Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Classroom Environment and Organization

It is going to be my fourth year in 4th grade and I'm nesting. If you are going to spend that much time in a place you need an environment that makes you happy! Each year I also try to improve my organization. It seems an elementary classroom can never be too organized.

  • I have picked "dots on chocolate" as my decorating theme. Creative Teaching Press has a lot of really cute items that I have picked up. Here are some examples.

There are also some really cool office supplies in the Hot Chocolate Collection that are a lot of fun for your lesson plans, calendars, etc.

My hubby painted two small filing cabinets brown and I used cling dots to help my teacher supply area fit the theme.
  • I have not found a good space for storing reading boxes. To solve this problem I decided I wanted to use chair pockets for each student to put their reading collection in. The custom pockets were WAY out of my budget so I decide I would sew my own. Then yesterday on Pinterest I found that someone was using stretchable book covers as chair pockets. This morning I picked one up for 57 cents at Walmart and took it over to my room to try it out. For books it works well. (If you need to put notebooks or a whiteboard in the pocket I think you will need to get the jumbo size which Target has for $1.) $17.10 purchased thirty solid blue "pockets" that match my chairs nicely.
So smart!  Use stretchable book covers as chair pockets.  You can stock up during back-to-school sales!    Not sure if they would be strong enough for my kiddos but.... worth a try.  It's Academic Stretchable Book CoverBOOKCOVER    JUMBO SIZE NCF

  • The next area I wanted to tackle this summer was some fun seating for the small group table and during meeting times around the Promethean board.  I explored milk crates with padded tops but found they would be too short for 4th graders.(I'm lucky enough to have a future 4th grader at home to measure things on.) I looked at several kinds of storage ottomans but price turned me away. Once again Pinterest came to my assistance. I found these very cute stools made from 5 gallon buckets.
Paint Bucket Stools   Could also be used for storage (like a storage ottomoman)          United Solutions 5-Gallon Plastic Paint Bucket                   Encore Plastics 5-Gallon Polyethylene Bucket Lid

My sister found a lady from Family Thrift Bakery that is going to save me 10 buckets plus lids. I have found wooden circles at Hobby Lobby, and spray paint, material and padding at Walmart. For about $30 I should be able to create my seating. Did I mention I can also store things inside the buckets as long as I don't get carried away with weight! Actually Ms. Kidd from Hangin' Out in 3rd Grade says that she is going to add some weight to each bucket this year so that they don't tip over so easily.
  • Next let's tackle those messy student desks. I need a better plan for the the unfinished papers laying on top and stuffed inside.Another Pinterest idea for unfinished work, etc. is a folder attached to the front of their desk. And what about the student with allergies that always has tissues stuffed everywhere? Personal trash cans attached to the desk with a suction cup hook worked like a dream last year! (Mine don't have a lid and had handles.) I got then at Dollar Tree.
  Front folders for unfinished work. Helps you keep a better eye on students who are falling behind, and reminds students what they need to finish.   mini garbage can for each table group. take out when working on projects.    Also a GREAT idea for those allergy kids who need to "blow" a lot!  STANLEY Large Suction Cup Hooks
  • I love the planners our school buys for 4th and 5th grades. They are not enough organization for the average 10 year old however. My daughter's FANTASTIC 2nd grade teacher used an organization notebook that worked oh so well for our family. I used one last year and want to tweak it a bit for this year. Here is a picture of one a first grade teacher used.

I didn't make a cover last year, the students used a binder they brought. They were very rough on them and most didn't make it through the year. The ones that were actually the sturdiest were the flexible plastic ones. (74 cents at Walmart) I'm going to buy them and use the one they bring for writing or math.  If I'm buying the binders I am going to have my cute little picture and name too. (I think I've earned it!) I'm going with DOTS: Daily Organized Team of Students

Jot Fabric Zippered Pencil Pouches Use masking tape and hole punch a ziplock bag into student folders to hold library books and flash cards!

Inside they will have their planner, a zipper pencil case (I bought them at Dollar Tree.), and another Pinterest find: a gallon bag "folder". They ripped the folders so quickly last year. These are made by putting duct tape along one side of a gallon bag and 3 hole punching it. When they destroy them, they will be pretty cheap to replace. (The first time or two they will get FUN duct tape, after that it just might by gray!)

These binders come out before we dismiss to make sure everything is where it needs to be. Parents are required to sign the planners. They are then laid on student desks each morning for me to check.

  •  I have already talked in a previous blog about my my plan to make a VOICES of a Writer board. I also, yes you guessed it, found on Pinterest a great Writer's Workshop organization tool. It is always a struggle keep track of where everyone is in the writing process and to make sure everyone is moving through the process. (Not that I didn't enjoy playing "find the post-it notes but....)
Writing Workshop: Tracking who is where               
This chart works rather like the behavior chart where you move the cards. In this case each part of the writing process is labeled in a color and your card shows at what color you are working. Because I don't have a spot where a pocket chart will fit, I will instead be using these cute pockets. I will laminate them. (On a side note: I learned today that you can write on laminate with a permanent marker so that it won't smear. Then when you want to remove it, just shade over the name with an Expo marker and erase. All writing will come off. Cool huh?)

That ends the tour of my classroom for today. I still have some plans for genre charts and boggle boards and I'm also redoing my library, but for now this is my environment. Thanks for letting me share my ideas.


  1. Oh my goodness!!! I clicked on your blog through Tara's Monday Made It and I LOVE all your ideas! I am a fourth grade teacher too and I have been loving the blog world that I just entered two weeks ago! Thank you for adding to my list of things to try. That tip with the permanent marker is pretty nifty, love your chocolate theme, and the acronym "DOTS" for your clever binder idea! Thanks again for the inspiration!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

    1. Thank you Holly. I'm new to blogging, but after a summer of reading other people I decided to give it a try. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. Hi Karen,
    Welcome to blogging! I am glad to have found your blog!I love the chocolate dots. I am doing turquoise dots in my class.
    Best wishes,
    TIPS: Teach, Inspire, and Prepare Students

  3. Hi...I just found your blog through the Newbie Blog Hop and am now a follower. I hope you hop over to my blog for a visit.
    Adventures In Teaching

  4. WOW! everything looks great! Thanks for sharing!
    I am your newest follower! I am a new blogger and love connecting with other teachers!

    Fancy Free in Fourth

  5. Great ideas! I am your newest follower. Hope you can stop by my blog for a visit.

  6. Just found you through the blog hop (which I'm going to have to link up with now since I just started blogging in June) and am your newest follower!

    Teaching Maddeness
    Come join my 500 Follower Giveaway that ends tomorrow!

  7. I'm your newest follower through the blog hop. Hop on over to my blog for a visit!


  8. Hi Karen:

    I am a new follower...

    You wrote:
    "My hubby painted two small filing cabinets brown and I used cling dots to help my teacher supply area fit the theme."

    What are "cling dots"?

    Could you (please) e-mail me at joyin6th@gmail.com and let me know what they are and where you get them?

    Also, I just ordered those same zipper pouches after seeing them on your blog. We don't have a Dollar Tree close by, so I ordered a case!
    : )

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  9. Hi Karen!
    I just found your blog from the blog hop. I love your ideas and I'm your newest follower. This will be my first year teaching 4th grade and I was thinking about doing the take home folders. Do they like them at that age? What about the parents? I've only taught Kindergarten so I'm not sure how the older students are. I look forward to following you.
    Tales From Rm 17!

    1. I tought Kindergarten for 5 years before moving back to 4th. I live and die by our planner notebook. (DOTS) 4th grade is a tough transisition for a lot of kids. Organization and routines are actaully as important as in K. I use A LOT of the same things I did in kindy, just make them look "big kid". Our whole school does a Tuesday folder with classroom, school, and community info.

    2. Thanks for sharing.


  10. Congratulations on diving in! Great start...love the book cover idea for book storage. And so...I pass the Liebster's blog torch to you! Hop over to my blog for more information. :0) www.wildaboutwords.blogspot.com

  11. Found you through the blog hop. Your organization ideas look great!
    The Idea Backpack

  12. I really need to make some of those chairs out of paint buckets. I have nominated you for a couple of awards, stop by and pick them up!
    Mrs. Saunders' Lovelies

  13. WOW! I love your ideas and the dots on chocolate collection! I am using the dots on turquoise collection in my room! I wanted to let you know I am awarding you with the One Lovely Blog award. You can stop by and pick it up anytime!

    Keep Calm & Imagine

  14. Just found your blog and am your newest follower. I also teach fourth grade! I'd love it if you stopped by.:)
    iTeach 1:1

  15. Fantastic organization! Just found your blog, I am new to the blogging world, check out Back in Fourth when you have a chance!

  16. Great ideas! Don't you just love pinterest!!

    Your newest follower,

  17. Yay! I found you through the Newbie Blog Hop, I have nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award, stop by http://backinfourth.blogspot.com/ to check it out!

  18. Stretchable book covers?! What a fun idea!

    Ashley @ Fierce in Fourth

  19. Hi Karen,
    I loved reading this piece! Well written!

    Merlen Hogg