Tag Archives: classroom decor

Interactive Bulletin Boards, Part III: Sally’s Seashells

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Welcome to Part III in our series on Interactive Bulletin Boards!

This great idea from www.angelo.edu was designed for a second grade classroom, to allow an interactive area to practice problem solving. It could easily be adapted to other grade levels and concepts, too. And– in addition to shells, you could use pretty much any objects, including items that tie into current science or social studies concepts (rocks, planets, fish, stars, etc.).




Sand paper

Paper for the shells and letters

Bucket to hold the shells

Blue felt

Activity Sheet (click to download)


To practice addition and subtraction problem solving

How To:

Students read the problems on the provided activity sheet, and then they manipulate the seashells on the bulletin board to depict the problem before they solve it.

The great thing about this board is that it combines reading, counting, addition and subtraction skills. Gotta love a multi-tasker!

And, if you think bulletin boards are only for elementary school, check out these super impressive interactive boards, geared toward middle and high school math concepts: faculty.kutztown.edu. Now those are some advanced ideas!


Filed under Centers, Classroom Decor, Math

Interactive Bulletin Boards Part II: Tell Me All About It!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Welcome to Part II in our series on Interactive Bulletin Boards!

This idea, from Megan Power with Scholastic.com, is sheer genius. “If you teach young children, you know they always have something to tell you and to share with the class,” says Megan. “I love hearing their news and funny stories, but it was taking a lot of time away from getting started with our instructional day.” So, a few years ago Megan came up with the “Tell Me All About It” bulletin board, which is now a perennial class favorite.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. At the beginning of the year, attach a photo of each child to a bulletin board.
  2. Create and laminate a “speech bubble” for each child, and staple one near each student’s photo.
  3. Place a cup of dry erase markers under the board, and allow time every week or every day (like morning time) for students to write whatever is on their mind on their bubble. The dry erase markers erase easily to allow for an endless amount of chatter!
  4. Megan has a great idea for later in the year, too: “Later in the year, students make their faces with construction paper and craft materials. Changing the student faces is a great way to refresh the board and keep the excitement going all year,” she explains.

To get your students started with ideas, here are Megan’s sentence starters:

  • “My name is ___.”
  • “My favorite pet is a ____.”
  • “I like to___.”
  • “My favorite color is ___.”
  • “I am ___ years old.”
  • As the year progresses, she also has them write the whole sentence or complete the sentence starters with more words. “This weekend I ____.”
  • As students writing progresses, she opens the board up to sharing their own news without a sentence starter or question.

Parents love Megan’s board, too, and often stop to read their child’s comments. It’s a hit all around!

Put these ideas to work in your classroom and transform your ho-hum bulletin board into a flurry of learning.

For more on Megan’s classroom, visit blogs.scholastic.com. For more clever bulletin board starters, visit www.schoolbox.com.

Stay tuned for Part III in this series on Interactive Bulletin Boards, coming soon to A Learning Experience!


Filed under Academic Success, Centers, Classroom Decor, creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Morning Work, Writing

Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards, Part I

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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So, you have this big bulletin board hanging on your wall. And it’s so tempting to cover it with paper, slap up a pre-made bulletin board set and be done with it. But, what if we shared a few EASY (promise) ideas that will turn your generic board into an interactive learning spot.

From reading to writing to social studies, the ideas we will share in our Awesome Interactive Bulletin Boards series combine disciplines and allow students to showcase their learning in a fun, student-centered way.

Literary World Travels

This clever idea, courtesy of hill.troy.k12.mi.us blends reading and social studies.

Here’s how to create one in your room:

  1. Post a large, detailed map of the United States or world on a bulletin board, preferably near your classroom library.
  2. Next to the map, post a map key listing your students’ names, each designated with a different color or style of push pin.
  3. Every time a student reads a book, story or poem that mentions a city, state, or famous landmark, they pinpoint the geographic location on the map with their designated push pin.
  4. To keep the students organized and independent, give each student their own drawer filled with push pins of their designated color or style in an organizer below the bulletin board.
  5. Later in the year, the places “visited” provide an authentic springboard for a research project: Research the favorite city or country you read about this year.

Voila! Literacy meets geography! And, this board can stay up all year– how easy is that?

For more bulletin board materials and idea starters, check out www.schoolbox.com’s online array here.

Stay tuned for Parts II and III in this series on Interactive Bulletin Boards, coming soon to A Learning Experience!


Filed under Centers, Classroom Decor, Geography, Reading, Social Studies

Classroom Makeover Part I: Print-Rich Environment

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are drawn monthly!

Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series will share a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!


Creating a Print-Rich Environment

It’s a researched fact: children exposed to high-quality print in abundance are better readers. But, kids are just like adults: they want things (like books) to be nice, pretty and attractive before they pick them up. So, if your class library is a little less than attractive (read: tattered hand-me-downs wedged onto a spare shelf), check out these tips for creating an effective reading corner that will lure children into literacy.

First: Place Books With Covers Outward

Reading guru Jim Trelease makes the point that grocery stores arrange products with the fronts of packaging–not the spines–facing outward. Why? To attract buyers. But, how do we usually shelve books for children? Like this:

photo from www.trelease-on-reading.com

The solution? Face covers outward. Here are two ways to do just that.

TIP ONE: Install rain gutters!

This one would take some approval (it involves drilling), but look how GREAT this is. Inexpensive rain gutters make incredible, inviting book holders. Jim Trelease shares many success stories on this method on his website. Here are two photos, to show you how cute this is:

TIP TWO: Book baskets

This idea is easier and even less expensive than the gutters. Simply snag a bunch of cheap baskets from your local big-box store. Then, create genre labels for each basket by printing genres (mysteries, historical fiction, picture books, sports books, adventures, etc.) on cardstock, cutting them into small rectangles, laminating them, and attaching the labels to the front of each basket. Place books in baskets, covers facing outward. The books in a basket will overlap and cover each other obviously, but the front cover will face outward invitingly. Line up baskets side-by-side on your shelves, and voila! A colorful, inviting, well-organized library that children will literally run to when they first walk in the door. (The baskets also teach children to search for book by genre…another good literary lesson.)

Second: Comfy seating

Any non-school-looking seating options make for a great reading corner: an old rug, a couple beanbag chairs, a slew of pillows, a stack of carpet squares, a hand-me-down love seat, a futon. My elementary school library even had an old ceramic bathtub filled will pillows! It was THE hot spot in the library, of course. Any way you can set this space apart as fun and different will create positive connotations with literacy for your students.

Third: Fun lighting

A couple small lamps on the top of a bookshelf add a warm, inviting ambiance to your reading corner. Again, it’s all about giving the corner that “Oooh!-effect” when students walk in.

Fourth: Kids’ book reviews

Post a bulletin board above your reading corner that says: “Books We Dig.” You can decorate the bulletin board with a paper bucket and some paper “dirt” at the bottom (coffee grounds glued onto brown construction or bulletin board paper are cute…and smell Starbucks-y :). Tie a real plastic shovel on as an accent. Then, put a stack of colorful note cards nearby, and tell your class that after they read a book in the class library, they can recommend it to their classmates by writing a review for it on a note card, which you can then staple or tack onto the bulletin board. Include a sample card on the board that looks something like this:




Why Was It Good?

Two-Sentence Summary (no spoilers!):

Do a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year on how to write an effective book review, using this format. (“No spoilers” is a simple reminder not to give away the ending!)

Then, when your students say, “But I don’t know WHAT to read!”–tell them to read their classmates’ reviews and pick a book.

Fifth: Stock the shelves

To stock your library with children’s books, check out garage sales, ask for donations from parents, and create a Library Wish List to send home (or post at Open House), listing titles your kids are asking for. For a large selection of children’s books at really great prices, check out: www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx.

Another idea: If you have a budget to play with, check out this awesome two-sided library shelf from The School Box (LOVE that store!): double sided library shelf.

Now that your reading corner has been sufficiently spiffed up, give yourself a pat on the back. You just created an inviting print-rich environment!

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Reading, reluctant readers

40% off cool stuff

As parents and/or educators, most of us are familiar with (read: practically live at) The School Box (aka Teacher Mecca). And, as parents and/or educators, most of us are on tight budgets (read: we’re always game for a good bargain). And so, we found it grand that these two truths are colliding this weekend: In honor of July 4th, The School Box is offering a 40% off in-store coupon for any one regular-priced item June 30-July 3!

Here are the details (click to print the coupon):

Comments Off on 40% off cool stuff

Filed under Classroom Decor, Teaching

Summertime = Tweaking Time

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card…. get on your way for a 2012 classroom makeover!

So, it’s summer. Time to chill, relax, unwind…and tweak! The school year is so crazy and fast-paced that, as teachers, our routines can sometimes get stuck in a rut. There’s no time to evaluate and change– only time to hold on and dash for the finish.

But summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your teaching and tweak your classroom procedures. Here are some practical, easy-to-apply ideas for the early elementary teacher.

Classroom Idea 1: Improve Student Writing

Have your students write using “4 Star Writing.” Here are the four “stars” to focus on: (1) “Use a finger space in between words.” (2) “Start each sentence with a capital letter.” (3) “Use punctuation at the end of each sentence.” (4) “Use the word wall to help spell.” Indicate these four concepts on big cutout stars to post on the wall to remind your students what makes good writing. Include illustrations/pictures on each of the cutouts to indicate the concept.

Classroom Idea 2: Word Wall!

Put up an “A to Z Word Wall” for students to use! A great way to get students involved with your Word Wall is to make posters for each letter and allow your students to draw a picture of something starting with that letter on the posters. Then, use note cards to print words that are “no excuse” words for your students to always spell correctly. Write one word on each card, and attach them to the wall under their respective letter posters. As the year goes on, you can make new cards and add to your Word Wall as your students learn more and more “no excuse” words. (For some super-useful pre-made Word Wall items, click here.)

Classroom 3: 1oo Club

A “100 Club” poster can be a real asset to give your young students the goal of learning to count to 100. The poster should state: “I can count to 100!” at the very top. Below, there should be lines where students can sign their name, any way that they would like (silly, a different color, with small pictures), once they can show you that they can count to 100. The School Box carries a 100-pocket chart that’s great for helping them achieve this milestone, as well.

Classroom Idea 4: Make the Most of Calendar Time

During calendar time, introduce your students to the “shortcut date”– writing the numeral for the month, day and year, separated by dashes (6-8-11). Once your students have the “Today’s date is…” concept down, teach them how to use the “shortcut date” on their papers. They’ll feel grown up, and they will learn to associate the date with its numeral equivalent.

For a calendar time challenge, introduce your students to how other countries write the date a little switched up! For example, in Italy, because of the way they speak, they write May 18, 2011, as 18-05-11, with the day first, then the month, then the year. This is because when verbally stating the date in Italy, they also say it differently than we do. They would say: 18th of May, 2011, instead of May 18, 2011.

There you have it: four simple ideas to implement in the fall that will maximize the lessons you’re probably already teaching. More bang for your buck! Now wasn’t that worth thinking about during your summer break? :-)

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom.


Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, grammar, Math, Morning Work, Writing

Creative Spring Door Art!

David Ottogalli Peep Artwork

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn monthly.

Welcome spring into your classroom with these fresh ideas!

This time of year, baby animals are hatching and being born, flowers are blooming, and butterflies are flitting through the air. You can bring the wonders of the season into your classroom…on your classroom door! Here are two attention-getting ideas:

You Crack Us Up

1. On your door, create the phrase “You Crack Us Up!” with colorful lettering.

2. Have your students design and color construction paper eggs that are about the size of the paper (8 x 10). After each student has created their egg, have them cut the egg in a zig-zag pattern across the middle.

3. Attach the two halves of the egg together with a brass brad so that the egg can open and close. Attach the bottom half of the egg to your door and leave the top half unattached so that it can move.

4. Now here’s the cutesy custom part! Take each student’s picture while they are laughing. Once you have everyone’s picture, put each student inside their egg so that when you open the cracked egg, you see their laughing faces. Your students will truly enjoy seeing themselves and their peers with smiling faces!

5. To incorporate writing, have your students write jokes for their eggs. For a slew of clean knock-knock jokes, your kids can visit this site at the library, during computer lab time, or at your classroom computers: http://www.brownielocks.com/knockknock.html. Once they pick a joke they like, the first half of the joke can be written on the outside of the egg, and the punchline can go inside the eggs by their laughing faces. Your door will become your school’s favorite place to get a good laugh and spread smiles!

Peep Into Our Room

1. First, cut out a piece of bulletin board paper the to fit your door. Don’t attach it, yet, though. Then, create the phrase “Peep into Our Room!” to encourage visitors to come and explore what you are learning. With the paper lying on the floor or a table, glue the letters on the paper.

Starry Night by CakeSpy

2. Now, to make this door spectacular, students will glue marshmallow Peeps all over the paper in designs like flowers, stripes and patterns. The real Peeps will be irresistible to students, and they will catch everyone’s eye! This idea is from the Official PeepsShow where artist David Ottogalli creates “Peep art” using these marshmallow treats.

3. If you don’t think the Peeps will survive on your door, you can cut peeps out of construction paper. There are two basic designs, bunnies and chicks. Your students can then create patterns and designs with their cutouts.

These ideas will keep your door covered and creative throughout spring. And, before you know it, it’ll be time to create end-of-the-school year doors!

For a colorful spring bulletin board/door border, check out this floral beauty from The School Box: www.schoolbox.com.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia and a wealth of creative ideas!


Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Seasons, Writing

Kindergarten Round Up

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post to enter to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn monthly!

It’s that time of year again when 4-year-olds are starting to register for kindergarten for the fall. Many schools host events for collecting information about these rising wee ones, and it can all become very businesslike and formal. Blech.

And while parents are completing forms and answering questionnaires, their little darlings have to do…something. Why not give them something fun to do, while building their excitement about school at the same time? One way to make the registration process more exciting for students and parents is to give it a theme, and my personal favorite theme is Kindergarten Round Up!

Here’s how to add a little “yee-haw!” to your kindergarten registration process.

Involve Your Current Kindergarteners

Your current kindergarten students can be role models for the younger students. The kindergarteners can create decorations that will allow future students to see some of the work they will eventually be doing. These work samples/decorations also let parents know what to expect from their students during the following year. Here are some decor ideas:


Kindergarteners can color or draw cowboys and cowgirls and then attach their pictures to the faces.

Writing Samples:

Have students write about their favorite farm/ranch animals, experiences with horses or cows or other farm/ranch animals, or what they think being a cowboy or cowgirl would be like. Affix rope in a curvy lasso pattern around bulletin boards displaying these items for instant cowboy-mania!

Provide a Simple Project

In addition to looking at the kindergarteners’ work, the rising elementary schoolers can work on their own projects. They can make farm animals to either add to the kindergarteners’ bulletin boards or to take home–they can decide which they’d rather do.

To make a pig:

For pigs, use basic shapes such as circles and triangles to allow children to make pig faces. Circles of different sizes can be faces, eyes and noses. Triangles can be used for ears.

To make a chick:

Use a paper plate that has been folded in half. First, the children can color it yellow, and then they can attach a yellow circle for the head, an orange triangle for a beak, and orange feet.

These activities will help involve the 4-year-olds in the registration process, and, even better, they’ll get a glimpse of all the yippee-ki-yay fun they’ll experience next year!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia.

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Welcome

St. Patrick’s Day Interactive Bulletin Board

by Rachel Stepp

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It’s almost that time of the year when tricky little leprechauns visit classrooms all over the world. Why not welcome him into the classroom with a creative and fun bulletin board?

Here’s how to bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your classroom this month:

1. First comes the spring background.

Start by creating a spring scene on the bulletin board. Create a nice blue background with spring flowers blooming in the fresh, green grass.

2. Then let the rainbow shine!

Have your students trace their hands on paper in all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Once students have traced their hands (the more hand prints you have, the bigger your rainbow can be!), have them cut out their tracings. Then, add a rainbow to your bulletin board with all of the hand prints stretching across the spring sky.

3. Next, add a pot o’ gold.

Don’t forget to add a pot of gold at the bottom of rainbow! You can cut out a black pot and add yellow “coins” covered in gold glitter to come out of the pot. The children will be excited to see the sparkling coins, and you could even add American currency to the pot to reinforce coin knowledge.

4. Where’s the tricky leprechaun?

One of the most important parts of the St. Patrick’s Day bulletin board is, of course, the leprechaun! One simple way to get a leprechaun that is large enough for your board is to trace it on large butcher paper. Take a piece of green paper and tape it over your SmartBoard or on your white board. Then, use a SmartBoard projector or overhead projector to shine a picture of a leprechaun on the paper. Trace the picture to the size you want it. It might be easiest to find leprechaun clip art or coloring pages, so that it will be easy to trace. Once you have traced it, go over the lines with dark marker and then cut it out. Put the leprechaun on the bulletin board in various places throughout the month of March. The tricky guy can keep ’em guessing!

5. Now, set it to song!

Add some interaction to your bulletin by adding this short song (to the tune of BINGO):

There was a little leprechaun,

He lived under a rainbow.




He lived under a rainbow.

Teach your students this song and have different students perform it daily. Remember to stay true to BINGO. Each verse, remember to take a later off of ‘rainbow’ and clap in its place.

6. And, finally, read all about it!

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons is a great book for Kindergarten through second grade that explains the origins and symbols (shamrock, leprechaun) of the holiday, including the life and works of St. Patrick. The colorful watercolor illustrations are engaging for students of all ages. (The book is available at The School Box for $6.95, by the way. Here’s the link to buy it online: St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons).

The children will enjoy reading and singing about St. Patrick’s Day during March, under a rainbow of their own hand prints!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who regularly contributes to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Music

Creating a Class Quilt

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! A new winner is selected every month.

By Rachel Stepp

One of my favorite projects is creating a class quilt (out of paper…no needles required :). This activity promotes class unity, reinforces summarizing skills, uses the strategies of visualizing, synthesizing and connecting, and creates a stunning bulletin board or wall display. How’s that for multi-tasking?

Begin with a Book

To introduce this idea, read The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston. Teach your class about the history of quilts, including how women used to use scraps from old clothing to piece together a warm quilt. Talk about how quilts can tell stories because of their different scraps. Your class will be making a quilt that will tell a story they want to share.

Quilting Steps

  1. Brainstorm different stories your students might want to tell. List their ideas on the board, which may include: something I like to do at school, all about me (personality and interests), my favorite memory, my favorite thing that we have studied this year, all about my pet, all about my family, etc.
  2. Give each student a square of white construction paper (an 8″ square is easy to cut from an 8×10 sheet, and white makes a nice background for student pictures).
  3. First, students should write a rough draft of their paragraph (or sentence, depending on age level) on notebook paper. Discuss using sensory details, correct paragraph format, etc. Modeling a sample paragraph on the board, first, is a wise idea before students begin.
  4. Their paragraphs/sentences need to be rewritten in a final draft on white paper (or a notecard) and glued onto their squares, near the bottom (to leave room for an illustration).
  5. Once their paragraphs/sentences are complete, they can begin drawing a scene on their white square to illustrate their writing.
  6. When each child has finished, mount each white square on a larger square of colored construction paper. You may choose to laminate each mounted square for a polished look, but it’s not necessary. Punch a hole in each of the four corners of the colored squares, and use yarn to tie the squares together to look like a quilt. Yarn bows look especially cute and “quilt-y.” If you have an odd number of students, use plain colored construction paper squares randomly throughout the quilt to make an even number so the quilt forms an even rectangle when pieced together.
  7. To save time, the white squares could also simply be glued to a large piece of colored bulletin board paper to make one large quilt.
  8. Be sure to give your quilt a title and hang it in a visible place so that other classes can see it. This will help to share the story of your classroom throughout the school.

This idea could also be modified as a creative book report idea: each student could create a square to summarize a book or a different chapter. The quilt could even be used to sequence an historical event or time period, like the Civil War.

By making a class quilt, your students will be able to see that they can all work together to create a masterpiece. To continue with the theme of quilts, you can invite parents into the classroom to bring in family quilts. Student connections will abound, making this activity a memorable one for all!

If your students get inspired, they may want to make a “real” quilt at home with this beginner’s “knot quilt” kit from The School Box. So darn cute!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is full of creative ideas.


Filed under Activities, Art, Assessments, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, comprehension, Cooperative Learning, creative writing, grammar, Reading, Writing