Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Our Place In Space

So many people ask us about our room...where do kids put all their STUFF if you don't have desks? Where did you get your furniture? How do you manage the supplies of 50+ kiddos?? I'm hoping this blog post will answer a few of those questions.

Let's start with general room set up...Our room has a few "zones" of instruction. We have a "Large Group Meeting Area" that can hold all 50+ kids in front of a SMART board. We do have another SMART board on the opposite side of the space that all the kids can sit in front of, if needed, but it is a little "tight." We do also have 2 classroom libraries--one for fiction and one for nonfiction books. We also have smaller group work spaces, individual work spaces, a variety of seating choices, and lots of rugs! We have a "kid storage" side of the room, where kids can go into ANY cupboard or drawer to get things. We also have a "teacher storage" side of the room, where we house our things, and they have to ask permission go into. We have lots of kid-zones for storage, as well, which we will share below! Kids will often ask for other zones or for us to create new ones. From their input, we created a "quiet zone", as well as a "mindfulness zone" by utilizing hallway corners and landings outside our space. It is important to us that our students know their voice and needs MATTER in TEAM Togetherness. The space is THEIRS, and we want it to reflect that.

Within our "Large Group Meeting Area", we have our infamous "bar." Not going to is one of my favorite pieces of furniture. This "bar" can hold 10 kids around the back and 10 kids on the bench. We love it! It also has a white board table that we painted (an old round table, that we took the legs off of). It also has one set of our red "step" pieces that can hold about seven 5th graders. The "bar" and the "steps" we get asked about most often. We ordered them through Business Interiors by Staples. They served as the "middle man" between a bunch of different manufacturers. I know the bar was made by a company called "JSI" and was part of their "Connect Collection." Since we have purchased that, I know that there is a smaller, less expensive version that can be purchased through School Specialty (it has vinyl seats, and a shorter counter). Sadly, I cannot remember the name of the company that made the red step pieces, but they were also purchased from Business Interiors by Staples.
Here are our classroom libraries. Having the two separate ones really helps to keep books organized! I wrote an earlier blog post about how we basket/number/color code books. You can check that one out HERE. It also includes a link to the free basket labels we use! We love the "mini milk crates" that you can get at Target or Wal-Mart to house chapter books! We find the most success in getting them during "back to school "shopping time, as they often have them by the dorm room items. We usually get them for about $1 a piece. 
The "counter top" seating you see in the nonfiction library was a "recycled" piece of furniture we made. We had some solid wood bookcases (purchased from a rummage sale) and a co-worker was replacing her counter tops! We took a piece of her old counter top and secured it to the top of the bookcase! Voila! Instant seating! We love the multi-purpose-ness of this piece! Too often, many get hung up on "expensive" fancy furniture, when in reality, much of what we have in our room was garage sale or re-purposed items! The beautiful, green "Hand Chairs" that you see in the pictures were also a fantastic rummage sale find!

We also like to keep our room "tidy" and "organized" (hard to do with 50+ little bodies that might make it their secret mission to make a mess!) These are our "math bins." These are housed in a cabinet on the "kid storage" side of the world.  On the "Kid Storage" side...they have their math bins, math manipulatives, tissues, paper towels, ziploc bags, textbooks, loose leaf paper and indoor recess games!
The image links to Wal-Mart, which is where we purchased our original "blue bins" 4 years ago. I don't think they make this exact model anymore, but this one is close. These bins hold a personal white board, marker, eraser, math zippered pouch (calculator, protractor), their math notebooks, and the district-purchased math journals that are tied to our Bridges Math curriculum. Some kids also house their scissors here, some Sharpies, highlighters, etc. We stuck a "binder label pocket" to the front of them, then slid a label in. This allowed us to change names in and out very freely! We also use these same pockets on our book bins! Here is a link to the adhesive pockets we purchased! They come in SOOOO handy!

Speaking of book bins....We have two spots in our room to house the book bins. This helps when 50+ kids are trying to get to them all at once (prevents accidents :) These are simple "magazine boxes" that are from DEMCO. Here is a link to a similar product. Again, those binder pockets come in really handy! They come in lots of sizes, so you can definitely find one that fits your needs!
We also use these amazing drawers as "mailboxes." In these mailboxes, kids keep their "home folder" (Which goes to and from school every day), their "stay at school folder" (which houses any loose papers they NEED to keep safe and here at school), their word work notebooks, any special pencils, and their flash drives. You can purchase these from all sorts of places, but the most reasonably priced ones that we found were from Sam's Club. Here is a link to their site. They can get pretty pricey if you buy them from other locations!
We also utilize a lot of "community supplies" in our space. We have small, plastic shoe boxes (purchased from the Dollar Store) to house general things. We also have some great "fish bowls" that we got from a K-Mart that was going out of business near by. We got them for only $10 (they used to hold Chapsticks and hair ties in the beauty department, I think?) We also got the white "double carts" to house some of our general math supplies from Amazon (link to exact carts). It is great to have supplies in multiple parts of your room, so kids can always grab what they need. We also have MANY pencil cups throughout the room holding pencils and erasers (I swear, they must EAT pencils for breakfast on some days!!)
Besides covering 4 tables in our space with white board paint (A tutorial can be found in THIS BLOG POST), we also re-purposed old art room stools. So many schools have these gems hiding in storage rooms somewhere. We got a few cans of Rustoleum Glossy spray paint (for about $4 a can) and voila! You have colorful seating options that are very easy to move where you need them!
One of the first pieces of furniture that we actually purchased during our first year was a vinyl futon! We wanted "couches" in our space, but wanted them at an affordable price AND cleanable! We now have 2 of these beauties and they are still in use...4 years later! They get daily use, to say the least! Since we have had them for so long, I don't think they make our "model" anymore. Here is a LINK to a similar version. I think we paid about $130 for each of ours at the time.
We do also have a "teacher zone." We are rarely sitting here throughout the day, so it typically becomes a "dumping ground" for our papers, books, etc. When we ARE sitting there (outside of lunch or prep), kids are usually there with us. We use it as a getaway to confer with kids quietly/privately.
I think that covers most of the "zones" in our space. What storage tools have you found to be helpful? Any tips and tricks for us? We are always looking for new ways to rethink our environment!

Happy Teaching!



  1. Keep doing great things girls... always exciting to read about positive, personalized learning spaces growing to set the bar high! Keep Rockin'!

  2. Thanks, Jim! From one furniture addict to another ;)