Classroom Set-Up, Part 1

With about 6 weeks left of summer, my teacher-brain has come alive as I reflect on last year and plan ahead for the year to come. I wanted to share some of my classroom set-up ideas. 
Last year, my room was travel-themed, and I'm planning to stick with it again this year for 3 basic reasons:
1. It's cute and functional, especially for the older kids
2. There's a lot you can do with it
3. It was a lot of work and I don't want to scratch it just yet :)

Here's a picture of my Classroom Jobs board. 

Last year I had 14 students in my homeroom, and I divided them into two groups. Each week 7 students had jobs and 7 were "on vacation."  The students all had a car labeled with their name and they parked for the week in "Lawler's Parking Lot."  I created a document with the student names and I would check off when they were assigned the different jobs. I also have a weekly newsletter that went home on Mondays and the jobs for the week would be posted there.

Here's the organizer template: Classroom Jobs Organizer

For classroom management, I use a "Trafficking Behavior" stoplight system. 

Each student has a clothespin and always starts out the day on green (Excellent). If we have a behavioral problem during the day, they move their clothespin to yellow (Warning). They can earn their way back to green, but if the problem persists, I'll ask them to move their clothespin to red (Consequence). The consequence varies depending on the misbehavior, but it almost always includes an e-mail home (very motivating reason to stay away from red!). Every student who ends the day on Green gets a ticket, which can be used to buy trinkets or coupons (Free Homework, Sit-by-a-friend, Lunch with Mrs. Lawler, etc.).

I found a good idea on Pintrest (where all great ideas originate!) and have modified it to fit my classroom. It's a form that students will fill out if their clothespin moves to red. It's called "Making Smart Choices" and I like how the wording holds the student accountable for his/her actions. (e.g. "I chose to disrespect others, I chose to not follow directions, etc.). It has a place for teacher comments, the student signature, and a parent signature.

Here's the template: Making Smart Choices

And lastly, here's our classroom rules poster. I wanted to keep our rules list short and concise. On the first day of school, I tell the students that I only have 4 rules in this classroom: 
1. Be Ready 
2. Be Respectful
3. Be Responsible
4. Be a Risk-taker

I write the rules on the board and then we have a whole-class discussion about what each rule means. (e.g. Be Ready = Be prepared when you come to school, with your materials, books, homework, etc. It also to applies to being ready to learn by engaging in the lessons, participating in discussions, etc.)

The students really enjoyed this activity - there were only 4 short rules to remember, and yet they felt ownership as they defined what each of the rules encompassed. If a student was breaking one of the rules, I could silently point to the poster and hold up my fingers to identify which rule was being broken. This took 2 seconds, didn't interrupt my lesson, and communicated the message loud and clear.

Stay tuned for more classroom set-up ideas!

Trekking Around Maine...

Well I'm posting from beautiful Acadia National Park this week, and, boy, it sure is beautiful!

Here's a couple pictures from our first day trekking around the park:

Being on vacation with my family reminds me of a favorite game we used to play on road trips - The License Plate Scavenger Hunt! As we spent hours in the car (usually on the way from Texas to Montreal!) my brother and I would scour the highway for license plates from different states. You could use this with your family or in the classroom when students go on trips (Christmas vacation, Spring Break, etc.).

Here's a link to the document: Scavenger Hunt

Well I'm off to lay on the rocks, enjoy the waves crashing, and marvel at the beauty of God's creation.

Summer Academy Ideas

Well I've just finished two weeks of teaching at my school's Summer Academy - which sounds academic, but it's really just a fun day camp for the kids.  For the majority of activities, I was in charge of the 6-8 year-old campers, which was very amusing - they are nothing if they're not silly :).

After our recess, Bible, and snack time (plus countless trips to the bathroom!) the kids come upstairs in three groups and cycle through the rooms: Arts and Crafts, Gym, and "Fun Learning" (me!). I had students from age 3-age 12, which is a unique challenge in itself. But it has taught me a lot about differentiation and the need for overly-organized planning, especially for the young kiddos.

I wanted to share two original ideas from my weeks at camp:

1. Our first week was Patriotic themed and we spent a day focusing on Presidents Washington and Lincoln. After an interactive Smart Board lesson and catchy video, I had the students complete a fun writing creative assignment focusing on what they would do if they were president. 

Here's the link to the video:
Attached here is the Presidential writing activity.

2. The second week's theme was "Passport to Fun" where we learned about people and cultural norms around the world. The first day we discussed the 7 continents, sang a song, made maps, and played a unique version of "4 Corners." The same game rules applied, but I changed it to "7 Corners," with each corner labeled with a name tag and picture of continent. This exposed the students to what the continents looked like, how they were spelled, and for the older kids I had them try and name a country on the continent they were standing out if they were called and had to sit out. The students LOVED it and begged to play again and again all week long! Click here for the 7 Continent labels (*If the format looks a little off on the preview, just click CTL-S to download the Word document and it should look normal.)

Later that week we learned about different ways to say "hello" around the world and we played the game again - only this time each of the 6 corners was labeled with a different way to say "hello."

Hello Blogging World!

I'd like to say "Hello!" to the wonderful world of bloggers. Before I embark on this exciting journey of blogging my teaching ideas and strategies, I thought I'd introduce myself. 

First of all, I'm married to my very best friend, Jon. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary and are still quite in the lovey-dovey, mushy, honeymoon stage :) He is my constant source of encouragement and support. He helped me navigate through my first year of teaching - I don't know what I would have done without his prayers and "reality shakes" - that is, when I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed and he shakes me back into reality!

I graduated from Liberty University in May 2011 and was hired to teach 5th grade at Abundant Life Academy in Nutley, NJ. I had done my Student Teaching in 2nd grade and was more than a little reluctant to jump up to 5th, but, boy, did God know what He was doing! My first year was wonderful - filled with natural ups and downs - it was an amazing and rewarding growing experience that I will cherish forever.

When I'm not teaching (or lesson planning or grading or organizing my copies or attending meetings or making bulletin boards or scouring the Internet for new ideas or making games or labeling books or cutting out get the idea) I enjoy reading, scrapbooking*, baking, watching chick flicks, eating Snickers, bargain hunting, and going for long walks.

*I've actually started my own Scrapbooking company on the side - JOY Scrapbooking, that specializes in making custom scrapbooks to preserve your memories forever. Check out for more information.

Well I'm over and out for now - please stay tuned as I'll be posting pictures and ideas for Back-to-School. It'll be here before we know it!

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