to make a peg chart that could help them keep track of their next steps. A little bit of photoshop, printing, cutting, laminating and ribbon-ing later... Tada!

Apologies for the terrible light, I was a teeny tiny bit too eager :S, hopefully you get the gist. The kiddies came in at lunch to move their pegs around, debating whether they needed to spend more time on 'Copywriting/Proofing' their work or whether they were ready to publish. What stars! They were also super-inspired by Episode 4 and are currently sketching out designs and redesigns of their main characters...

So there you are. The printables are available in my brand new, shiny TPT store if you fancy a look or a print. 

Thank you so much for letting me join the Monday gang! Special thanks to Tara, both for her brilliant blog that has kept me so inspired and for running this lovely linky.

See you all next week!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Classroom Breakup

This end-of-year stress is getting to me. Ergo, in typical me style, I am procrastinating wildly on everything I should actually be doing and, instead, am plugging in many, many, many hours on organising and sorting out my second home and playing at being an interior designer :) So, it's now time for...



This post, my first-ever foray into this lovely linky, is unfortunately not yet on a great system of labelling or boxing things up (bring on the summer shopping spree!) but rather on organising my entire classroom at a more macro level. Hopefully, you'll see how my ideas sort themselves out as I go!

So... last night I was making yet another bright polka-dot/chalkboard/owl-themed printable for next year's classroom, when I finally found that I just could not. I could not make any more mismatched, clashing polka dot affairs. Nor could I try to arm-wrestle some sort of vague reference to owls in. Nor could I ignore my love for bright, light and airy things by trying to mimic a faux-chalkboard effect through digital papers. I just couldn't.

My eyes widened as I turned to MJK. "What shall I do?!" I exclaimed. Having spent the better part of the past 3 months' time and wages on organising my lovely 5th grade room, I didn't know if I had enough in me to walk away. I felt like I was in the middle of a break-up. You know the one. The one where you have had niggly doubts for a while but if you don't say them out loud they don't exist. Until the day when it's all too much and you just need to get out. Yesterday. So I've decided to cut my losses and leave.


A couple of glasses of rosé later, I had done my mourning and looked up all my exes online to find the ones that still looked hot (replace 'exes' with 'potential classroom themes' as applicable!). I was ready to go on the rebound. Except, I think this rebound is The One. And I do not say that lightly. I always thought (easier with hindsight I know) that my polka dot was beautiful and lovely and bright but not quite me. This beauty however, hits every nail right on its sparkly, airy, feminine, strong yet peaceful head:

Thanks to the inimitable Schoolgirl Style, I now feel at peace. How glorious will this be!? Admittedly, all pins in the navy/coral category bring up a string of beautiful weddings rather than fabulous classrooms, but I'm sure that will soon change. Here's my digital take at what it might end up looking like in situ:

Wall 1

Wall 2

Wall 3

Wall 4

Unfortunately, my classroom furniture is not quite that same lovely muted grey. Rather, an 'eclectic' concoction of old, mossy, blue-green carpet and worn burgundy curtains. I guess I'll just work around those :S

So... what do you think? Is this wildness? Is it actually, truly, just a rebound? Or is it fabulous, if a little 'Fred Perry'?

In the meanwhile, I feel much more at peace knowing that I know where things go, that colours will match and that baskets can officially be purchased/spray painted. If you have any great sources or stores, please let me know! I'm super excited to navy-it-up!

As a little thank you for reading this post, please take this copy of the aforementioned 'printable' I was making, which started all this! FREE at my brand new, shiny TPT store! Enjoy :D