Flexible Seating in Fourth Grade

Thursday, November 16, 2017 No comments
I've been wanting to bring you this blog post for a LONG time, but I've been waiting for the perfect moment to get the perfect pictures of my room. I wanted to wait until I had tried this new design out for a while before I brought you a lengthy post, hoping I could answer questions in my post.

But I've realized this new design in teaching and learning will never be "done". It's constantly evolving to meet the various needs of all my learners. So, here's what I've got so far. As always, let me know what questions you have! I'd love to help you on this journey and I'll update this post as I learn more.

Be sure to check out some of my older posts on Flexible Seating. A few years ago I interviewed a few teachers on their experience with Flexible Seating and here's what they said...

First, let me say that I work at THE COOLEST school. We have the most amazing administration and PTO. They have supported me in all that I've done. Most recently, we welcomed our local news station into our room to do a story on our new classroom design, check it out!

Alright, let's take it back to where it all started. In April of 2017 I was lucky enough to attend a workshop lead by Rebecca Hare. You should check out her work, it's amazing! During this full day workshop I got to visit other schools where she helped teachers redesign their space. My biggest take away from the day - everything has a purpose! When you're redesigning your classroom really challenge yourself to consider the purpose of the space.

Here are a few pictures from the spaces we visited...

This teacher purchased these couches & coffee table from Ikea. I ended up with similar couches in my classroom (a little less expensive), more on those later.

Couch: Klippan Loveseat, Black | Coffee Table: Tingby

This dry erase board is made from several panels of "shower board". I found that it's also called "Thrifty White Tile Board" at Home Depot. You can get one of these panels for just $13 and it's dry erase.

The red beanbag chairs you see here are Big Joe chairs. The rest of the furniture you see here is Ikea.

Bean Bags: Big Joe | White Tables: Lack Side Table | Lap Desks: Byllan | Standing Desk: Ikea PS 2014

Finally, this is the teacher's work space. Yes, that is it! That's all the space she takes up in the classroom. I dream of consolidating down to a few physical files some day...it's a work in progress!

After our trip around town to visit area schools we were tasked with creating idea boards, blue prints, plans, etc. Our fearless leader, Rebecca Hare, suggested that we stick to an organized color pallet. I mean, after all she is an interior designer. Below you'll see my "idea board".

Unfortunately I created my blue print outside of my classroom, so I wasn't 100% sure about my spacing. In the end I was able to tweak my design and make it work in my classroom!

At this point in time, this was all just a dream. When I got back from my workshop I shared my Idea Board with my administrator who then shared it with our PTO. Right away PTO offered to help fund my project! I was shocked, excited, nervous and so ready to take on this new challenge.

I then spent the majority of my summer online shopping and creating a budget. Below you'll see a detailed list of my purchases.

You'll also notice that I could find where most of these items were located in the Ikea Warehouse without trekking through the entire store. This saved me SO much time and kept me from loading up a cart and busting my budget as I went through the Ikea maze.

If you're planning an Ikea shopping spree like I did, plan on bringing backup! I brought my mom and it was still a struggle - those Ikea cart wheels are funky!

Oh, and did I mention you're going to want to find a small army that you can bribe to put all this together?! I shared this photo on my class Facebook page and recruited some kids and parents to come help. I paid them in pizza :)

Alright! Now for the moment you've been waiting for...here's my classroom!

Disclaimer: These BEAUTIFUL Kallax Shelves from Ikea make organizing your classroom library a little bit tricky. Those awesome bins we all love and use to organize our books will not fit side-by-side on these shelves. The opening is 13 inches. I searched FOREVER to find bins small enough to fit side by side and I couldn't find anything. Also note that these shelves do not have backs. I hot glued 2x4s in the shelves to push the books out more and prevent them from slipping through the back. So far it's working great!

Two commonly asked questions about this area...

1. Where did you get that large area rug? This is actually two rugs put side-by-side to create a bigger rug. So much cheaper and you'd never know!

2. Where did you get the rolling crates from? My mom actually found these years ago at Homegoods. Of course, we've never seen them again! The brand is called Quirky. I've had trouble finding an online store, but I see their products on Amazon from time-to-time.

One of my favorite classroom hacks has got to be with these Big Joe bean bag chairs. The kids absolutely LOVE them and they certainly show. I know that you can purchase refills...but you can also beg your classroom families to send in packing peanuts! These plump up the chairs and actually help them to hold their shape better than the Big Joe brand beans. 

Tips & Tricks to Running a Flexible Seating Classroom

Have a place for all of the stuff! 
At the beginning of the year I didn't have the beautiful cabinets and cubbies you saw in my previous pictures. I was panicked, where were my kids going to keep all of their stuff? I purchased some plastic drawers and each student got a drawer. They held up okay...it wasn't the best, but we made it work!

Have more "seat spots" than students.
One of my biggest take aways from the PD was that students should always have choice when picking a learning spot. If you only have 20 options and 20 kids...well then you've just introduced a game of "run across the room as fast as you can to get the best spot". Last I counted there were 35 "seat spots" in my room and I have 20 students. This has helped to cut down on the rushing to chose a spot and truly gives students choice!

Think about food in the classroom and have a plan!
We do a daily snack and I knew that my rule was going to be "no food on the soft furniture" which was fine. Most kids chose to sit on the floor anyway. But then Field Day came around and we had to eat in the room. AND parents joined us! I was panicked...where were 35 people going to eat lunch - we only had 3 real tables!

Plan ahead. I encouraged students to bring in picnic blankets and told them they'd be having an indoor picnic. They loved it!

Yes, there are arguments over spots.
I'd love to tell you this never happens...but it does! No matter how we discuss making good choices, being considerate of others, etc. arguments do pop up. I've really challenged myself to zip my lips and watch from afar as students work it out. So far, I've only needed to intervene once! I've learned so much about my kids and I've been so impressed with how they've handled these...disagreements. They can do it! Have faith. Walk away and let them problem solve.

Yes, there are popular spots.
The couches are a HUGE hit. We held a class meeting to decide how to handle who sits on the couches and when. My kids suggested that you should only be able to sit on the couch during one subject per day. They do a great job of policing each other on this rule. I have never had to address this one. 

Another hot spot are the white board spaces. Something about the chance to write on things with dry erase markers is super engaging! I love my dry erase small group table, it's probably my favorite piece in the room.

Remember that white board hack I mentioned earlier? I had my husband cut down a piece of shower board and back one of my shelves for another writable surface. It's just as popular!

Yes, It's Hard! 
Be prepared for rough days. The first two weeks of school I literally thought I had lost my mind and even considered going back to a traditional classroom. I pushed through and stuck it out and I'm so glad that I did! I can't ever imagine going back. My kids have never been so engaged!

What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments!

Learning Progressions in Writing

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 2 comments

Yay! I'm so glad you're here! I haven't blogged in FOREVER. After adjusting to a new grade level last year I needed some time off. Now that I'm in year 2 of 4th grade I thought I'd give this whole blogging thing another shot. 

Lately there's been a lot of talk in our district about using Learning Progressions with students to lift the level of the reading and writing during workshop. I should add, we are using the Lucy Calkins units of study for reading and writing. 

I don't know about you, but if you've seen the way Lucy crams all that information into a 2 page learning progression you're probably as overwhelmed as I am. I decided that in order for these progressions to be useful for my learners I had to make them kid friendly

I started by taking the grade 3-5 pieces of the progression and separated them by topic (lead, transitions, ending, craft, etc.). Then I thought about the annotated student work in the Pathways book. Behind each micro-progression I've included a student example that shows what is expected at the 4th grade level. 

This new tool has completely changed my writing conferences. It is my go-to! After asking the student to tell me about their writing goal we flip through the progressions and find a place to work from. 

The student pictured above was checking in with me to show that she moved her lead to the 5th grade level. After we found evidence to support this she went back into the progressions, chose a new area to focus on and she's now taking notes on how she plans to revise her ending. 

If you're interested in using these micro-progressions with your students too you can access this resource below. *This is not my own work, this resource is adapted from Lucy Calkin's Writing Units.

Check back for the Informational Writing Progression Mini Book.

These free resources are brought to you by A Trendy Teacher. If you're looking for a way to give back to our classroom, check out our Amazon Wish List.

I'd love to hear about how you use the Learning Progressions during your workshop. Let me know in the comments!

Lego Landmarks - A Summer School Unit

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 4 comments

Lego Landmarks is one of my favorite classes I've ever taught. Last year when I decided to take on summer school I got the idea from another teacher blogger. Over the last two years I've worked to make the class my own. I'm excited to share these FREE resources with you, you ready?

Before we get started you're going to need some Legos...a lot of Legos! I got really lucky and got a bunch donated from a family friend. The rest I got from a DonorsChoose.org project. [If you're looking for more information on how to successfully fund a DonorsChoose.org project, click here.] After I got all of my Legos, I put my 2nd graders to work sorting the Legos by color. Yes...I am type A and yes, this actually helps when the kiddos start building. With sorted Legos they're able to find what they're looking for quickly! 

Alright, a little bit of background, I teach a 2 hour Lego Landmarks class over 3 weeks. Each day we start with some quick morning work, a video, a book and then build time! The work book is jammed packed with activities too! 

 Ready to download your own Lego Landmarks Work Book? Click here!

Teacher Tip: I require my kids to break down all creations each day. I work really hard at the beginning of this course to make sure students know that we do not save anything, it just gets too tricky. To make up for this, I take pictures & share their work on social media for their parents to see (with permission, of course). This has been a HUGE life saver, there are no objections when I tell them it's clean up time and it gets parents engaged in their students' learning too! Each day on my classroom Facebook page I also post a picture of which landmark we'll be studying. 


Below are the slides that I use with my kiddos. You can download and customize these slides to fit your own needs (but they are designed to follow the work book). ***You will also need a Discovery Education account to view most of the videos. Feel free to supplement with your own videos from a site your school subscribes to.

Finally! On the last day of our time together in Lego Landmarks I award each brick builder with this certificate. 

I am so excited to share this awesome class with you. I would love to hear how you plan to use these resources! Let me know how your Lego Landmark class goes in the comments. 

Happy Building!! 

The Best Day

Saturday, April 30, 2016 4 comments

I have to admit, I've been a little absent this year in blog land. I was busy planning and preparing for the best day of my life. Since I've left you with no educational posts lately I thought I'd make up for it with some fun wedding pictures!


Flowers: Florally
Makeup: Kellie at Living Waters Salon
Monogram Robes: STC Monograms

Elf in the Classroom

Thursday, December 24, 2015 3 comments

Elf on the Shelf is by far one of the best things to come along in a while (well in teacher land anyway). This little sucker works like a charm! When you're hours away from your beloved break and your kids are glued to the ceiling, just utter the words "Elf" and the Christmas magic truly happens. 

So let's start at the beginning of all the madness.
One day my kids were begging me to read the Elf on the Shelf book, they were convinced if you read it an Elf will come. So I said I'd read it but can't promise anything will happen. Well Santa decided to send us this package while we were away at lunch! And guess what? It was even cold (teacher tip: put the package in your freezer until you're ready for it, the kids will think it is straight from the North Pole!). We ripped open the package and found a letter from Santa and our beautiful little Elf! Of course after reading our letter from the Big Man we had to find a name for our new little stalker...I mean Elf. This was probably the best part. Listening to the hilarious names they come up with is seriously the best.

After naming him I carefully set him on our shelf, making sure not to touch him of course (I used gloves!). Naturally we had some non-believers, but Frosty took care of that quickly. Because of the way I situated him on the shelf he fell about half way through the afternoon and his legs swung down over the shelf. Almost scared the you know what out of me and every kid screamed! HE MOVED! He must be real!! 

Over the next few weeks Frosty took time making messes in our classroom and reporting back to Santa. 

One day our Elf brought us stickers! (aka labels) These labels had a picture of our Elf and said "Caught Being a Leader". I passed these out throughout the day and HOLY COW my class was awesome! It was so fun watching them watch the Elf to make sure he was catching them being a leader.

One day our Elf even brought us Brag Tags! You can download these brag tags from my Elf on the Shelf Bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click HERE to go to my store. When you download the bundle you'll find a ton of resources to use with your elf including letters from your Elf (boy & girl versions), a sick letter in case he get's touched, an Elf journal for students to complete as they watch their Elf, and an Elf Shenanigans planner for the teacher!

Finally, on Frosty's last day he left us the sweetest letter! You can download that in my Elf Bundle too. Santa said he'd lift his magic for just a few minutes so we could all hug Frosty and say goodbye. My kids quickly moved themselves into a circle and took turns passing him around. I might have even seen a tear or two, it was pretty sweet!

Even though Christmas is over and you're all probably in your jammies reading this be sure to pin some of the pictures for next year! If you've done an Elf in the classroom share your best Elf stories in the comments! 

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from my 2nd grade team! I hope you have a wonderful break. See you in 2016!
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