Flexible Seating Q&A

Hey everyone! It is that time of the year when us teachers are beginning to think about our plans for the upcoming school year. And possibly implementing flexible seating may be something you are contemplating. If so, I hope that this post helps to answer some of your questions on the topic. While you are reading these please remember there is no wrong or right way to do flexible seating, it is truly about what works for you, your students, and your classroom. If you have any additional questions I would be happy to answer them. Just leave a comment at the end of the post and I'll get back to you!  

Q: How do you organize student supplies, folders, and large textbooks? 
A: There are many different options to store student supplies while using flexible seating. It truly depends on what works for you in your classroom. Here are some ideas: 
Community Supplies 
Community supplies is the route that I have gone since before I implemented flexible seating. I have found with community supplies it truly eliminates the bickering of whose supplies are whose and helps to create a sense of community within the classroom.   
To organize the community supplies I have a caddy at each table work station with pencils, scissors, glue, crayons, and erasers. I also have a couple of individual pencil boxes in a designated area for when students choose to work around the room.  

Student Notebooks, Folders, and Textbooks
Option 1: If you are lucky enough to have cubbies in your classroom using those to store student supplies is a great option! Check out MissMurphy816 instagram to see how she uses her cubbies to store her student's supplies and uses team supplies rather than community supplies.
Option 2: If you do not have cubbies in your classroom don't fret, there are other ways you can store student supplies. One option is 3 Drawer Plastic Towers. You can label each drawer with a student's name and allow them to keep their materials in their designated drawer. If you do choose to use these drawers I would suggest spreading them out to ensure there ins't a "traffic jam!" Or you can use book boxes like the ones in Mrs. Murphy's IG post and store them in a designated area.
Option 3: Zip tying crates together is another great idea. This idea came from Clutter-Free Classroom. She created cubbies for her students. You could even use these crates to hold large textbooks. You could break your class into teams and have 1 or 2 crates per team for their notebooks/textbooks. This would allow you to save some money since you wouldn't necessarily need one crate per student.
Zip tie crates to make shelving.  Hmmm... creative-ideas-from-moms

Q: If students don't have folders in their "desks" what do you do with student papers like unfinished work, homework, and other take home papers?
A: When using flexible seating students can still have folders you just need to find a place to store them. Some options were mentioned above, for example, book boxes and plastic drawers. Other options include using magazine file holders or even milk crates. Milk crates can also be a great way to keep your student's papers or folders organized. Inside the crate you can create a filing system using hanging dividers. Each student would be designated one divider where they can place their folders. You could even create a similar system by having a designated crate for unfinished work, take home papers, etc...   
Pacon Creative Products Classroom Keepers Magazine File Folder Today, I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks to use interactive notebooks in your classroom. I learn something new every year, so I'm going to impart that knowledge to you.  I've got te

Q: I am not allowed to remove all of my students' desks/tables from the classroom. 
How would flexible seating still work for me?
A: I was actually in the same situation when I began using flexible seating. I quickly realized it was okay to still have tables and desks.It was all about finding ways to utilize them.I found that adding different seating options to the desks/tables such as stools, yoga balls, stability discs, and wobble stools if a great idea. You can also add bed risers to a table to make it high enough for your students to use it as a standing table. Taking the legs off of a table allows you to create a floor table where students can sit on the floor and work. You may also be surprised to find that some students may like the idea of a traditional chair every so often so don't be too quick to get rid of your chairs. I also got creative and worked to find hiding places in my classroom for the left over desks and chairs.

Q: I can't use donor's choose, where can I find assistance in purchasing flexible seating? I have spent too much on my classroom already.
A: When you first think about it flexible seating sounds really expensive but it doesn't have to be. There are many affordable ways to bring flexible seating into your classroom. Also, keep in mind that you do not need to get everything all at once. Getting things gradually is a great way to keep it light on your wallet. Be sure to check out sites like OfferUp, LetGo, as well as garage sales for awesome deals.
Free Ideas
* Remove the legs from a table in your classroom to create a floor table. 
This option will allow your students to sit on the floor and work. 
Raise the legs on a table in your classroom to create a standing table.
Inexpensive Flexible Seating Ideas
Tj Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, & Hobby Lobby are all great places to find pillows for a great price. 
Yoga Mats/Yoga Balls
If you have a Five Below store near you you can find yoga mats and yoga balls for $5. You may also be able to find them for a steal at TjMaxx or a similar store.  
Scoop Rockers 
Scoop rockers can be found at Big Lots & Aldi for about $6.00. If you do not have either store you can also find them on Wayfair, Overstock, and Walmart. I do believe when you order them online they come in a pack of 4 or more. I could be wrong tho. :) 
Lap Desks
Lap Desks are perfect for allowing students to work around the room. They provide a hard surface that makes writing easier. They can be found at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joanns, Walmart and other stores. If you purchase these at Michaes or Hobby Lobby don't forget to use those awesome 40% off store coupons.
End Tables
End Tables can be found at Walmart, Target, and Ikea for around $5-$10

Q: How do you respond to parents and OTHER TEACHERS that push back at this "ridiculous" idea? Parent comment: "They need to learn to sit and listen properly." 
A: I would explain that the expectation of listening and learning in the classroom is the same and the seating will actually help to improve their student's abilitiy to listen and learn.
- I personally did not have any backlash from any of the parents this year. During meet the teacher I gave my parents a Q&A about flexible seating and I  found that my parents LOVED the idea of Flexible Seating. 

Q: Teacher comment: "You are going to make my job next year so much harder. 
They will be so out of control. You are treating them like babies."
A: Honestly, you have to do what is best for your kids, right now! I know this is something new to some teachers and it may be hard for them to understand, but once they see it in action their perception may change. I would simply explain that you are differentiating your classroom to fit the needs of your students and explain the benefits of using flexible seating. You may see later down the road it becomes a trend in your school.

Q: What do the first few days of the year look like (where/how do they sit on the very first morning and what do you do as far as teaching flexible seating procedures)?
A: On the first day of school I have a page of morning work set out at the different spots around the room. I allow students to sit and work where ever they choose until I can get them all to the carpet and be in front of them. Once I have them on the carpet we talk about how our classroom may look different than some other classroom they've been in. I then talk about how in this class they may work wherever they'd like. However, if they are not making smart choices I get to pick where they have to work. I then go over the seating expectations. I actually created expectation posters and introductory materials to help make this easier. They are found in my TPT store. After talking about expectations we spend time going over the different seating options in our class. As I show each seating choice I model how to sit on it correctly and then I model how NOT to sit on it. We as a class chart the expectations for each seat.  

After day one, I assign students a spot each day for the entire first week. By assigning them a specific spot that week it allows them the opportunity to experience each seating type and see what works best for them. In the morning they would come in and meet on the carpet. We would review the expectations for each seat like we did on day one and I would call groups to then "check in" to their spot. During the first week students were not able to move spots unless there was an issue. We repeated this routine for the first week and by week 2 I began allowing students to "check in" to a spot when they arrived in the morning. 

Q: Do you allow students to stay in the same place all day if it is working for them?
A: After each subject or major transition I have my students gather back at our carpet. 
From the carpet I do our whole group instruction and after I am done that is when I then choose students to check in and select their spot. (I send only 3 students at a time to check in) If the same spot that they were working in earlier is still available they are free to work there again.  

Q: What is the classroom management system in a room where the kids are all over the place and not facing the teacher?
A: Most of the timr during whole group instruction I have my students on the carpet. If they are not on the carpet the must be in a spot facing me where they can see the board.

I hope that you found this flexible seating Q&A resourceful. Like I said earlier there is no wrong or way to do flexible seating as long as it works for you and your students. During this journey may try out a few different ways until you find out what works for you. 

If you have experience with flexible seating in your classroom and do things differently than a way I mentioned I'd love for you to share your experience below. Our greatest teachers are truly our students and eachother.

You can also click the picture below to see how I set up my first grade classroom to make it Flexible Seating ready.

State Testng Encouragement Notes and Treats

Hey Everyone!
I can't believe that the school year is almost to an end and state testing for intermediate students is here. Here in Tennessee our intermediate students have been testing for a week and have 5 days left. As a primary teacher, I thankfully do not have to deal with the true stress of testing days.

This year our school is working hard to boost the morale and show our support for the intermediate grades during the stressful time of testing. In order to encourage our intermediate students and help destress their teachers each primary class has adopted an intermediate class. By adopting an intermediate class/teacher we are responsible for providing them with positive notes of encouragement and treats during testing days. This sounds like it could become costly depending on your adopted class' size or the number of testing days, however, the key is involving your parents. I currently work in a title 1 school and know that parent involvement isn't always there but I have found that parents love sending treats in. In order to get my parents help I sent out a message to all of the parents over ClassDojo. In this message I explained that we have adopted a 4th grade class and providing them treats during the testing days and provided a list of items we needed.

Before I jump into what we did for the students I want to share a picture of my testing survival kit that I created for the teacher. I grabbed this adorable tin bucket in the Target Dollar Spot for $3 and to my surprise when I rang it up it was actually 50% off! Gotta love when that happens. I filled her testing survival kit up with her favorite treats to help get her through the first week of testing. I mean what teacher doesn't need caffine and chocolate during a stressful week like testing.
Here are some cheap/free ideas that we have done for our adopted intermediate class!

Day 1 of Testing
On the first day of testing I decorated our adopted 4th grade class' door. I used the very popular Pinterest saying of "Donut Stress" and covered their door with donut cutouts. My students then each took a donut cut out and wrote an encouraging message on the back. & Of course we couldn't have a DONUT themed day without donuts so a box of munchkins topped the day off!

Day 2 of Testing
On the second day of testing we gave the 4th graders a How to Rock Your Test booklet from Learning in Wonderland. This is a free product in her store that you can grab here. The 4th graders loved reading their "how to" books. Their How to Rock Your Test booklets were also accompanied by pencils with inspiring messages.
This was an idea I found from an awesome teacher I follow on Instagram, SmartCookieClassroomTPT. 

Messages on the pencils included:
You've got this!
You'll rock this test!
Donut Stress!
You can do it!
Believe in your selfie!

Day 3 of Testing

We gave our 4th graders jellybean filled plastic eggs. If you snag these plastic eggs after Easter you can get them for an unbelievably low price. I had actually stocked up on them a year or two ago so I had a surplus laying around which was perfect for this occasion.

Day 4 of Testing
We are giving our 4th graders a glow stick bracelet with a tag that says
"You Will Shine Bright On Your Test!" I snagged these glowstick bracelets from the Target Dollar Spot. They came in a pack of 15 and were only $1.00! You really can't beat that.

Day 5 of Testing 
We will be giving our 4th graders cookies with the message, "We think this class is a bunch of smart cookies!" And their teacher is getting a SMART water. :) 

Last Day of Testing 
For the last day of testing we will be "chillin" out with our 4th grade friends and enjoying some popsicles on the playground. I hope that this will be a fun way for my students and the 4th graders to get to know eachother, have fun, and destress.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and checking out my blog. I hope that you were able to get some ideas for your own class or an adopted class to help them destress and stay motivated during the stressful time of state testing. You can grab all of the tags featured in my blog post for FREE over in my TPT store. Click here to grab them today. Thanks again for stopping by! :) 

Center Time

Hey Everyone! 
So we are at that point of the year where both the students and us teachers are itching for Spring Break and the end to be here. It seems as though those routines and procedures that we've spent hours, weeks, days, and months practicing have suddenly been forgotten. Some days are better than others and if you're like me sometimes you feel like you're on Survivor. Just keep on hanging in there, Spring Break is right around the corner, if it's not already here. 
As teachers we have a problem where we have "teacher brain" and we just can't seem to turn it off!  I just happen to be on Spring Break and it's a whopping 30 degrees outside so inevitably my teacher brain has been in full swing. I've been reflecting on the last few weeks prior to break and the first thing that came to mind was... centers being a"a hot mess!". It seemed as though my firsties had suddenly forgotten how to rotate in a timely manner, clean up their work spaces, and everything else. So here I am, coming up with a game plan to solve our center problems and put in effect when we return to school on Monday!
 Even though we have gone over our expectations, practiced them, taught each other them, practiced them some more, modeled them, and practiced them over and over for the first few weeks/months of school, we are at that point of the year where my firsties need a little extra reminding.
When we return from break we will be talking about our expectations for centers as a class. It is crucial for my firsties and my sanity that we revist these expectations again. Taking the time to go over them will ensure that our center time will go smoothly for the remainder of the year. Revisiting our expectations will not stop here. During center time I use a rotation chart I created via PowerPoint. Today, I edited my center rotation chart to include our expectations. I'm hoping that during centers this will serve as a constant reminder for my firsties.
Another issue that I've come across with my firsties is that they are not always on task during their center. Lately, I look up from my guided group and find my firsties snickering and looking completely guilty. So, I of course have to use my "Teacher Look" to get them back on task. 
Last week, I attended a PD session on technology in the classroom. During the PD session the presenter talked about an app called Seesaw. I personally have never used it but as she was describing it it made me think of ClassDojo's student story feature. She spoke about students being able to take a photo or video of their work and share it with their teacher & families. ClassDojo is a FREE app that I use every day to communicate with parents and track strudent behaviors. However, I have not yet introduced my students to the student story feature. I'll be honest, I had every intention of  it introducing them to it at the beginning of the year but then life happened and I never got around to it. #okayteacher But with being on Spring Break I've had time to play around with it and I feel like it is the PERFECT solution to holding my students accountable during their centers. 
Image result for class dojo student story
Here's How It Works: 
1. You have to sign up for a free account, create your class, and add each of your students
2. Click the "student mode" icon at the bottom of the page.
3. Print and display your class code for students to access. 
4. Students will then use a QR code scanning app to scan the QR code and select their name. 
This will allow their photo/video to be uploaded to their student page ONLY! Upon teacher approval!
My plan is to have my students use a class iPad to upload a photo or video of their center work once it is completed. This will allow me to quickly scan their work and know who has been on task and who hasn't. I can then give them immediate feedback as well as award behavior points from my phone or iPad.

My students are going to LOVE this adjustment and so will their families. 
I've admitted to you all before that I am a little type A when it comes to my classroom. When I see pencils laying on the floor, seats not put away properly, and center pieces missing their homes it drives me INSANEEEE! Especially since we've gone over these procedures a million times before. 

 Our pencils even have their very own home, yet they are still found all over our classroom floor. 

I mean come on now! How could they not put their pencil(s) back in the correct spot when it is PERFECTLY labeled!

Well.... the sad reality is, it is very easy for them not to put them back even though that system has been put in place in our classroom!

Insert Crazy Eyed Teacher Emojii here!
My plan to help this "hot mess express" involves two simple fixes/additions to our center time.
#1 Adding a "clean up" slide with a 2 minute timer into my center PowerPoint. 
Adding this clean up slide with a timer will allow my students to have a specific amount of time designated to CLEAN UP their work space. This will keep them from just rushing on to their next center. This idea was sparked by the amazing Teach Create Motivate. In her tpt store she has editable PowerPoint slides with timers as well as a FREEBIE of a 20 minute timer slide!
#2 Create a "Center Inspector" job! 
As teachers we create and have jobs for everything and anything. I don't know why I didn't think of creating a job for center time before. But my center manager will be responsible for checking each center area before students are allowed to rotate! This will allow my students to be held accountable for their workspace while allowing a student to be in charge and take on that responsibiltiy.
I'll soon be creating a cute little tag for my center inspector to wear! I just haven't gotten that far yet! When I do I'll be sure to post it here for you to use if you'd like!

Thanks so much for reading my blog today. I hope that this post helped you to realize that it is okay for your classroom to not be perfect. But at the same time it is never too late to take back control of your classroom and revisit and reteach expectaions and procedures. I'd love to hear from YOU!

Student Data Binders

Hi All,  I can't believe that winter break has come and gone in a blink of the eye. I don't know if you're on the same page as me but I could totally use another week of winter break. I have thoroughly enjoyed laying around in my yoga pants and enjoying family time. Don't tell anyone but this teacher hasn't done a thing school related since break started. It was definitely a nice little break. But now it is time to kick my bottom into gear and get focused on my sweet little firsties once again. 

So here I am blogging today to share with you about how I involve my students in the goal setting process and tracking their progress. I had been looking for an all inclusive student data binder for a while but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. So I knew that I needed to create it for myself. And I must say I am so glad that I took the time to do so. This year my students have loved being involved in setting their goals and tracking their progress.
When I started at the beginning of the year with my first graders I started with the simplest goal setting page. On this page, since it was the beginning of the year with my first graders I scribed their goals for them. This process was a lengthy one and was done in a one on one setting. Here is the page I used at the beginning of the year with my students. 
At this point in the year when we begin school again, I will allow my students to write their own goals. I will guide my students through the process as a class. What I like most about this goal setting page is that the students are able to not only create an academic goal but a behavior and personal goal too. 
You can find a variety of goal planning pages included so you can use what works best for your students. 

Once my students have set their goals I will discuss their goals with them during guided reading. This will allow them to know that I am also invested in their goals and we are working together as a team. We can then develop a plan together and begin to start working towards achieving their desired goal. Here are examples of goal planning pages that can be used. 
Once we have come up with a plan for their goal we can begin tracking their goal. I understand not every child will have the same type of goal which is why I have included various tracking pages for their data binder. Some of my studnets are still working on letters and sounds, while others are working on reading fluency. Here are some examples of data tracking pages.

My favorite part of having my students create their own goals and track their progress is watching their excitement as they get close to achieving their goal. I mean that is why we became teachers after all. Those little light bulb moments are the best part of our jobs.

I love celebrating my students and their achievments so I created achievment certificates.
 I also allow my students to hit an "EASY" button from Staples to celebrate meeting their goal(s).

If you are thinking it's the middle of the year and too late to start something like this you are wrong. Right now is the perfect time to jump in especially with the new year. If you are interested in grabbing this all inclusive editable student data binder you can grab it here in my TPT store.

12 Days of Teacher Christmas

Hey everyone! 
Wheww it has been awhile since I've last blogged. As we all know this time of year is crazy for all of us teachers. You're probably in the same boat right now, tired, exhausted, sick, and counting the days until winter break.  I mean really.... 
Thankfully I have only 7.5 days left. Until then I will just keep on telling myself ... I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!
Today I wanted to share with you about the 12 Days of Teacher Christmas that has just begun!! 
A few TPT teachers are hosting/participating in the 12 Days of Teacher Christmas to bring some holiday joy to you. Each day from now until December 24th you will find a different TPT product or deal. You can find these amazing deals by searching the #12daysofteacherchristmas on TPT. 

Today you can find awesome flash freebies! Who doesn't love a flash freebie?? Please remember that flash freebies are when a paid product is made free for a limited time. If you download a flash freebie feedback is always appreciated. Also, please do not mention that the product was "free!"
Be sure to head on over to my TPT store to grab my Mixed R Controlled Vowels pack. This product is the perfect addition to your word work center or skills block. It allows your students to review and practice r-controlled vowels in engaging partner and independent activities. If you download this pack I'd love your feedback! 

Enjoy the awesome deals during the 12 Days of Teacher Christmas and remember Winter Break is right around the corner. YOU CAN DO IT!