Caring Classrooms

There is a MUST-DO activity that I begin on the first day of school.  Once begun and continued, it changes the entire classroom being.  Students want to come to class.  Students know they belong.  Students are engaged.  It's simple really.  Building a classroom community.  Building a place where students know each other's names.  Know how their classmates spend their free time.  Know that in this classroom all students are welcome regardless of skill level, intelligence, abilities, disabilities, athletic prowess, musical talents, skin tone, hair texture, the list goes on.

Simple, that is, if you begin on day one.  Simple, if you know building a classroom community is as important as tackling learning objectives.  Simple, if you consistently build that community during the first 4-8 weeks of school and then maintain it thereafter.  When you and your students are a community, the magic unfolds.

Many gurus write on the topic of classroom communities, but Laurie Frank is an all-star, in my book.  Her book, Journey Toward Caring Classrooms, is filled with research and gems for this must-do activity.  Activity might be too small of a word.  Let's call community building a movement.

If you want to preview the book before buying or scouting it at your public library, check out the free e-book version on Google books.  Laurie covers everything from active listening, to cooperation, to acquaintance activities, you name it.  It is everything you need to know to get started with classroom community building in one book.

Awesome.  Super awesome.


Free Business Cards - Reminder

This post originally ran in May.  If you missed it, here it is again.  Call this a thoughtful suggestion.

Many school districts are cutting back on "non-essentials."  I think you having a business card is essential and professional.

Click on a graphic below to create your free, customizable, color business cards. The only thing you pay for is shipping (around $6; US mailing addresses).  What's the catch?  Vistaprint puts a small Vistaprint logo on the back of each card.

Look how sweet this design is.....

How about this one?

Inappropriate for me?  I am more of a truck person.

Just think, if you order now, they'll be in before school begins in the fall.


Trash or treasure?

I was flitting around the Graphics Fairy blog.  Sometimes I just pop over there for inspiration.  Karen, the Graphics Fairy, casually mentioned a store - more of an event - she'd be attending in May called "Lucketts Spring Market."  With a graphic like this, I knew I'd have to follow.  I'm a sucker for old trucks and camping gear especially those with a vintage color palette.

After checking out the spring event - that I missed - I knew a blog post was in order.  Especially, a post before school starts again.  For my year-round-schooling-educators, there is no time like the present.  We all have something to work towards in our classrooms.

Classroom decor.  Oh, you can love 'it or hate 'it.  You can alter it or status quo it.  You can change the "feel" of the classroom decor or not.  Thankfully, life is full of possibilities.

Let's imagine you and your students liked coming to your classroom because it felt warm, welcoming, and engaging.  How does that feeling happen?  Certainly, your big smiling face at the front door is helpful.  In August I will post on greeting students as they arrive to class and its effects on their behavior.  Classroom decor often times contributes to the feel of your environment.  Just ask any interior designer and they will attest to their craft - decorating.  Since you have the whole summer to pillage garage sales, Goodwill, thrift stores and your loved ones' basements, now is the time to collect your goods.

Here's a starter hit list:
  • Lamps - Aren't you tired of fluorescent lights?  Many studies from the 1970s attest to the negative effects of fluorescent lights on students' behaviors.  Warm up your classroom with a collection of cool hand-me-down lamps.
  • Throw rugs - I'm sorry, but as soon as you put down a throw rug, your hominess goes up at least 80%.  This is a must have.  Trust me.
  • Old couch - I used to have a pink and white check couch in my classroom and students loved to sit on it and read.  We had just two rules for the couch:  You had to be 21 years or older to sit on it (that way I could sit on it or parents could whenever we wanted) and/or you had to read silently to sit on it.  I swear most days, 4-5 high schoolers would be sardined on the couch reading side-by-side. Couch?  That sounds more like a loveseat.  A love-to-learn seat, that is.  Ha!
  • Coffee and/or side tables - If you go with the couch, then a coffee table or two side tables are a must.  IKEA has several inexpensive ones to choose from -  like this one for $7.99.
  • Bean bags - This will show your "old schoolness" and make your cool factor rise, for sure.  Plus, who doesn't like a smooshy bean bag?
  • Throw pillows - Find these in all sizes.  The big ones are great for doing work on the floor.  The small ones are lovely for your couch and at students' desks to make their rigid desks and chairs more homey.
Happy treasure hunting!  Email me photos at jen at of your finds or decorated classroom.