Monday, July 29, 2013

An Affordable Ikea Classroom

 So, let's start with some blog business.  
  • My apologies for the lack of posts.  Teaching summer school and a serious family illness has essentially eaten up all of my time.  August promises to be just as hectic on the family front, but summer school will be over after the 8th so I'm hoping to be a more productive blogger soon!
  • Yes, I am still looking to redesign my blog.  I know that header has been up there for ages, but it will happen people!  
I know many of you are getting ready to head back to school in August.  I've seen lots of blogs with teachers already crafting, creating, laminating, and decorating.   Honestly, I can't even think about it yet!  We don't head back to school until September 3rd, and students don't start until September 9th.  My head is not yet in back to school mode. Having said that, no serious academic post here today!  :-) 

But, here's one on classroom decorating.

I was in Ikea the other day and found a lot of items that would be great for the classroom.  Thought I would share a few and some ideas for using them.  I'm limiting this post to things that are on the smaller side and affordable. Yeah, I would love to buy all new Billy bookcases for my classroom, but that's so not in the budget! Mine or my school districts!  So, here are some smaller items that can add a little color, fun, and function to your classroom without busting the budget.  See if you can guess which is my favorite item that I may have just purchased more of than I will probably ever need!  By the way, all images are from Ikea and this is not a sponsored post.  Just some things I like and think you will, too!  But, Ikea if you are out there and want to throw some Billy bookcases my way. . .Just kidding!!! 

Okay, here we go. . . 

This is the Hopplek rug.  It's 2' 7" x 5' 11" and only $12.99.  I think this adorable for the younger grades, but the measurements on the side make it great for upper grades, too.  This would be great in front of a math center area.   Kids could toss one or more bean bags and then create a math story using the numbers or measurements they land on.  I also think it would be a good game rug. I'm sure you can think of even more to do with it!
This is the Hampen rug.  It measures 2' 7" x 2' 7" and is $9.99.  These rugs would be great partner rugs for smaller friends.  You could have them rolled up in a basket, and when it it time for partner reading they can just grab a rug and find a spot.  For your older friends, it might fit only one.  It also comes in a couple of other colors.

This is the Fargglad chair.  It's a child's chair, so it is a bit on the smaller side.  It's $14.99.  The chair back and seat are woven plastic, so easy to wipe down if needed.  It is also stackable, so if you get some for a guided reading table you can easily stack them and move them aside when not in use.  But, in keeping the affordable in mind, I was thinking of what could you do with just one chair. It would be a great author's chair, special seat for the student of the day, a birthday seat, etc.  You could even doctor it up a bit with some ribbons to make it extra special.

This is the Tolsby frame.  It holds a 4" x 6" picture, and they are only $0.99 each!  There is no back, so you can put two pictures in each frame.  They are made of plastic, so perfect for the classroom and clumsy people like me!  These would be great for classroom signs, activity directions, library labels, and a ton of other things.
The Rigga clothes rack is $12.99.  When I saw this, I thought it was an inexpensive answer for anyone in need of a chart stand.  All you would need are the rings or some clips to hold your charts on the top bar.  I even like the rack on the bottom because you could put a few baskets on it to store materials for your charts. That would probably also help make it a bit more sturdy.  And, it's on wheels!
Here is the Dokument wastepaper basket in pink.  It is $3.99 and also comes in silver.  I actually bought this last year for my desk.  Our school does a great job of giving us those big, round, gray, plastic trash cans and recycling trash cans, but I wanted something smaller by my desk that wouldn't be filled with students' tissues and other icky stuff!  It is made of steel and fairly indestructible.  Ikea doesn't give its measurements, but it is on the larger side as far as wastebaskets go. For $3.99, you could also use it for holding project materials, books, or a few of those Hampen rugs. :-)
These are the Kvissle clip-on bookends.  You get a set of two for $4.99.  I love these because they clip on to the shelf.  No more falling over books and bookends when someone takes a book and the bookend moves.  What I love even more is the wide bar that faces you once you clip it on.  It's just made for a label. You could print out genre, alphabetical, or leveled labels to put on the bookend.  It would not only separate the books, but it would help in organizing your library while giving your friends a clear visual.

These are the Kusiner storage baskets, and you get all three for $4.99.  I have a similar set of baskets, but they aren't as nice as these.  These baskets have a soft coil in between the fabric, so they collapse for easy storage.  When you need to use them, just unhook the loop and they will spring right back into shape.  They are about 7" high and are great for handing out small materials to groups.  Unlike mine, these have numbers on the front that helps with identifying the groups just by having the basket on the table.  If you needed more than three baskets, you could always get two sets and put an A and B on the numbers with a Sharpie.  They are also great scrap baskets for the table when everyone is cutting and you don't want a constant parade to the trash can.

The Riso chair pads come in assorted colors for $3.99 each.  These would also make great floor seats for your friends if you don't have a carpet.  They are non-slip as the underside has anti-slip dots.  These remind me of the sit-upons I made when I was a Brownie back in the day.  In fact, the Crafty Texas Girls blog has a tutorial on how to make a sit-upon using newspapers and a vinyl tablecloth.  That's how I remember doing it!

Tins!  These are the Nidelva storage tins, which come as a pair for $3.99.  No grand plans for these, but they are cute.  And, who couldn't use a cute storage tin for erasers, paper clips, or anything else you can think of?

And finally, it wouldn't feel right if I didn't mention the Flyt magazine files!  You can't beat 5 for $1.99.  I use these as book baskets for my friends' independent reading books.  I actually picked up striped ones from Ikea a couple of years ago, but I like the plain white.  As a back to school activity, you could have your friends decorate and personalize the box to tell about them as a reader.  They could draw pictures of their favorite book characters and book covers or pictures of things they like to read about.  It just might be a fun way to get them excited about filling their book box.  I have reused my striped files/boxes for a couple of years, but for the price I wouldn't having a problem letting my friends personalize one for their own.  I did find putting a strip of book tape on the bottom of each to be a good idea.  Sometimes they can get a bit heavy once all the books are in, and the tape helped them hold up very well.

If you look closely in the picture below, you can see my boxes lined up by the windows. This picture is from a post I did back in 2011 on how I set up my classroom that year.

In looking at that picture, I think maybe one of the reasons I liked all those Ikea items above so much is that they are (almost) all very colorful.  My classroom is usually a colorful place!

After all that I can only hope you have an Ikea near you. :-)  If not, I would bet you could find similar items in craft stores or home goods stores. By the way, my favorite item?  Those Tolsby frames! Love em'!
What has been your favorite back to school purchase so far?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

All Star Summer (School) Centers

This week was the beginning of summer school.  It runs Monday-Thursday for twenty days.  I have twenty days to work some magic with my reluctant friends.  It would be nice if I could teach in my own classroom, but they put us all in a school that has air conditioned classrooms.  This means decorating a room that has already been completely packed up with all bulletin boards covered by the homeroom teacher. It makes setting up a bit difficult, but when the trade-off is air conditioning you won't find any complaints here!

Below are a few pics of the star-theme I went with. Overall, I kept things fairly simple on the decorating front. In the pictures you can see through the covered bulletin boards much more than you can standing in the room.

Our summer school program focuses on just literacy, so our day is a blend of guided reading, shared reading, word study, read aloud, independent reading, writing, and centers.  I have eleven friends with me whose reading levels break down into three separate groups.  It actually worked out pretty evenly.  We spend about 30-40 minutes on guided reading, allowing me to see two groups a day.  

The picture below explains how it works.  I will meet with one groups first.  Then, the group I will be meeting with next works on a center activity.  The group I will not be meeting with that day works on centers for the entire time.  Now, they don't really have the stamina to work on a writing center or any other center for that length of time so the rule is they must complete at least one center activity each day.  Then, they have the choice of doing another center activity or finding a spot for independent reading.  Each day, I rotate the group names (the center picture) so that the friends I see and the assigned center activity changes each day.

I thought I would write about the centers I decided to use this year.  My friends are promoted third graders that will be going into fourth grade in September.  Unfortunately, they are all working around a low second grade level.  This means we need a lot of work with the basics, and that is what I had in mind when choosing my centers.  I kept it simple with just three; one for writing, one for word study, and one for reading fluency.  I would love to tell you I sat and made tons of center activites, but I just didn't have time for that!  Instead, I went to Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) and found three that would meet the needs of my summer school friends while also work for my basic skills friends in September.

Before I go on, let me preface by saying that this is not meant to be an endorsement of TpT, although I do love the site.  Also, the authors of the items below have no idea I'm writing about their products.  As a busy teacher and one who would like to be able to spend at least a little of her summer at the beach, I wasn't looking to reinvent the wheel with original center activities.  And since my materials are all packed away at school,  I was perfectly delighted to go on TpT and be able to find exactly what I was looking for.  I like them so much, I thought I would share them with you today.  So, below are the three items I found that are working well as center activities.  

  • Writing Center

I wanted my friends to just do some basic writing.  They are not yet proficient writers.  I find I'm getting a lot of random sentences on a topic with no coherence.  I'm also finding a lot of need in basic sentence structure.  Having them work on writing topics that are interesting and relevant gives them a place to practice and a place for me to find great teaching points for our conferencing.   

Irene Hines has created a Summer Writing Journal that has twenty days of topics, a word bank of summer words, a variety of summer themed writing paper, and is common core aligned.  What more could I ask for?The clip art used is really cute and summery, too!  I made each friend a booklet, and it became our writing center.  Of course, they always have the choice of free writing in this journal as well. 

  • Word Works Center

This center covers a wide variety of basic skills.  It gives you forty activity cards that ask the students to use their independent reading book to locate ten words (I did modify this to a few less words for some of the cards) that address the particular skill named on the card.  Some of the skills include:  phonics and phonemic awareness, compounds, contractions, syllables, prefixes, suffixes, verb tenses, part of speech, acronyms, abbreviations, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, and possessives.  With forty cards, you certainly don't have to use them all.  There were a few that I left out as they didn't target the skills I needed to address for this group of friends, but there were still plenty of cards left.

  • Poetry Center

It wasn't until I just wrote this that I realized the word works center and this poetry center are both created by SunnyDays.  I must really like her stuff!  While this is a  poetry center, I see it as more of a fluency center.  This pack comes with fifteen cards that ask the reader to read a poem to themselves, then whisper read it with fluency and expression, and finally complete a skills task.  The tasks focus them on practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, suffixes, prefixes, compounds, L blends, R blends, digraphs, rhymes, contractions, past tense verbs, handwriting, response to poetry, and imagery. 

My focus with these cards is less on the skills and more on the "with fluency and expression" part.  I wanted my summer school friends to practice fluency.  To do this, I found a bunch of poems that contained a lot of sight words they should know and were not difficult to read.  I copied about 15 different poems and put a few copies of each in a folder.  To work on this center, all a friend needs is a copy of the poem and a task card.  

The only other thing I felt it necessary to do was some explicit instruction on fluency.  The blog Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips has four fluency posters that were perfect for a mini-lesson on what it means to "read with fluency and expression."  I used her posters and a picture book to do a mini-lesson on our first day before I explained the centers.  The posters were perfect because they were very simple and understandable to my friends.  The best part is that you can DOWNLOAD THEM FOR FREE on Sandra's blog.

In all, I think it cost me about $11 for all three centers.  While it has only been three days, I can say the centers have all been working well so far.  This is good to see as I am planning to use these same centers with my students this coming school year.  Win! Win!