August 30, 2011

Daily Schedule & Date Cards [Download]

I made some free daily schedule and date cards for anyone to download.  You can purchase a pocket chart like this or use the cards with magnetic clips.  It's a good idea to laminate them so they last.

Includes: Literacy, Math, Science, Social Studies, Geography, History, Dance, Drama, Visual Art, Music, Health, Physical Education, Character Education, Independent Reading, Story, Recess, Lunch, Clean Up, Agenda, Library, Buddies, Assembly, Special Event, and 2 blank cards. (Thanks Erin S.)
Also: Digital clocks and analogue clocks for setting times.

Download the daily date cards too!

August 15, 2011

HOW-TO: Setup a Classroom Library

This is my guide on how to setup a classroom library, but it is by no means the only way.

Fiction is all on the blue bookcase, while non-fiction is on the built-in bookcase and ledge.
Collecting Books

I was fortunate to have some books left behind by a retiring teacher, but not quite enough.  I wanted some newer titles with glossy covers to attract students' eyes.  In addition, I wanted some graphic novels to motivate some of my lower readers (though, who doesn't love a graphic novel?)

Here's where the books came from:
  • Visited Value Village and the Salvation Army for some great deals on lightly used books.
  • An educational assistant (C.W.) from my previous school knew I wanted some comics and graciously donated a giant pile.
  • A colleague (J.B.) lent me some great junior level books that she's not currently using.
  • Included some books I had purchased for my intermediate classroom last year.
and where I will find more...
  • I will be collecting magazines throughout the year to build up my collection.
  • I am going to ask parents if they have any gently used books that are collecting dust.
Library Organization

There's no easy way to do this, it's going to take time and effort.  To start, I organized all my books into the following categories: (downloadable labels at end of post)

Historical Fiction
Adventures at School
Graphic Novels
Canadian Authors
Ancient Civilizations
Rocks, Minerals, and Fossils
Science and Technology
Puzzles, Jokes, and Trivia
General Interest

In addition to these categories, I also created piles for authors and series that I had a lot of.

I did not organize my library by reading level.  Instead, I am going to teach my class how to pick an appropriate book using the five finger rule.

Next, I headed down to the local dollar store where I stocked up on plastic bins for about a $1 each.  I also picked up a package of 75 2" x 3" white labels.  I printed all the categories listed above onto the labels and stuck them onto each bin.

Final Touches

I dedicated half of my classroom library to fiction and the other half to non-fiction books.  I tried to colour code as much as possible.

I found a cut-off of carpet at a local carpet store for $25 and a free couch at my grandmother's house.

Put it all together and voila! - a classroom library and reading nook!

Next Steps
  • Find some pillows to make the nook more comfortable.  (thanks J.B.)
  • Level each book with a sticker on the inside of the cover.  (thanks to volunteers)
Downloadable Labels

You can download the labels I created in a PDF.  These can be printed onto Avery 4"x2" label sheets that have 10 labels.  Download here.

August 13, 2011

HOW-TO: Homemade Whiteboard

From dusty and ugly to...

clean and new!

There are many websites out there with a whole range of ideas on how to create your own whiteboard. Some claim that white tile board from the hardware store works well - but I have seen mixed reviews.  

4'x8' 1/2" birch plywood
2'x4' 1/2" cork board
white flat latex paint
MB4000W whiteboard repair paint
paint roller
paint pad
paint tray
wood filler
sanding block/paper
hammer and nails
I stumbled across one website that described a whiteboard paint product from Solutions MB called MB4000W Whiteboard Repair. The interesting thing about this product is that it can also be used to make whiteboards. It's a clear coat that can go over virtually any surface to make it function like a whiteboard.

Here are the technical specifications of MB4000W.

It's sold by the company for $40 (8oz/250ml) up to $119 (32oz/1000ml). Shipping in Ontario cost me $10.

Here are my steps:

1. Removed existing chalkboard from its wooden frame by pulling up the trim holding it in place.
Concrete block wall is visible after removing the chalkboard surfaces.
2. Temporarily tacked in two pieces of 4'x8' 1/2" birch plywood to act as my whiteboard surface.
Gap on the right will be filled with cork boards.
3. Used a wood filler to cover up the gap between the two pieces of plywood.  After drying, I sanded the filler down to create a smooth surface.  You may have to repeat the filling and sanding process depending on how your first fill goes.
Take your time to get this step right.  If done well, your whiteboard will appear seamless.
4.  Prepped for painting by lightly sanding the plywood surface to remove imperfections, then used a vacuum to remove all debris and dust.

5.  Applied two coats of flat white latex paint (6 hours drying time between coats) using a roller.  I followed the drying instructions listed on the can.  It is important to use a flat paint as per the whiteboard paint instructions.  I also used tape to protect the edges of my frame.
Use flat white latex paint that provides good coverage.
6.  Applied two coats of the MB4000W Whiteboard Repair paint (1 hour drying time between coats) using a painting pad.  This stuff if pretty watery, don't overload your painting pad or it will run down the surface and create drip marks.

7.  In the gap on the right of my new whiteboard I used two 2'x4' 1/2" cork boards to create a cork board.  I then secured everything into place by nailing trim around the whiteboard and cork boards.

Update (Sept. 2011):
I have used the whiteboard a few times, I have to say that it is not the same as a traditional whiteboard.  It works well, but because the surface has some texture from the plywood and paint, it doesn't wipe clean as easily.  I purchased some cloths to clean the board instead of a whiteboard eraser.  The eraser didn't do a great job at cleaning, again, because of the texture.  I do recommend using a bit of spray cleaning now and then.  This is certainly an effective and cheaper alternative to an expensive whiteboard.

Another update (Feb. 5, 2012):
I have been using the whiteboard daily for five months now and it still holding up really well. It still wipes completely clean even if I leave something up for weeks at a time. I have to use whiteboard cleaning spray though, using a dry cloth doesn't work at all unless the marker has been on the board for only a few seconds. I have been using my data projector on the whiteboard surface instead of using my decrepit pull-down screen. There is some glare from the projector, but it's really a non-issue. I have placed some anchor charts using masking tape on the whiteboard with no problem, but I'm going to stop that... I don't want to tempt fate.

End of year update (June 19, 2012):
It's the end of the school year and my whiteboard has held up perfectly. The custodian was impressed that there was no ghosting effect after a year's worth of use. The board is in like-new condition - super happy. My cork board isn't holding up as well - some of the cork has cracked and pulled away from the backing, but still very usable.

August 03, 2011

Classroom Library Beginnings [Updated]

Books, books, books... where to begin?
Since writing this entry, I have setup my classroom library.  Click here for how I did it.

One of the items on my classroom setup list is a classroom library and reading nook.  Let's focus on the library today, I have some ideas brewing for my nook.

Last week, I posted a message to my teaching friends on Facebook wondering where I could get some children's books for dirt cheap.  The replies were varied, but several mentioned Value Village and the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  Both turned out to be pretty good, but Value Village really rocked it.  I purchased 25 books for about $30 - not bad.

Today I wandered back into my new classroom after a few weeks of holiday to find crates of books from the previous teacher.  After hours of sorting, I found some good finds, including a few books from the Bones series (I really want to develop a rich collection of graphic novels), and a really great trove of non-fiction.

I have started organizing the library by making piles of fiction and non-fiction books.  I split non-fiction up into distinct categories including sports, science, animals, environment, ancient civilizations, trivia and humour, etc.  I haven't started dividing up my fiction books yet, but I thought I would create bins of popular authors, canadian literature, and then group by genres including mystery, adventure, biographical, etc.  I hope I'm doing this right, it takes a lot of work.

I know that some teachers organize their library by reading level.  I reflected on that, but decided that maybe grouping by interest would be more appealing to students.  I can teach students in the first few weeks about how to select an appropriate text for them.

The plan now is to keep sorting, organize into labelled bins, and see what materializes...

Questions I Have: (some of my answers in bold)
Where can I get comic books for cheap? I still don't have an answer for this.
Should students return their own books? I am going to use a "book return" bin.
Should I keep track of who has what or let it be? I'm not going to bother.
Should I rotate books to keep the library fresh? I will, a bit.
What kind of magazines could I use?  Where do I get them? "The Mentor" suggests entertainment magazines that are free form the movie theatre - thanks! I have placed requests in my monthly newsletters for child-friendly magazines.