Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Dozen Ideas for the Classroom, and I Found Them All on Pinterest

School begins on August 22nd, so I've been working in my classroom for a couple days each week. I like to work on projects at home and then go to school just long enough to install them.

As you can tell from other posts on my blogs, I am a big fan of Pinterest.  Over the past year I have been pinning lots of ideas, with the plan to implement many of them in the fall.    I've had a variety of projects to work on at home.  Here are a dozen ideas that I found on Pinterest.

1.  Classroom Rules

I've always had the standard list of numbered rules posted in my classroom.  They were succinct and to the point.  Permanent magic marker on a poster has made my expectations for behavior clear.  Then I started seeing some other ways of posting class rules.  Some were painted on wood, like this Classroom Rules Subway Sign on Etsy.  Or this one where you could download a PDF and print yourself.  But none of them quite met my needs.  Instead, I used the computer, scrapbook paper, and a poster frame to come up with my Classroom Rules.

2.  Welcome Sign

I also created this Welcome Sign to go outside my door.  This idea didn't come from any particular pin, but it was inspired by ideas to use picture frames from the dollar store.  It's a lot better and more welcoming than the piece of white paper that I had taped outside my door last year.

3.  Whole Class Journals

All of my students have writer's notebooks, as well as blogs, but I like this idea for Whole Class Journals.  Students take turns writing in a class journal on various subjects.  I set up one for Favorite Places, Family, Pets, Sports, Hobbies, Favorite Memories, the Weekend, and Wishes.  It's a great way to share writing, learn more about each other, and appreciate each other's work.

4. Partner Wheel

A Partner Wheel is something I used last year.  Our class does a lot of collaborative work, but taking time to assign partners can be a real time waster.  There are times that I let kids choose their own partners, but sometimes we end up with more play than work that way. A Partner Wheel can make this a quick process.  You can set the wheels up so you pair strong readers with weaker readers.  You could set it up so girls get paired with boys.  You could make it a random arrangement.  If you have students who are better off not working together, just put their names on the same wheel, and they will not ever be partners, no matter how many times you turn the wheel.

The original blog by Karen Moler has templates to easily make your own partner wheels.  They won't work for me, because I have 26 students, so I need to put 13 names on each wheel. That's proving to be a little tricky. I thought I had it done, but when I recounted I found there were 14 spaces.  Once I have it done, I'm going to make several copies, before I put the names on.  I'm going to make a few wheels, to pair partners in different ways.

5. Back to School Foldable

I like foldables, and we will definitely be using this memoir mini-book.  If you go to the original post on For the Love of Teaching Math, you can download the PDF and view Andrea's step by step directions for cutting and folding the mini-book.

6.  Class Jigsaw Puzzle

Last year, on the first day of school, my class put together this jigsaw puzzle.  Each person made and decorated a piece that included their name.  We assembled it, and it hung on the outside of our classroom door all year.  The original idea for this puzzle poster came from a blog from Germany.  While I had a year of German in college, it wasn't enough to enable me to read the blog post.  I managed to read the picture well enough to come up with this "getting to know you" activity for our first day of school.  It was a great way to show that everyone in our class is unique, and that without everyone, our class would be incomplete.

Hint:  If you decide to do this activity, mark the undecorated pieces so that kid know which is the right side, and where the top is.  Otherwise their work may be upside down or on the wrong side when the puzzle is assembled.

7. Circle Poster

This year, instead of the jigsaw puzzle, my class is going to make this circle poster.  It works on the same principle, and it should be easier to assemble.  This time each person decorates 1/4 of a circle.  I haven't been able to find the original blog post but here is a link to my Pinterest Pin so click on the link to see what the finished poster should look like.  Oddly enough, when you try to go to the blog, it appears to be from a German blog again.

8.  Top Ten Facts About Me Poster

This was another great way to get to know your students and we did this one last yeaar.  I saw a poster similar to this on Pinterest, and if you want them ready made, you can order them from Really Good Stuff.  I got out my scrapbooking "how to" books and designed my own, and then had 11 x 17 copies made.

I tied the project into our Writer's Workshop and grammar lessons.  It was a good way to review sentence structure and talk about writing complex sentences using vivid language.  I modeled the writing process and designed my own poster, demonstrating how to add designs that added meaning to the poster.  Each person presented their poster to the class a' la David Letterman.  We had a lot of fun with it.  I learned a lot about the kids, and it made a nice display for the hall.

9. Finished Work Cart

I've seen a lot of organizational posts about decorating and labeling the drawers on those rolling plastic carts.  I like this one for handing in work.  This has become a big issue for me, because lots of new reading materials were delivered to my classroom and I needed to find a place for them.  We have a new reading adoption, Houghton Mifflin Journeys, but we are not retiring the old one, Houghton Mifflin Reading.  That means lots and lots of little tubs of readers.  I needed the shelf space where I usually have my finished work boxes.

This project proved to be a lot more difficult than it looked, but I like the final outcome.  The blogger, Sue, from The Very Busy Kindergarten,  said that she used double stick tape, but I didn't have any, so I started out using clear contact paper.  That is a favorite beginning of the school year tool for me, but it didn't work very well in this case.  After the top two drawers, I switched to packing tape which worked much better.  I had trouble getting the paper to stick flat against the drawer front.  I was afraid the decorative paper would get torn by students turning in work.

Hint:  The next time I do this, I will probably only cut paper to fit the front panel and not curve around the edges.  Also, I just randomly chose paper.  I do like color, but next time I think I will coordinate the colors a little better.  It's okay for now.  I like the fact that I can just pull the entire cart over to wherever I am working in the room.

10.  Tiger Pride

I have several bulletin boards in my classroom, and I needed some new ideas.  I saw this idea for a Proud Wall.  Students decide what goes on this Wall of Pride.  I like the idea of letting kids choose work that they are proud of and would like to share with others.  This can also be a showcase for artwork and writing that is not necessarily the result of assigned work.  We are the Phillips Tigers, so I put together this Tiger Pride bulletin board.

11. Binder Clip Mailbox Labels

I have been using the same set of mailboxes for at least 8 years, and before that they belonged to a friend who has since retired from teaching.  It can be tricky to get the labels for the new class of students to stick on the mailbox slots.  I never would have thought of this solution on my own, but I saw it on Pinterest.  Label binder clips and use them as your labels.  Easy peasy!

Hint:  If you want to write the names with a permanent marker or use clear labels like I did, buy light colored binder clips.  I didn't think of this beforehand.  I solved my problem by putting a small piece of white paper under the student name, so that they could be seen.

I also used the same idea to label my file baskets.

12.  Owl Display

I like owls, and I have been wanting to make them part of a display.  I've seen ideas like this pin and this one.  I don't have this one together yet, but I am in the process of making owls.  Here's another opportunity for me to use my scrapbook supplies.  Each owl will have a student name on it.  My caption will be "4th Grade is a Hoot!"

So that's it;  a dozen ideas to begin my school year, and I found these, and lots more, on Pinterest.  I have been teaching for 25 years.  Twenty-two have been at the same school.  Things get old and worn out in that time.  I've had a lot of fun putting these projects together, and I like the fresh new look it has given my classroom.

Pinterest Hint

I have been bookmarking or pinning these ideas over the past year.  If you are on Pinterest,  be sure that you pin the actual blog post that has your information.  Sometimes it was the blog that got pinned and not the post.  This makes it hard to find the information when you want to go back to it.  That's something I've learned the hard way, as I've been looking through my boards.

If you would like to look at my Pinterest Boards you can find them at  I have boards on lots of subjects besides education.  You are free to view or follow if you're interested.


  1. HI Barbara,
    Love your ideas! My favorite has to be the Class Journals - why have I never thought to do this before. This would be great for students during the Daily 5 "Writing". Yours are so colorful!

    Another favorite is the clip idea for mailboxes. I am getting new mailboxes this year (the old ones are in such disrepair! I have always struggled with the names on the box. Someone suggested using student numbers but I want to make it more personal.

    Your owls are so c"hoot"! I was in my local teacher store and bought some (although I don't know what I'm going to use them for yet - but they were so darned cute.) Yours are even nicer because they are homemade.

    Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring!

  2. Hi!
    I really like your puzzle idea! Love the owls too!
    Literacy Minute