Jazzing Up My Room

Bookshelf Update with Contact Paper by Wiggling Scholars

I’m not usually one to spend a ton of personal money on my classroom. I mean, there is a spectrum and I’m closer to the “not gonna” end when it comes to dropping serious dollars back into my classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I admire those of you who are that dedicated. I am warming to the notion that I spend many hours a day in the room and a little visual cheeriness would go a long way.

Honestly, just about anything would make this look better!

Before Pictures by Wiggling Scholars

I pulled together this DIY- Crafty Classroom Mini-Makeover!

Overall, I spent around $50 and most of that was on fabric. I got a few yards of fabric at Walmart, u-shaped brackets for mounting at Menards (local hardware store), and some patterned contact paper at Target. From my personal cruft I found an old curtain rod, stitch-witchery, and heavy-duty magnetic tape.

Non-sewing Set Up for Fabric Curtains by Wiggling Schoalrs

I’d like to note for all my fellow “somewhat crafty, but still live in an apartment so to-heck with a sewing machine” peeps, this is absolutely do-able! Since I don’t own a sewing machine, I had to get busy with the stitch-witchery. I imagine you can buy it at a fabric or craft store (Walmart, JoAnn’s, or Michael’s). This stuff works like a charm! Iron carefully, and in minutes you have a non-thread, no-sewing hem.

As you can see, I marked the fabrics before ironing. I had 2 projects going: one needed magnetic tape and the other needed a curtain rod.

Let’s start with the magnetic tape piece used on a metal bookshelf: I used the edge of the fabric as the bottom so no hemming was required. I wanted to be sure the width was right, so I hemmed the sides next. Then, came the magnetic tape part. I stuck the tape in the correct spot, folded over the edge and put the stitch-witchery just a tiny bit away from the magnetic tape. Voila! You have a magnetic bookshelf curtain.

I left a loop at the top of this fabric hem to make sure there was room for the curtain rod. Iron, stitch-witchery, assemble, done! Then, I permanently nailed the rod to the shelving unit because, well… I have a feeling she won’t be with me many more years.

The most time consuming part was also enjoyable for me (I also am the type to enjoy removing ALL of the staples from my bulletin boards before I put up new paper). I laid contact paper over the countertop on the world’s oldest shelving unit, Bertha. It was easy enough, but I was very careful to avoid bubbles and too much overlap.

After Pictures by Wiggling Scholars

I might have forgotten to ask permission to do the same to the sink countertop (the unit is permanent, unlike Bertha). But I have promised that I will remove the contact paper (and all of the goo left behind) at the end of the year. I know I might be making more work for myself, but seriously… just look at that counter?!  Blech!

I store some of my “out of the way” things in Bertha. The fabric just flips up for access. As for the bookshelf, I whip that curtain off no problem! It’s magnetic and so easy to just toss back on.

***Update: The contact paper removal went just fine and I didn't even need to de-goo the surface. It just peeled right off! In fact, I re-purposed the fabric to make cushion tops!

Happy DIYing!

Shelby

Frustration and Grit

There is a lot of talk about grit in the teaching world right now. There is a reason.

Grit from Midwest to West Coast by Wiggling Scholars

What It Looks Like: Midwest vs. West Coast

Having moved from Wisconsin to California, I am now seeing the issue.

No, not that west coast kids have less grit.

I used to think that my students were gritty; really full of the stick-to-it attitude that is required to be successful. I was right. The students I came across in WI were very willing to stick to it to please me. It seems that many of them were looking for my approval. Sure, they stuck to it, but there was a huge external motivation issue.

In CA, the students don’t really care to see projects through all that often, but also aren’t as concerned with seeking my approval. They almost seem to be less concerned. So while a lot of work goes unfinished (or reminders become necessary), they are also less likely to care about external factors like adult pleasing.

I’m not sure if either situation is better or worse. It’s just what I’ve noticed.

Frustration is Where Grit Begins by Wiggling Scholars

Grit:

But let’s get into grit for a bit. Grit is deeper than just plowing through until completion. 

Grit is a combination of courage, determination, and endurance.

Really, one question will sum it all up:

How do you deal with failure?

The thing about grit, failure doesn’t exist. Yes, I know… that sounds so beyond cheesy! But really, it’s far more logical than inspirational. Failure really should be identified as lacking the appropriate tools, time, desire, or coaching.

This is where grit truly begins. Anyone can set out to attempt a goal and then fail. Grit comes into play when attempts run dry.

A few years ago, I worked in a kindergarten classroom with an aide who regularly wanted to help out students. That sounds great, right?! An aide wants to help students.
Wrong!

She was a kind and loving person, but her coddling overshadowed the students in the room. If there was a chair to be pushed in, she did it. Runny nose? Not for long! The list goes on and doesn’t end with just menial tasks. She often told children how to spell words and even drew parts of their pictures to make them “a little nicer.” (GASP!)

She wasn't allowing the students to be frustrated. She would swoop in and "save" them.

Again, she wasn’t doing this to steal learning from the children. She was trying to take care of the children. But what they learn isn’t how to tie their shoes or spell. No, instead they learn how to be needy.

Growth Mindset in the Classroom by Wiggling Scholars

Growth Mindset:

Carole Dweck has lit up education with her Growth Mindset. The underlying premise is that your intellectual abilities can grow. The belief that you can achieve a goal is your growth mindset. However, this requires a willingness to believe you can “grow your brain” and hard work.

Some students will say, "That's too hard," or "I'm not good at math." Your students are communicating a belief that their brain is "unteachable." Growth Mindset indicates that all people (including students) can increase brain power.

 

Where Growth Mindset Meets Grit by Wiggling Scholars

Where Grit and Growth Mindset Connect:

When a student says, “I don’t know,” it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, in my classroom, we say, “Brain, you are about to learn something!” I am helping to celebrate ‘not knowing’ as a starting point, not a deficit.

Your students will never learn to solve problems unless they face problems. They will never learn to care about solving problems unless they solve problems they care about.

Grit and Frustration for Kids by Wiggling Scholars

I remember the Full House episode in which Michelle was learning to ride her bike. (Admit it, you know the episode, too!) You imagine that the story began when she was a baby with a baby seat on the bike followed by a tricycle. Then, she gets the bicycle with training wheels. She’s feeling brave and wants to do it without the trainers. Uncle Joey goes for the classic ‘run along’ and ‘let go’ technique. Michelle goes right into the bushes and gets angry with Joey for letting go of the bike. All the people in her life start pleading, bribing, and even tricking her by claiming they just want a picture of her on the bike in an attempt to make her try again.

Cue some sappy music and Uncle Joey give a little inspirational speech and convinces her that even though something is hard, if you keep working at it, it can be a lot of fun! So off to the park where she rides her bike successfully.

If you think that story through, her growth mindset is opened up when Joey delivers the “inspiring” speech. She applies grit when she gets back to the park and mounts the bike.

In Your Classroom:

This is going to look similar in your classroom. When a student is “stuck,” you are asked to trigger a growth mindset. Help your student understand that s/he is capable of building his/her brain. Support the child in accessing the correct tools or supplies to try again. Then… and this is hugely important… back off! Let the child ‘fail,’ try, struggle, and get frustrated. Repeat as necessary.

As an Educator:

Ever try something new as a teacher? How about workshop model? New curriculum? It’s not always easy! It is even possible you will be pushed over the edge. You may even pout, fuss, and insist that your district is doing all wrong! As an adult, put on your big kid pants (no, not adult diapers) and give yourself a little pep talk. Yes, that’s a little harsh of me. I’m not sorry. If you are going to do what is best for your students, you need to demonstrate a little personal grit and have a growth mindset.

Let me repeat that~ If you are going to be effective as an educator, you MUST have determination, confidence to try and possibly fail, and the willingness to become better.

More Info:

To get connected with the idea of grit, check out this TED talk from Angela Lee Duckworth

Or this article from Education Week by Carol Dweck.

Happy Growing and Grit!

Shelby

Your Students are Not Elephants

Your students aren’t elephants.

Students aren't Elephants by Wiggling Scholars

Some say that Elephants never forget.

That’s a fun fact you can share with your students; it is not something they have in common with elephants!

I've heard myself say, “I’ve already told you that.”

But let's be honest~ I say a lot.

Not only is it unrealistic to expect that all of my students will hear every word I utter, but to also remember it?! If I listened to someone talk as much as I do, I would need some review, reminders, and even to hear the same thing again.

Yet, I’m at the advantage over my students. They aren’t just recalling information.

They are learning how to learn.

Let’s break that down.

Students need to learn how to remember by Wiggling Scholars

First, your students need to learn the value of remembering.

Only after your students understand the why it's important to remember, they need to learn how to remember.

Once they know how to remember, they need to remember how to learn (which is different than learning how to remember because all of the learning they’ve done prior to school were very natural and necessary skills such as eating, walking, singing, etc.).

Finally, they have arrived at a place when they can remember content and directions.

It doesn’t end there. They are also learning and remembering the value of multiple-step directions, listening skills, working through interrupted thinking, remembering over time, and learning to avoid distractions.

Take some time to honor just how complex the skill of remembering can be for young children.

So, teachers, I beg you to reconsider stating, “I’ve already given that direction.”

Perhaps try, “Can you ask another student to help you remember?” or “What do you think makes sense? Try looking around and noticing what other children are trying.”

Happy Remembering!

Shelby

P.S. For some fun research on the memory of elephants, check out Scientific American or watch this EdTed:

STEM Paper Tube Log Cabin

Elementary STEM Idea: Paper Tube Log Cabin

Elementary STEM Idea: Paper Tube Log  Cabin by Wiggling Scholars

Before an increase in STEM education, Maker Spaces, and Learning Labs, I was doing my own version of elementary STEM activities.

My favorite? Paper tube log cabin!

It was large enough the play-kitchen went inside. (**Tooting my own horn here**)

So how do you make a Paper Tube Log Cabin with your Wiggling Scholars?

STEM Step 1: Collect Paper Roll Tubes

1) Collect Tubes

Ask parents for any and all paper tubes. I asked for paper towel, toilet paper, wrapping paper, and poster mailing sizes. I asked around the Thanksgiving because I knew families would be most likely to come across those during the shopping and shipping holiday season. 

STEM Step 2: Create the Frame

2) Create the Frame

Begin by assembling the frame of the log cabin. I was fortunate and had some really sturdy tubes donated. If you aren’t as lucky, consider having students help you make wrapping paper tubes stronger by wrapping them in newspaper and tape to create stronger outer layers and stuffing them with newspaper to add some weight. To assemble the frame, use a hot glue gun. I added the glue and the students would hold it in place. I explained to them that hot glue is ~hot~ and I didn’t have any problems with students getting hurt. Remember to go back later and add a second layer of glue or tape to really make it sturdy! Admittedly, I was doing most of the work here. I think when I do this again, I’d be confident enough to release more of the experience over to the students.

STEM Step 3: Research, Step 4: Get Students Gluing

3) Research

Search for a few images of buildings and structures. Have students take some time to observe and ask, “What do you notice about the buildings?” Also, “Which pieces do you think make the building strong?” To earn a gold star as a teacher, be ready with a few key terms like: ridge pole, corner post, stud, brace, and etc… I just searched building frame construction words and found a pile of great pictures with vocabulary.

4) Get Students Gluing

Next, start layering in the lower half. I had students use regular school glue! We talked about how much glue, where, and how to balance the tube on the wall. Then, they all got to try it out!

5) Frustration and More Research 

STEM Step 5: Frustration and More Research

It was a little frustrating for a few of them at first. We talked about grit and how they can decide what works and what doesn’t. They began to teach each other to be very careful and take their time. At one point, we took a mini-field trip to the outside of the building and noticed that the bricks weren’t lined up, but they were stacked in an offset way. This became our new building technique.

I can’t stress enough that you should let them experience frustration! They aren’t going to care as much about the project if you spoon-feed them and fix problems for them. You have to have some grit, too!

When I noticed they were using really great techniques and had some frustration under their belts, I’d occasionally sneak in and put a few spots of hot glue in just to help the areas that were looking a little droopy. I mean, grit is good, but it is only paper, after all! 

STEM Step 6: Windows

6) Windows

This is where your creative engineers will start to shine. We talked about planning for windows! I wanted them to talk as a team and notice what might be a factor. We knew we were planning to put the stove, fridge, sink, and 2 chairs inside the structure. The door was already planned. So, they decided to put a long window above the sink and a square window on the opposite side. I was waiting for students to discover the tubes wouldn’t magically fit in every space. I showed them how to use scissors to trim in a spiral to shorten the length of the tube. Yes, that’s right… children were cutting paper tubes! Again, no one got hurt. Just be sure to teach them a technique that works. 

STEM Step 7: Roof Design

7) Roof Design

One of our last steps was painting butcher paper for the roof. I showed them how to make the roof look a little like shingles by painting 3 sides of a square. We added random streaks of grey and did brown paint with sponges. I taped the roof to the frame. I think the one thing I would have changed about the project would be the roof. It sagged quite a bit. Next time, I will try to place lightweight cardboard under the paper. I worry about the weight, though. So I’ve also considered some kind of fishing wire or netting. 

STEm Step 8: Moving Day!

8) Moving Day!

The final step was “moving day.” We placed the furniture and doll bed inside. The students had a blast playing, reading, and hanging out in the cabin!

STEM Challenge: Students Reflect and Write Process

A bonus step was having the students write the steps. It worked really well as a reflective piece. Later, we added the images from above to the poster you see here. They really loved the project! So did I!

If you try this project and have any great ideas or solutions for the sagging roof, add your comments! I’d love to hear about your success!

Happy cabin construction!

Shelby

Book Shopping Tip

Book shopping can be overwhelming. For students and teachers alike!

Setting up routines and practicing is a big part of easing the stress. By now you probably have your students looking for just right books and putting them away with the titles facing front. All the basics are covered.

But I’m willing to bet that book bins are a management issue.

I can fix that!

With TAPE!

Book Shopping Table Organization by Wiggling Scholars

Find a small table (maybe even an old coffee table?) and put some tape on it. I have 4 kids shop at a time, so I split the table into 4 sections. Then, I put a strip going the long way across the table. This shows the students where to put their book bins farthest from themselves. They bring over a basket to look at, pull out the books they want and put them into a pile nearest to themselves. When all is said and done, they can have a landing place for all of their bins and books. They have room to dig around but also have defined spaces in order to share the table.

Book Bin Table to Stay Organized While Shopping by Wiggling Scholars

I use electrical tape because it lasts all year and peels up without residue. If you are looking for some, feel free to grab it using my Amazon Affiliates link. You can also click on the “Products I Use” tab to see other item’s I’ve recommended and use in my classroom!

Happy Book Shopping Organizing!
CaseyJane

New Logo?!

Maybe you've noticed that I'm slowly redesigning my logo, blog, store, and TPT profile (click the "profile" tab just under the main grey box). When I first started blogging, I wanted to convey the idea of a "Wiggling Scholar." The green was supposed to be the kiddo and the blue and purple were supposed to look like their body and mind going off in all different directions. But it turns out that it looked more like a flower. :(

Old Wiggling Scholars Logo

I do want to keep my blog design simple and elegant while still being fun and engaging. So, I started with my logo. I've now got the WS logo! I kept trying to think of a way to show a child moving... but everything I could imagine would look like a child with an aura or a foul odor! Imagine wiggly lines in a circle around the kid, or lines coming straight out from the child. So, I decided to keep things simple. I did want a font with "movement" so I chose the WS to have the curls at the end.

Wiggling Scholars New WS Logo

I also have a color-fun version that I can use! There is just a hint of my blog colors behind the text.

Wiggling Scholars Color Fun New Logo

That all sounds very design oriented and not much like a story. But, the real story is that I have avoided using my face as a way to identify my store. When I started to create my blog, I thought I was doing that to protect my students. But I'd never post anything they can be identified by without permission. So I guess I was really trying to protect myself! I was teaching in a state-wide climate that put teachers under serious scrutiny in a district that was being unpredictable. While I've often thought about changing my logo to incorporate my face, I'm just not sure! 

So, for the time being, I'll continue to go forward with the WS logo. I think it reflects my teaching style (I don't like to get too bogged down with complexities) as well as my personal style (clean and simple).

I'd love to hear what you think! Comment below, do you like the change? Is it too boring? Hard to read or visually clean? 

Behind the Image with Wiggling Scholars

Also, if you want to learn more about other educator blog logos, check out this linky that Art with Jenny K is hosting! Lots of great stories out there.

CaseyJane

Contacts and/or Glasses?

Do you do the contacts and/or glasses dance everyday like me? As a teacher, I’m always trying to manage the balance between contacts with the possibility of sunglasses, or glasses without the possibility of dry contacts.

Picture of sunglasses from GlassesShop.com

Raise your hand if you have recess duty! (And you know that it is the day that you forget your sunglasses in the car.) I have decided to keep a second pair in my classroom for recess duty. Hello sunglasses online!

I have always had a pair of cheap eyeglasses around for when my contacts get dry or itchy from seasonal allergies.

Size of glasses, numbers on arm

GlassesShop.com has some fun glasses frames. If you have a narrow face like me, shop wisely! Look at the size of the frames you have now (the tiny numbers on the frame with a square between them~ the first number is the size of the circle for the lenses and the second is the bridge of your nose). Find something in a similar size. That way you know how they are likely to fit even though you haven’t tried them on!

If you are a new customer, they are giving you FREE GLASSES (optical glasses and sunglasses, but not S&H).

If you have already bought a pair or want a second pair, my readers get 50% off! That’s right people, half price on the frames with free lenses! Just don’t forget to type in the coupon code GSHOT50.

 I’m hoping that you have an awesome school year and that you protect your eyes!

Happy seeing!

CaseyJane

Unshakeable

Truth: Things aren't always easy as an educator. #SometimeItSucks

Truth: You can learn to handle those things and find a healthy way through them and even enjoy your career. #BringItOn

Unshakeable is a book written by the ever-amazing Angela Watson as a guide to being a sturdy, well-rounded educator. She's written it in a way that you can apply practical strategies to your job. #KeppinItSimple

I have really enjoyed reading Unshakeable and have found a few things I plan to do next year to get started on the right foot.

I'm thrilled to announce that she is not only giving away 3 COPIES of her ebook to my readers, but she is also hosting a book study this summer! #Woot!

For more info (or to check out her other book clubs), check out her site The Cornerstone for Teachers. She has way more to offer, but get yourself started with her free book study. 

To win your FREE e-copy (PDF, Kindle, or ePub version), enter below. You can also enter you name more than once, just get started on the rafflecopter below and if will unlock other entires. #FREE

But HURRY! I am only leaving this contest open through Wednesday at midnight CST. 

**Update: the contest is over, but you can still purchase the book through my Amazon Affiliates link!

Happy Book Club!

CaseyJane

Teacher's Pets


I am really excited to be joining some great bloggers for a fun linky all about PETS! Check out their links below!

The truth is, I'm a cat person. Well, somedays I may qualify as a bone fide cat lady... tea cup, cat hair, messy bun, and all! 

I've always been a cat person.

But cats don't seem to like me.

Here's my latest proof:

My Irritated Cat

Then again, she doesn't seem to like anyone or anything. She merely puts up with me...

I do talk about my cat with my first graders a lot! I think they can connect with the idea of a pet. It is because they connect so well with animals that I wanted to target a tough skill with a cheery topic. Alphabetizing? So much more fun with animals! Grab this FREEBIE!

 


If you are looking for more practice, you can check out the full product that includes 4 pages of alphabetical sorting. Once page for farm, forest, ocean, and zoo! ($2.00 on TPT)

Things We Love Linky

Classroom Loves Linky

A big ‘Thank You’ to the Primary Powers blog for hosting the Classroom Loves linky! I’m excited to share with you the things that my students and I love about what makes our classroom their “learning home.”

 

I Love~ My Stapler!

I think it is safe to say that there is one thing I love above all other things in my classroom. This is the world’s greatest, most reliable, easiest-to-get-through-the-giant-stack-of-papers-they-call-stories stapler! It is spring-loaded so it doesn’t require the weight of a body builder to get the staples through paper. I even allow my students to use it. And it has ~never~ jammed! I had a student drop one a few years ago and the bottom part broke off, so now it’s my bulletin board stapler. No more of that awkward moment where you are stapling on the bulletin board in the hallway and almost knock yourself over because you push really hard and the wall somehow seems to push back and you end up looking like a wimp. I am all sorts of suave with this little gem!

You can use my Amazon Affiliate link to order one. They come is a few different colors, and a breast-cancer awareness one that donates $0.50 of the purchase to CancerCare (a nonprofit that supports those facing a diagnosis).

Crate Benches

They Love~ Crate Benches!

Honestly, this is a love of mine as well. I noticed one year how much they were sitting on the floor and started to feel a little guilty. It’s not like a blab on and on ...(honest), but with mini-lessons, turn-and-talk, workshop shares, and read alouds, my wiggling scholars were on the “rug” a lot. But let’s be honest… it’s not the same as sitting at home with the squishy carpet pad under the plush carpet (yeah, I rent… so my carpet isn’t that nice either, but you get the gist). They are sitting on the $20 rug from thrift-o-rama or wherever that is on the cold hard tile. While I’m not trying to cry foul here, it can’t be that comfortable! I thought about getting a foam mat for under the rug. Naturally, it turned into constructing 4 benches.

Line Up Spots

We Love~ Line Up Spots!

As a teacher, I never hear, “He took my spot,” or “He cut me.” Wanna know how?! I have assigned spot in line AND they are educational. HELLO making the most of every single moment of the day! I bought a pile of those little cut-out feet at the teacher store and wrote every sight word on them. Then, I put little pieces of black electrical tape on the floor with silver sharpie words that match the feet. 3 white pieces of construction paper, Velcro dots, and some name labels later and I have myself sight-word-line-up-spots! Every few days I will reassign the words. Students write them down on their dry erase boards to practice writing the words, and each quarter (or so) I will change the words on the floor so they are getting exposure to new words. My school currently uses the Teacher’s College word lists. Since I teach first grade, I use the kindergarten words (list A) for the first few weeks and then change to list B for October through December, list C for January and February, and List D for March and April. In a good year, I’ll test them all on all 3 lists and revisit whatever words need it during May and June… but again, not sure I can say I’ve done that every year!

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found some things your class can love, too!

Check back again soon, or use the buttons below to follow my TPT store, Facebook, Instragram, or subscribe via Bloglovin’. 

Happy Classroom Luuuuv!

CaseyJane