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Alycia

I live in New York

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I am passionate about my students becoming lifelong readers and writers

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I am a theme-weaving, bargain-hunting, creative public educator

Take a Virtual Tour of My Classroom!

By Beth Newingham on September 24, 2009
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

There are times when I feel more like an interior designer than a teacher.  I'm sure there are many of you who can relate to this same feeling at the beginning of the school year. I spend a great deal of time obsessing over the layout of my classroom so that it complements my teaching style and also creates an environment that supports learning. I work hard to arrange my furniture in a way that leaves lots of places for students to gather. I also strive to make my classroom one that is cozy, interesting, and interactive all at the same time.  After many tweaks and even extreme makeovers, my classroom finally feels like my "home away from home."

Read on to view a virtual tour of my classroom, see additional pictures of classroom displays, and find downloads of useful posters and tools I use in my classroom.

 

Classroom Video Tour

 

 

Classroom Photos

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Upon entering the hallway outside our classroom, visitors can already tell that they are about to enter Pier 13 (the name we have given our nautical-themed classroom this year).  A cruise ship deck serves as the background behind student sailor pictures and individual profile sheets.  I like having every student's picture in the hallway so that visitors can see the names and faces of the wonderful kids who reside just inside the classroom doors.

 

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Students spend important parts of the day on our meeting carpet.  It is here that I teach reading and writing mini-lessons, share read-alouds with my students, and hold class meetings.  Students also use the carpet when completing word study activities, reading from their book boxes, and meeting in small groups for a variety of purposes in all subject areas.

 

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A favorite place for students to read during Reading Workshop is in the dish chairs.  The tablecloth and lantern add coziness to an otherwise plain table and also complement our nautical theme.

 

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Students store their personal book boxes on a special bookshelf in the classroom.  They retrieve the book boxes before coming to the carpet for Reading Workshop each day.  On the cupboards above the bookshelves are theme posters where we will soon post book covers of read-aloud books that share common themes.

 

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Our classroom library is the heart of our classroom.  Check back soon for a video that describes how our library is organized!

 

Downloads

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One of the bulletin boards that I refer to often is this one that displays the "Reading Genres"  posters.  Students keep careful track of the books they read during the year and are required to record the genre code in their reading log.  These posters help remind them of the genre definitions and the codes to use when recording their books.  Download the reading genre posters.

 

Theme Boards 1

In our classroom, students are always looking for the theme in the books they read.  After reading books aloud, we always discuss, as a class, a strong theme that was reflected in the story.  At the beginning of the year, I create theme boards with common themes that are found in fiction texts.  I color copy the covers of the books we read aloud and add them to the theme that the class feels best fits the book.  As more book covers are added to the boards, students are able to make thematic connections between different books.  As the year progresses, students determine new themes to add to our boards.  Download the new theme posters I created this year.

 

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Our book recommendation board is a great way to keep students excited about reading new books!  Students simply fill out book recommendation cards for great books they have read from the classroom library and post them on the board.  Classmates take each other's advice and check the board when choosing new books to read.  Download the book recommendation card template in either word or PDF formats.

Comments (60)

Hi Beth, I teach 5th grade and am interested in using your theme study posters this year in my classroom. I have downloaded all of theme but the "cooperation" one does not bring me to the correct location. I cannot view the poster or download it. :(

Hi Beth,

I would love to try the race theme with my team next year but don't know if you made or purchased the hats for your students. You are so wonderful with your students and obviously put a lot of your own income into the props. I would appreciate your tips for purchasing and making items for this theme.

Kris

Hi Beth!

You have mentioned that you use Print Shop for many of your signs, posters, etc. I am looking to purchase the same version of Print Shop that you have with hopes of creating the nautical theme you had this year. Is there a specific version of Print Shop that you use? Thank you for your help and enjoy your summer break!

Julie

Hi Beth~Great Classroom! can you please tell me where you got all of your nautical theme decor? I especially like the plastic anchors :)

This is a wonderful classroom! I got ideas from your site to make learning more fun for my students.5

Thanks for being a wonderful teacher.

Nichole,

You noticed that I had many "cozy" items that looked like they might not meet the fire code regulations that you have in your school district. We actually have the same rules in our district! Believe it or not, my couch and the dish chairs do meet the California fire code laws (that we must abide by). I used to have different pillows I would put on the couch for different seasons and holidays, but now I just have some "fire-proof" pillows that I purchased with money from our P.T.O. from Lakeshore Learning. Here is a link to the pillows, but, beware, they are very expensive in my opinion! http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/seo/ca%7CsearchResults~~p%7CTS189~~.jsp

-Beth

Megan,

I am not sure if this is the actual website where I got the pier backdrop, but here is the exact same product at this link: http://www.bulkpartysupplies.com/store/p/85869-Nautical-Party-Supplies-Cruise-Ship-Deck-Backdrop-6-ct-.html

-Beth

Hi Beth! You are absolutely amazing and so inspiring. I have used a lot of your ideas in my own room. This year, I was thinking of doing a nautical theme too. I love your pier wall. Where did you get the paper for it? Thanks for everything!

Thank you so much for sharing all of your ideas! I wish my class could be as cozy and interactive as yours. Mine use to be a few years ago,and now I have to sneak things in and out. Our safety and fire codes are SO rediculous in my county! They made me get rid of my carpets, furniture, and we get in trouble if we have "too much" materials on the walls or shelves. How do you still get away with all of that?! I am so jealous!

Jen,

I have done about 6 different themes now. I am thinking it is time to recycle:)

-Beth

So . . . What will be your theme for next year?

Theresa,

Here is a link to my bucket-filling post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/04/are-your-students-bucket-fillers.html

I hope this helps you understand the concept more throughly!

-Beth

Theresa,

I will be writing a post specifically about "bucket filling" in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!!

-Beth

Tell me more about have you filled your bucket

Cindi,

Thanks for your wonderful compliments on my classroom.

You asked about the dice stools that I have at my writing center. I purchased them years ago from Oriental Trading. However, they are no longer available from that website.

I was able to find them at the link below, but they are much more expensive than when I bought them.

Here is the link if you are still interested: http://www.demco.com/goto?BLK83546&LPCL81

-Beth

Dee,

Many of my ideas for literacy centers come from common board games and card games. I just use tables in Microsoft Word to create cards for the games, and I use clipart from MS Word or Printshop to create the board games.

Many of my center activities also come from teacher resource books. Here is a link to the Scholastic Teacher Store: http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/StoreCatalogDisplay?storeId=10001&catalogId=10002&langId=-1 If you search using the terms "centers" or literacy centers," you will find a variety of useful center materials!

-Beth

Hi Beth, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas and things you do in your room. I am sure you are an amazing teacher and any parent would be thrilled to have you as their child's teacher. I teach 2nd grade and have been implementing many of the ideas you have shared on your site over the years. I'm not sure what you call them, but I was wondering where you purchased the dice chairs...they are neat. I would like to get some for my room. Thank you in advance. Once again thank you for sharing.

Sarah,

I'm glad you like the word study games I have posted on my website! Print Shop is definitely different than Photoshop (and much less expensive)! It use it for so many purposes in my classroom including my newsletter and a varity of signs, posters, banners, and games. Here is link to purchase the software: http://www.broderbund.com/store/broder/en_US/DisplayProductDetailsPage/The_Print_Shop_22_Deluxe/productID.110597600

I hope you find it to be useful!

-Beth

Chereylene,

You certainly have my permission to use the library video for your professional development presentation. At this point, however, the only way to access the video is to play it from the Scholastic website. I hope this will work for your presentation. I apologize for any difficulties this may present, but I hope it will still work for your purposes.

Thanks, Beth

Jeremy,

You can find a link to my daily/weekly schedule on my classroom website. Here is a link to the site: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/

On the sidebar menu, you will find a link to "Weekly Schedule." It is there that you will find what a typical day looks like.

In terms of grammar, we do integrate it into reading and writing workshops as often as possible. However, you will see on our schedule that we do "morning work" every morning. During this time we also teach isolated grammar skills.

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Beth: I teach 4th grade, but love your word study center ideas. Where would I begin to make games for these centers. I am the only 4th grade teacher, so this may take me ages. Is there a resource book for these games that you would recommend? Love your room! Mine is done in an ocean theme!

Hi Beth!! I just can't stop viewing your website!! I also was looking at your literacy games and activities for centers..Unfortunately, I do not have Print Shop and could not open a lot of them. My question is... what is Print Shop? Is it similar to Photoshop? How much does it cost? If they are different, I could maybe justify buying it! Since I bought Photoshop last year and never used it! :) Thanks again for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!!

I am amazed with your library and the wonderful ideas you employ to get kids reading. I am doing a professional development workshop and would love to include your video clip in my presentation to show what teachers can do with some imagination and skill. May I have your permission to use your video? If yes, is there a link you can provide me where I may download the video? Scholastic won't allow this to happen.

Thanks for the inspiration! Chereylene Gilbertosn

Beth,

I would love to know your schedule. Being a new teacher, it seems like time is the biggest road block. I would love to really dig into reader's workshop and writer's workshop but once again time seems to really stop it. I also find that Grammar is the area that gets missed, do you intergrate it into reading or writing and if so how?

Thanks for such wonderful ideas and the inspiration to be a better teacher.

Hi Beth, I have been a fan of yours for many years, you are a fabulous teacher. I only wish I could be as talented and inspired as you are some day. My question to you is about your invisible bucket board. Can you explain more about how it works? What do the kids do with the pom poms? It sounds like a great idea to use in my room right away! Thanks for all your great ideas! I've been using your genre posters and themes posters for years: ) Courtney 3rd grade Warren Woods

Rizwana,

It is pretty exciting to know that my website was one of the reasons you went back to college for teaching! That is certainly inspiring!

I wish you the best in your future teaching endeavors!!

-Beth

WOW! Beth the reason why I went to teachers college back two years ago was when i stumbled upon your website. Although I am not currently teaching (Toronto has way too many teachers) I hope and pray that one day I can become a teacher just like you! Who wouldn't want to be in your classroom? Thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas.

Gayla,

I have an odd-shaped classroom. It is somewhat like a trapezoid and is approximately 38x35. I do feel lucky to have a fairly large room, and I especially love the wall space. One of my walls is made completely of bulletin boards. It is a folding wall. However, we never open it up to join with the room next door, so I am able to maintain permanent wall displays. Two of my other walls are magnetic. While that frustrated me at first because I was unable to staple or tack anything to those walls, I have become a huge fan of business card magnets! I place them on the back of everything to create wall displays and interactive charts. My last wall is made of cinder blocks and is practically useless! However, I have found different adhesive materials at office supply stores that work fairly well when necessary. I guess the best idea is to make the most of what you have!

Thanks for your comment! -Beth

Beth, how large is your classroom? I have a rather large room (1000 sq ft - 35 X 30 feet) but I don't have the wall space you have.

Pam,

I tried downloading the zip file from my school computer just to make sure it worked, and it worked for me. I'm not sure why the files will not open on your computer at home. The file extension .sig just indicates that it is a Print Shop file. I'm confused about why your computer will not allow you to open the files, especially since you have Print Shop already installed on your computer. My computer at school has a fairly old version of Print Shop, and I can still open the files.

I'm sorry that I don't have a solution for you!! I really wish that I could help you out, but I am not sure exactly what the problem is at this point.

-Beth

Pam,

I tried downloading the zip file from my school computer just to make sure it worked, and it worked for me. I'm not sure why the files will not open on your computer at home. The file extension .sig just indicates that it is a Print Shop file. I'm confused about why your computer will not allow you to open the files, especially since you have Print Shop already installed on your computer. My computer at school has a fairly old version of Print Shop, and I can still open the files.

I'm sorry that I don't have a solution for you!! I really wish that I could help you out, but I am not sure exactly what the problem is at this point.

-Beth

Nicole,

I think you may be the same Nicole who posted a similar question on another post of mine, but I thought I'd post my answer here too just to be sure you received my answer.

You asked about mini-lesson ideas for reading and writing workshop. The philosophy of workshop is great, but where do the mini-lessons come from? This is a question so many teachers ask. My district is currently in the process of writing units of study for each grade level with daily mini-lessons for each month. While I can't share that here, I can recommend some books that can be useful when looking for mini-lessons.

"Revisiting the Reading Workshop:" This Scholastic book has mini-lesson ideas for the first 30 days. http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_20655_-1_10001_10002

"Workshops that Work:" This Scholastic book is geared toward grades 4+, but it also provides sequential mini-lessons for the first 30 days. http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_25425_-1_10001_10002

Frank Serafini also wrote a book called "Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days." In the book, he provides month-by-month strategies for running a reading workshop across an entire year.

You can also write your own mini-lessons. Just look at the skills or units you have been teaching prior to implementing a reading workshop and try breaking them into smaller mini-lessons.

Remember, during the mini-lesson the teacher instructs the whole class on a skill, strategy, or habit that students need to learn and use during independent reading. The teaching point is stated clearly and demonstrated or modeled for students. Students are then invited to actively engage in trying out the skill or strategy on their own before they begin their independent reading for the day.

Take care, Beth

Hi Beth,

Thank you for sharing your amazing classroom with us! Your ideas have inspired me to make learning fun and meaningful to my students. This year is my first year in 3rd and I'm thrilled that I get to utilize even more of your ideas now that they are more relevant. Would you mind sharing more of the topics you use for mini lessons during reading and writing workshops? My district doesn't use this approach, but I'm considering trying it in my classroom. Thanks again for your wonderful resources!

Hi Beth, I have to say that you are an awesome teacher. I was looking at your teacher resources for literacy centers and was just excited about the activities you did in your classroom for 2nd grade. I was trying to open up the zip file but it will not let me because of it being sig and I brought The Print Shop. Is there anyway you can tell me how to get the files open? I would like to use some of your ideas with my students. Thanks!!!

Hi Beth,

I absolutely love your classroom! I only wish I had an ounce of your creativity when it comes to putting a classroom together! It's no surprise that your passion of teaching has made an impact upon your students. Best of luck to you!!

Kelly and Mellisa,

Wow. It is obivious the two of you love to teach and are very organized. Where I teach, we have special fire codes that don't allow us to paper up the walls. Only 20% of each wall may have some type of paper on it. It certainly limits our oppourtunity to share our children accomplishments. Thanks for the tour.

Sue

Hi Meghan!

First of all, check back later this week for a entire post and a video of how I organize and use my classroom library. I think you will find it helpful since you are currently in the process of organizing your own library.

I have leveled so many books now that when I can't find one on Scholastic's Teacher Book Wizard, I can usually determine an approximate level just by studying the book's text and text features. I use guided reading levels when leveling my books. However, there are times when I can find the book on TBW, but it just doesn't give me a guided reading level. The conversion chart at the following link is helpful to use when I can only find a grade level or lexile level. http://www.thes.srvusd.k12.ca.us/pdf/Guided%20Reading.pdf

On the book catalog, I alphabetize my books by title.

I hope you will enjoy my classroom library post this coming week:)

-Beth

Hi! I loved your website and classroom, I'm excited to try your ideas! I have started leveling the books in my classroom, but not all of my books have a level listed on the scholastic book wizard. Did you have that problem when you were leveling your books, what did you do? How do you have your books organized in the book catalog for the kids to look at, are they alphabetical by title? Thanks for putting up your great posters to download!

Hi Sueli!

How exciting to hear from a visitor from Brazil!!

Your teaching situation sounds unique and would certainly pose some problems in terms of setting up a classroom that compliments your teaching style and the needs of your students. I am interested in knowing if it is the same teacher who is in the room each afternoon or if there are different teachers and students in your classroom everyday.

If you are sharing the room with just one teacher, there would certainly be a lot on which you would probably need to compromise. Without knowing the details of your situation, I would collaborate with the other teacher to design a room that can meet both of our needs.

If you are teaching the same grade, it would be certainly be beneficial to look at your curriculum and think about designing bulletin boards or classroom displays that can work for both groups of students. It might even be fun to share some bulletin boards where the two classes can communicate with each other. For instance, I have a book recommendation bulletin board in my classroom where students can suggest good books for their fellow classmates to read. It might be neat for the two classes to recommend books to each other. Here is a link to some interactive bulletin boards in my classroom, some of which may work for two classes to share. http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3746785&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.scholastic.com%2Fbrowse%2Fsearch%2F%3Fquery%3Dinteractive%2Bbulletin%2Bboards%26Ntt%3Dinteractive%2Bbulletin%2Bboards%26Ntk%3DSCHL30_SI%26Ntx%3Dmode%2Bmatchallpartial%26N%3D0%26_N%3Dfff%22+class%3D%22endecaAll%22%3EAll+Results%3C%2Fa%3E

In terms of classroom set-up, collaborating is again essential. Determining a desgin that will best meet the needs of both teachers (and their students) will be important. For instance, a large group meeting area is likely something that will be beneficial to both classes, but individual desks may be out of the question due to the sharing of materials between two classes.

My classroom is designed around a different theme each year. If I was sharing my room with another teacher, it might be fun to collaborate on a common theme that both groups of students would be able to enjoy. Here is a link to some creative year-long theme ideas I've used in the past: http://blogs.scholastic.com/teaching_matters/2009/09/school-year-theme.html

I hope my suggestions have been somewhat helpful. Your situation is indeed tricky, but it sounds like you are willing to make the best of it. Good luck!

Hi Beth! I´m writing from Brazil.. I love your class and have a question... here in Brazil is very commom a teacher uses a room in the morning and another uses the same room in the afternoom, with different kids of course.. How could we decorate the room? Sueli

Danielle,

Thanks for the comments! I'm glad you have found some useful ideas to use in your own classroom! -Beth

Sarah,

I am crazy about fun fonts, so I understand your font inquiries! I do not know the exact name of the actual fonts you are asking about. (I use so many, it's hard to tell which one is which.) However, the multicolor effect to which you are referring is not specific to the font itself. The rainbow effect is a feature that can be applied to any font when you customize the color of a headline in any version of Print Shop. After you pick a face color, you can choose a blend style that creates the multicolored look.

I'm glad you like the theme posters. Here is a link to a website with books lists for common themes. http://nancykeane.com/rl/#Values

Every time I read a book aloud to the class, we discuss the book's theme. While every book read aloud does not fit into a theme on one of my posters, I tend to choose books that I know will fit into one of the common themes at least at the beginning of the year. As the year goes on, I encourage my students to identify new and different themes in the books we read.

I hope this helps!

-Beth

Wow, Beth!! I can tell that you are a highly organized and thoughtful teacher! Your room is amazing. Connecting curriculum areas through a theme is a wonderful way to make students feel as though nothing stands alone! I really loved the interactive bulletin boards. The “Reading Takes Us Places” board is a fun and easy way to incorporate map skills into the classroom. The “Bucket Fillers” board is really such a great idea. Teachers are always trying to find new ways to build a sense of community in their classrooms. This seems to build self-esteem and promote kindness. I love it! There is no doubt in my mind that your students are invested in their learning. (*Your links and downloads go above and beyond!) I can’t wait to share some of these ideas with the teachers in my school. Thank you!!!

I am in love with your classroom.. You are absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing all of your creative ideas. I have a question about your fonts... (I am sorry, you must be sick of font questions.)

I love the colorful font that you use for your bulletin board "Reader's Choice" with the thumbs up and down. and also the "This book is so..." bulletin board. Do you happen to know the name of these fonts? and If they are available for free download?

Also, I love the idea of discussing a books theme each time you read. I downloaded the posters. I love them! Do you happen to have a list of books that go with each theme? Or do you just decide as you go?

Renee,

Here is a link to the book boxes I use in my classroom. They are a little expensive, but I have been using the same ones for years. They are certainly very durable! http://www.reallygoodstuff.com/product_details.aspx?item_guid=89a797ab-9e61-4239-9643-007c4daa12fe

The link I sent to you is the primary-colored book boxes, but you will find that they come in different colors as well.

Kimberly,

How perfect that your last name is Saylor and you do a nautical theme! I'm sure the kids love that! Here is a link to all of the information (and downloads) pertaining to my nautical theme: http://hill.troy.k12.mi.us/staff/bnewingham/myweb3/index-nautical.htm

Hopefully this helps you out!

Beth,

I have searched the world over and can not find great book boxes. Where did you find yours?

Beth,

My last name is Saylor so I do a nautical theme every year. Where did that cute clip art come from? I loved your entire room! I give sailor hats to my first graders every year to wear on the first day as we tour the school. I loved your student pictures in the captain hats though. Where did you get the cool ship background? Sorry for the questions. I just want to make my theme cuter! I loved your bucketfillers and it inspired me! We are bucketfillers too this year!

Pattie,

I think you are asking about my shared teaching situation. It is such a wonderful way to balance my career with my mommy duties!

I teach Monday, Tuesday, and every other Wednesday. My teaching partner then teaches every other Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Sharing a class with another teacher can be tricky at times, but my teaching partner and I have really been able to make it work. One thing that we did the summer before we began teaching together was to create curriculum maps for each subject area. It took a lot of work, but we wrote yearly plans for reading and writing workshops based on the units of study we teach in third grade. We first created “Units at a Glance” and then wrote up the mini-lessons for each day. After doing this, we both knew exactly what we should be teaching each day, and we knew exactly what our partner was teaching on our days off. Math was easier because we just follow the lessons in our program. We also decided to split up science and social studies so that I teach social studies on my days, and my partner teaches science on her days.

The key to shared teaching success is lots of communication and good record keeping. We constantly discuss what we notice about the students, and we keep detailed notes during reading, writing, word study, and math. I have really come to enjoy the addtion of another "teacher brain" in the classroom, especially when determining appropriate intervention for struggling students. Two heads are definitely better than one during these times!

Shannon,

I am glad you have found some of my ideas useful in your own classroom.

In answer to your question about fonts, I have downloaded all different types of fonts that I use to create posters for my classroom from many different places on the Internet. However, I think that the font you are referring to is called LD Circles. I got it on a "School Fonts" CD from Teacher Created Materials years ago, but when I checked their website it was no longer available.

Here are a few additional websites where you can download more fun (and free) teacher fonts:

http://www.fontseek.com/fonts/kids.htm

http://www.fontauthority.com/fontCategory.aspx?Kids

http://cooltext.com/Fonts-Kids

http://www.billybear4kids.com/fonts/fonts.htm

To create my posters I use Print Shop Deluxe, Version 23. However, I have not noticed many differences in the program for the last 3 or 4 versions. Print Shop actually has a feature that allows you to do poster printing.

When you choose print and the print dialog box comes up, there is a button labeled "Output Size." If you click on that button, you can choose to print 2x2, 3x3, 4x4, etc. You can also choose a percentage if you want to increase or decrease the size of your poster to a specific proportion. Of course after the pages are printed, you must glue them all together to create the final poster.

I hope I've answered your questions!

-Beth

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