Classroom Tour 2016-2017

Sunday, 6 November 2016
I thought this would never happen, but I am finally posting my 2016-2017 classroom tour! I always have big plans to take all my classroom photos and post them at the beginning of the year, but the never ending back-to-school to do list seems to get in the way every time. I think I'll just blame it on island time. ;) Anyway, hope you enjoy this little tour of my classroom!

Here is the view from my doorway, looking towards my classroom library:

Here is a closer look at my classroom library. I love this area of the room and the kids do too!

All of the color in this area makes my teacher heart happy. My book bins are from Steps to Literacy. The bins on the shelf to the left hold our leveled fiction books and the bins on the smaller shelf/reading bench hold our nonfiction books (see picture below). Both shelves, the two saucer chairs, and my lamp are from Walmart. The little table is a family antique that I spruced up for my classroom last year and the chevron rug is from Overstock. (It is from the Mohawk Home brand, but I am not sure if it is still available.) The tassel banner on the small bulletin board is from Schoolgirl Style and the welcome banner is from Teacher Created Resources.

One of my favorite additions to my classroom library this year is this huge Dr. Seuss quote! I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut it out of vinyl. This made it much easier to put up on the wall. I can't imagine putting up a huge quote like this letter by letter. The font is KG Next To Me Solid. I printed the Melonheadz clip art poster-size, then cut out the pieces, and taped them together. Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd has a tutorial for this if you're interested in doing it in your classroom. 

This is a close up of our classroom rules. They are free (and editable!) from Lucky to Be in First. I bought some cheap black frames from Walmart to frame them and they fit perfectly on the window sill. The throw pillows in my saucer chairs came from Target.

The photo above gives you a closer look at the main bookshelf in my classroom library. I found the wooden READ letters at Michael's a few years ago and spruced them up with paint and washi tape. The quote inside the frame is part of a freebie chalkboard set from Khrys Bosland and the book bin labels are from A Cupcake for the Teacher. The Officer Buckle craftivity that is on display is from Caitlin Clabby at Kindergarten Smiles.

To the left of that shelf are my new display shelves, which are actually IKEA spice racks! (If you frequent Pinterest, you'll know this is definitely not a new idea, but it's something I've always wanted to try out in my classroom.) I bought these little book buddies from Amazon and decided to display them here. I love how this little area turned out! (Well, except for the fact that the top shelf should probably have been a few inches lower. haha. Hopefully I can lower it at some point.) The plan is to switch out the books throughout the year, although as you can see, I kind of dropped the ball on that in the midst of the beginning of the year craziness. #oops. 

Moving to the right of my classroom library, you'll see my computer and Smart Board. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll notice I don't usually post pictures of this area of the room because all of the cords and wires drive me crazy! This is where we meet for Math lessons, but my students also love to use this rug (from Amazon) during independent reading, writing, and other times during the day. We keep our book boxes on the top shelf of the built-in shelving and the bottom shelf is used to hold word work games, chapter books, clipboards, and writing journals. 

If you looked at my classroom pictures from last year, you'll notice my counters and cabinets are different. They were recovered this summer and I love the new look! In this photo, you can see more of the west wall. This wall is pretty much all bulletin boards and cabinets. To maximize space, I put my number posters on the cabinets. 

I love this wall in my classroom! I had the pennant banners (from Target) up from last year, but this year I decided to add the "Be" quotes under each set of banners. I cut the letters from Astrobrights paper using my Cameo. It turned out even better than I expected and makes such a statement in the room! If you do not have a Silhouette or Cricut and would like to make these quotes for your room, you can check out my Be Brave Be Kind Be You Decor Kit in my TPT store.

The picture below gives a much better look at this area. This is obviously a picture from the very beginning of the year, but I included it anyway since it was the best one I had of this wall.

I made new number posters this year and love how they stand out against my light cabinets! I have them posted in two different font styles (and also with a white background) in my TPT store if you are interested. The banner on my bucket filler board is from From the Pond and can be found here

I ordered these paper baskets from Really Good Stuff and they have been such a lifesaver this year! They help to keep my dreaded paper piles under control and my students have even caught on to using them! (For example, the student passing out papers knows any extras go in the extras bin and they know to turn in their work in the turn in bin.) These are a mix of the Neon and Rainbow sets. I made the basket labels to match my number posters. An editable set can be found here

Moving further along this wall, you'll see a full view of my Writing board. This is where our Writer's Workshop anchor charts go. We just finished our first unit and are about to start narrative writing, so I cleared the board to make room for new charts. This little table serves a variety of purposes in our classroom. It's not only a Writing center, but is also used by my assistant to work with individual students or as a cool down spot by students who need a break.

Last year I had my Writing Center choices on the actual bulletin board, but this year I decided to display them under the board to make more room for anchor charts. This little chalkboard pencil from Target was the perfect addition to this area! I cut the words from white vinyl using my Silhouette Cameo and stuck them right on. I love how the pencil points to the writing choices and adds a cute touch to the area.

The writing choices (and the Write pennant banner) are from Seusstastic's Ultimate Writing station pack, which can be found here.

Just under my Writing board, near my door, you'll see our brag tag display. I started brag tags mid-year last year and used a bulletin board to display them. While this was really cute, I wanted a more functional way to display them without sacrificing bulletin board space. These are two racks from Walmart that are screwed in side by side. I used die-cut chalkboard pieces from Hobby Lobby to cover the area above each hook. The best part about this solution is that my students can easily reach their brag tag necklaces now, whereas before, I had to help some students reach their necklaces on the bulletin board.

Let's zoom out on the south wall in my classroom. This is what you see when you stand at the large shag rug by the Smart Board. The paper lanterns are from Oriental Trading. I hung them with black ribbon and tied bows to add a cute look (inspired by KinderCraze).

A little closer... The paper fans are a new addition this year and are from PomLove on Etsy. I love the pop of color they add! In the middle of the paper fan display, I have a chalkboard quote that I bought at a local store. It says "Speak the truth even if your voice shakes." :)

In the picture above, you get a better look at my small group table. I don't have a desk, so this little table does double duty. It is a wooden table but I covered the surface with chalkboard contact paper from Walmart. The stools are the same ones from last year (from IKEA), but I decided to spray paint them this year for an extra pop of color.

On the left side of this wall is the inside of my classroom door, which is decorated with this awesome quote from Maya Angelou. Last year, my door was white and boring. I knew I wanted to spruce it up this year and I love how it turned out! If you want to find out more about how I made this display, check out my blog post here.

Edit: Since this post was written, I have created a decor kit with the quote and circles to make it easy for you to re-create in your own classroom. If you would like to find out more, you can view the product here.

To the right of my door is my helpers bulletin board. This board displays my classroom jobs. The display from Amy Groesbeck and can be found here. The banner is also from Amy's store. You've probably noticed by now that I've used them on almost all of my bulletin boards!

Underneath this bulletin board, I have backpack hooks for my students that are labelled with their numbers (labels from Creative Teaching Press). Yes, I only have 11 students. :) One of the perks of teaching on a small island!

Moving on to my area of the classroom! Since I don't have a desk, this space holds a lot of my supplies and materials. I love all the color in this area! On the window sill, I have my "hello" sign from Target and some tissue paper flowers in vases. I wasn't planning on putting them there, but I found those cute little vases in a local shop and just had to find some way to use them! 

Here is a closer look. The 10-drawer rainbow cart is from Walmart and mostly holds materials for Guided Reading. Last year, I didn't have labels on the cart and it became a little bit of hot mess. This year, I removed the knobs from the drawers and used Miss West Best's editable labels to help me stay more organized. I also have my teacher toolbox (labeled with Teach Create Motivate's editable labels), and my daily bins for Guided Reading (from Steps to Literacy). I made the days of the week labels to match the other black and brights decor and have an editable set available in my TPT store. On the bottom shelf, I have my fabric drawers that were included with the shelf (from Walmart) and those hold various Math and Literacy games, art supplies, extra school supplies, etc.

This year I added these Sterilite drawers to hold my daily copies and extra subject copies. The labels are from Learning in Wonderland's Let's Get Organized bundle on TPT. The pails resting on top hold some supplies that I wanted to have easy access to, such as scissors, anchor chart markers, guided reading wands etc. I believe all of the pails came from the Target Dollar Spot. Hanging above the drawers, you'll see my pencil sign from Tallahassee Sunday. I love it and my kiddos refer to it whenever they need to spell my name!

Here is a better look at this corner of the room. The door in the picture is for my closet. I painted it with chalkboard paint too, but haven't added anything to it yet due to the limited space with the vents. I am thinking I will have my kiddos sign their names on it with chalk to celebrate their sight word mastery or something similar. Above the door is my "It's time to learn" clock from Mardel. Who says clocks can't be cute? ;)

This shelf holds my monthly read alouds and a few other items. I labeled the bins (from Really Good Stuff) with chalkboard labels and put them in order from September to June. It has been so helpful so far to have all my read alouds organized and within reach! The bottom area of the shelf is used to hold smaller supplies (in the mini drawer set), my brag tags and reward coupons, and some binders.
Above the shelf, I have some more chalkboard accents. The two signs next to my phone are from Jo-Ann's. The four mini chalkboards are actually wooden plaques from Michael's that I painted black. I printed our school rules (based on the acronym SAFE) and modpodged them to the plaques so that we would have them to refer to each day.

This little area is another happy spot. :) The shelf holds our whiteboards and Math manipulatives (labels from Amy Groesbeck). On the top, I have more of Khrys Bosland's quote posters in frames, with a bouquet of tissue paper flowers in the middle. I ended up adding confetti to the vase to hide the flower stems and love the colorful and whimsical look it adds. The blue polka dot board is from Hobby Lobby and holds all the notes from my little sweeties. :) I found an Astrobrights circle banner kit at Walmart over the summer and decided to add a small one over the board to tie in with the color scheme. 

This is a look at the front wall in my classroom. The board on the left was originally a green chalkboard, so I covered it up and it now serves as a word wall. The magnetic board makes it super easy to add words and allows students to borrow words to write them if necessary. My alphabet posters are from Miss Giraffe and the calendar set on my whiteboard is from Teacher Created Resources.

You'll notice in the picture above that I've added large Sterilite drawers and caddies this year. I am stuck with desks for now, but wanted to keep my students' books and basic supplies in a central location. I spray painted the drawer frames green, blue, and pink to match my table colors. The supply caddies are from Really Good Stuff. I spruced them up with a curly ribbon bow from Michael's and Amy Lemons' free labels. The matching bowls on each group of desks are used as our tidy tubs and hold our paper scraps during cutting activities. Those came from a local store.

This year I decided to move my bucket filler message center from the plastic shoe hanger. I bought some s-hooks and ordered new buckets from Oriental Trading. The hooks hang perfectly on the ledge and it has been so convenient to have the buckets at the front of the room! The posters under the buckets are from Rulin' the Roost's Bucket Filler pack.

Our learning objectives are displayed in frames under the word wall and white board. It is super easy to write on the frames with a dry erase marker! The blank subject posters are from True Life I'm a Teacher. Underneath our learning objectives is our Marzano scale (from Alma Almazan), which we use to assess our learning.

A view from the other side. The pink, green, and blue containers (from Michael's) hold calendar pieces. If you look closely, you can see they are actually attached to clips on this rainbow chevron thing (from Target). This idea originally came from Teaching is a Treasure on Instagram.

Right next to my whiteboard is our birthday display from Cupcakes 'n Curriculum and our hand signal posters. The hand signal posters were a freebie from Jessica Travis at Wild About Firsties a few years back, but are no longer available. However, she has a new free set of hand signal posters in a different design, so check those out if you are in need of some.

I originally ordered this little table from Walmart as a Writing Center table a few years ago. But as you can see, it ended up being much shorter than what I expected. I have put it to use a little supply station of sorts. It works perfectly because the kids can reach everything easily. You have probably noticed my pencil buckets are in a sad state. haha I am still wondering where all those pencils have gone! (The sharp and dull labels are a freebie in my TPT store if you are interested.) I labeled the mini Sterilite drawers with Learning in Wonderland's labels and am using them to hold extra crayons. This has been such a lifesaver this year because all those misplaced crayons now have a home!

And that wraps up the tour! Whew! I did warn you that there would be a lot of pictures. :) I hope you enjoyed looking at my little home away from home. Let me just say that my first year of teaching, my classroom did not look anything like this. It took several years to bring this vision to life! At the end of the day, a nicely decorated classroom is not the most important thing, but it is something I genuinely enjoy doing and gets me excited about going back to work after the summer. What I love the most about my classroom are the eleven sweet kiddos I get to share it with each day! They love our bright and colorful learning space as much as I do and we truly enjoy being here every week!

Thanks for taking the time to go on this little tour with me! I tried to include links and sources for most of the products and decor, but please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions!


How to Recreate my Classroom Door

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Today I am blogging about an area of my classroom that has gotten a lot of attention on Instagram and Facebook: my door! I am humbled by all of the people who have become inspired by my door and wanted to provide a bit more information for those who are interested in re-creating it in their classrooms.

I knew I wanted to paint my door with black chalkboard paint and display some sort of inspirational quote on it. Since I turned my black and brights theme into more of a chalkboard rainbow theme this year, I decided a colorful display with the word rainbow was right up my alley. I literally googled "rainbow quote" and found this awesome inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. 

My door has a window in it so I wanted to play around with the design first and make sure that it fit with the dimensions of my door. I found a super easy way to do that without doing anything to my actual door. Are you ready for this tip? All I did was take a picture of my blank door, insert it in PowerPoint and type the quote. I was able to play around with different fonts, colors, and sizes to get my design exactly how I wanted it. To fill the leftover space, I inserted circles on the top, found some pom pom images online, and added a cloud image to the bottom. It really didn't take long! The best part about this trick is that you can use it to figure out the sizing of your letters. If you measure the width and height of your door, you can use the photo as a scale to figure out how many inches each letter needs to be. The picture below shows how my PowerPoint design turned out!

Once I figured out the dimensions of my letters, I went to work cutting them out on my Silhouette Cameo. (If you don't have a Cameo or a Cricut yet, I highly recommend investing in one or putting it on your Christmas list this year. It is worth every penny!) I cut the letters for "rainbow" and the circles on the top out of Astrobrights paper. I used regular Astrobrights paper because that was all I had, but I would recommend using cardstock if you're able to. The words "be a" and "in someone else's" were cut out of white vinyl. (In case you're wondering, the "in" is missing in this picture because I had temporarily lost it. haha. Thank goodness it turned up the next day!) The word "cloud" was cut from white cardstock, mainly because I ran out of white vinyl and there are no stores here that sell it. #islandproblems. I attached the circles and paper letters to the door using double-sided mounting tape. It took a few tries to position some of them correctly, so I didn't press down too hard on the tape until I was sure they were in the right place.

Next, I added the cloud. I was originally going to use white paint on the bottom of my door, but was running out of time and decided to try out a jumbo chalkboard marker that I purchased from Hobby Lobby over the summer. It worked better than I thought it would and I was glad that I was able to have some sort of chalk on the door. (Originally, my plan was to use chalkboard makers on the whole door, but I'm definitely not artistic enough for that!)

Finally, it was time to add my pom poms. Unfortunately, I only had mint and pink pom-poms from one of my trips to Target this summer. I knew I wanted a variety of colors on the door, but didn't want all my Target pom poms to go to waste. I read online that pom poms could be spray painted and had some leftover spray paint from other classroom projects so I tried it out. And it worked! Check out my blue and green spray painted pom poms in the picture below. The mint pom pom on the left is what they originally looked like. You can see in the picture that they are a little stiffer and shinier than the mint pom pom, but it is hardly noticeable and they work just fine! You would probably be better off just buying the colors you want or making your own, but when you live on a 12 mile island where there are no pom poms for sale and tissue paper in limited colors, you resort to this kind of stuff. 

I had orange tissue paper so I ended up making an orange pom pom using a tutorial I found online. I would have preferred to have a purple pom pom to keep with my rainbow colors, but there was no purple spray paint or tissue paper, so the mint one was there to stay. Check out the finished product below! I was so excited to see my vision come to life and this is one of my favorite areas of my room!

I have added a picture with the fonts I used below if you would like to use the same ones. The fonts that start with PB are from A Perfect Blend on TpT and and can be purchased here. The KG font that I used for the word "cloud" is by Kimberly Geswein and is free for personal use. That font can be downloaded here. Just an FYI: If I had to do it over again, I would probably use a different font for "in someone else's" because it was a little jagged around the edges and my poor Cameo blade had a rough time cutting those letters. 

Here is a side by side comparison of my PowerPoint design and the real thing. They aren't completely identical, but creating it in PowerPoint first was definitely a huge help! 

I hope this post inspires you to create a fun and colorful door quote in your classroom! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. And if you end up doing your own version of my door in your classroom, I would love to see how it turns out! Please tag me on Instagram @teachinginthetropicsblog, on Facebook (Teaching in the Tropics), or email me pictures at!

UPDATE: If you do not have a Silhouette or Cricut and would like to create this door, I now have a kit available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store to purchase! Click the picture below to go to the product page!

Also, if you want this quote in your classroom without the hassle of putting together a door display, I have created a free printable poster with this same design! Click on the picture below to download it in my TPT store!


If We're Honest... A Non-Teaching Related Post

Sunday, 7 August 2016
Hi again! It's been a LONG time since I've blogged on here. After my last post, I took a hiatus from blogging. That wasn't really the plan, but the final term of the school year was so crazy I just didn't have the time. I also used that time to rearrange my priorities, which is something I felt God calling me to do for a long time.

I have been a Christian since I was a child, grew up in the church, and live in a country where there is no separation of church and state. While that has been a tremendous blessing, it has also led to complacency over the years. For years, I let works take precedence over a relationship with the Lord. I knew that God was calling me to a true relationship with Him, but made excuses to ignore that calling. "I go to church, help with VBS every summer, read a devotional every night, and say a prayer before bed - if I don't fall asleep first. Isn't that enough, God?"

I think a lot of Christians find themselves asking that question. But if we're honest, we know that it's not enough. In fact, when we ask that question, we've missed the point entirely. You see, God wants us to know Him, not just know about Him. How do we get to know someone? By spending time with them, talking to them, and making them a priority.

But we tell ourselves that we're too busy to start spending time with God each day, that there's too much going on in our lives to make that commitment right now, that He'll understand. The truth is, that type of mindset reveals a lack of faith in God and His promises. He says in His word to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33, NIV). I've always heard that verse quoted on its own, but when I read the surrounding verses (25-34) I realized that this command is actually given right after we are instructed to not worry.

God wants us to trust Him enough to put Him first in our lives. He deserves so much more than our leftovers. As a teacher, I feel like the work is never done... But I have to remind myself that I am more than just a teacher; I am first and foremost a follower of Christ.

Right now, my back to school to do list seems like it's a million miles long. Usually, around this time of year I feel like I'm an anxious mess. But for the first time ever, I feel peace. Yes, there is a lot to be done, but I know with God's help I will get through it and continue the ministry He's given me as a teacher.

I recently stumbled upon a children's book called The Huge Bag of Worries. It is about a girl named Jenny whose worries seem to follow her wherever she goes. Interestingly, her worries in this story are represented as monsters. Even though this is a fictional story for kids, I think that metaphor is so striking. Worry is a monster. And until we begin to truly put our trust in God, we will carry it around with us wherever we go.

Last week, I started reading Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver and highly recommend it for anyone having a hard time finding a balance. God has really been speaking to my heart through this book and it is just what I needed at this point in my life. I just finished Chapter 3, which is all about worry, and am excited to read the rest. There is also a study guide included, which has been really helpful so far.

This school year, my priorities are different. Do I still want to be the best teacher I can be? Of course. Do I want my kids to learn and to feel successful? Certainly. But more than anything, I want to show them the love of Christ. I want them to know each day how much I love them and even more importantly, how much God loves them. If you are reading this, I invite you to join me in praying for our kids, parents, teachers, and schools this year. If you have a prayer request, please leave a comment. I would love to pray for you.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

- Philippians 4:6-7


Hatching Chicken Eggs in the Classroom - Tips for a Successful Hatch

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Do you teach life cycles? Are you thinking about taking your unit one step further and bringing it to life (literally)? Well, back in January, I started a new Science unit on the chicken life cycle. My students were already interested in this topic since we have so many chickens on our island. They were eager to share their schema and to learn more, but knowing that we were attempting to hatch chicks in our classroom made them even more invested and brought our learning to life. It also encouraged them to do some mathematical thinking every day because we started a countdown to hatching day during our calendar time. Don't you love when that happens? ;)

In my last Five for Friday post, I mentioned that the eggs in our incubator hatched and shared some photos of our chicks. Today I am blogging to share a bit more about hatching chicken eggs in the classroom. I have noticed there are not a lot of blog posts on this subject and wanted to share my experience, along with some tips for those of you who are trying it out for the first time.

This was an easy one for me since my grandparents have tons of chickens and harvest eggs daily. I know most teachers who do chick hatching already get the eggs from local farmers, but I know there are some people who actually order them online. While nothing is wrong with that, the journey and mailing conditions could cause your eggs to crack or break, or even rupture the air sac inside. Many local farmers are more than willing to donate eggs to classrooms and even volunteer to take the chicks back after they hatch. 

When I first became interested in hatching eggs in my classroom, I didn't know that automatic egg turners even existed. Thankfully, the incubator my school's PTA purchased came with one and I am so grateful! While it would have been great to say that the kids helped turn the eggs each day and fully participated in the process, realistically speaking, that can be quite time consuming. Turning eggs by hand also increases chances of contamination (due to more frequent handling) and causes the heat and humidity (two super important factors) to drop. Several incubators on the market now come with automatic egg turners or they can even be purchased separately. If you want to save on instructional time and/or you don't want to go in to work several times on weekends, then an automatic egg turner would definitely be worth the investment!

Last year, when I tried incubating eggs in my classroom for the first time, I had no way of checking on the development. I soon learned about "candling" the eggs, which basically means shining a bright light through the eggs at various periods of incubation to monitor embryo development. Unfortunately, all of the eggs were brown and the flashlight I used just wasn't bright enough. None of our eggs ended up hatching and I knew if I had been able to candle them, I would have known way before day 21 that nothing was growing. This time around, I ordered an egg candler from Amazon and used it at four different points to check on the development (day 3, day 7, day 14, day 18). Doing this allowed me to see that two of our twelve eggs were infertile and could be tossed. A bright flashlight should do the trick, but I highly recommend an actual candler, especially if you have some brown eggs. If you are not sure what you are doing, just search for some videos of egg candling on Youtube. They are really helpful in showing you what you should look for. And don't forget to wash your hands before you handle the eggs. :)

This is something I did not do, but will certainly be doing next year. My school's incubator came with a probe thermometer and built in hygrometer. However, it does come with a label that says "for reference only" and urges users to calibrate the thermometer using another one. I had a successful hatch this year, so I do believe that the thermometer and hygrometer were accurate, but it can't hurt to have an extra one just to verify that the temperature and humidity readings are correct.

My first time attempting to hatch eggs in my classroom was a failure for a lot of reasons, but they all stemmed from lack of research. I thought I was pretty well informed last year, but it wasn't until this year when I tried again that I realized how much I actually didn't know when I tried the first time. The best tip I can give is to Google your heart out. Google every part of this process - what you should do before hatching, during, and after. There are so many factors - egg collection/storage, humidity, temperature, to name a few - that contribute to a successful hatch. You may seem obsessive and your friends and family may think you're crazy, but it will be so worth it when you and your students get to watch those little chicks break out of their shells. Good luck with hatching!

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