Dollar Store Hack: Using Crates as Bookcases and NOT Ruining Your Books

In ten years of teaching and five different schools (military life), I've only once had enough bookcases for my giant classroom library. The first time I encountered this problem, I bought wire bookcases from Target and aside from the fact that they were less than fun to put together, they did their job. Shortly after that, I found some purple crates, which were much easier to put together.  I began to use them to hold my excess books that didn't fit on the shelves that were in my room. Since then, I've added additional shelves based on my color schemes and additional needs as my library grows and grows because yes, it's super challenging to not order tons and tons of books from Scholastic each month.

The problem I've encountered can be seen in the picture above. Whether it's a wire bookcase or a crate, there are lots of openings, which means that the books don't stand up or fit in the way that they would if you were using a regular wooden bookcase. For those that like things nice and neat like me, this can drive you a little bananas. I often see students attempting to take a book out, and the spine of the book getting stuck in one of the holes, which results in the student forcing it out and is not kind to the spine. So while I bought crates to keep my books safe, I've started to think that they are doing more harm than good. So this year I decided to do something I should have done ten years ago.

Enter the Dollar Store. Don't you just love how the Dollar Store has everything you need/don't need/can find a use for? Well, it turns out that the Dollar Store had just what I needed in the kitchen goods aisle. I present you the Flexible Chopping Mat, in a set of two bright and wonderful colors, one of which just happens to be part of my classroom color scheme. I currently have four crates being used, so I grabbed 4 packs so I could have 4 blue mats.

Back to the classroom I went and the fun began. 

Just $4.00 saved me a lot of money in book replacements and sanity too. It's also more aesthetically pleasing so it's definitely a win, win! Though I didn't use them now, I know those purple ones will come in handy in the future, especially since I still have my purple crates from my early years of teaching. I'm sure I'll use them someday when my theme includes purple again! 



Setting Clear Behavior Expectations for a Successful School Year

I still remember my first teaching position. I took over a fifth grade class at the end of April. April 26th, 2005 to be exact. To say it was a challenge would be a giant understatement. I'm going to be honest, the first day, I just focused on breathing. I was completely overwhelmed and really had no idea how I was going to add structure to a class who had clearly gone without structure for the majority of their year. After a very chaotic first few days in which I felt quite defeated and had zero control of the class, I went home and wrote down all of my expectations for them. I then thought about how I would present them to the students since standing in front of the room and telling them my rules had clearly not worked. I began to work up different scenarios that my students could engage in, which would allow them to be a little silly, because I needed them on my side, but would also allow me to show them what my expectations were. I went in the next day and started our day by passing out different scenarios of bad behavior. The students acted them out and after each one, we discussed why the behavior was not correct, and then the students reenacted the same scenario with the correct behavior.

Ladies and gentlemen, it worked. The difference between day #1 and day #2 were night and day and every day after that was far better than the first. To be honest, even I was surprised. I learned something extremely valuable that day, that there is serious power in setting clear expectations.

So how hard is it to set clear expectations? Maybe harder than you think. If you consider my story, it wasn't that I didn't tell my students my expectations on the first day. I did. But I didn't show them. Sure, I stood there and talked "at" them about what I wanted them to do, but did I engage them in the conversation? No. Did I ask for their opinions on it? No. Did I involve them in the process of setting these expectations? No. What was different in my second attempt is that I did all of those things.
I not only engaged my students, but I asked them to show me the wrong, identify the right, and show me the appropriate behavior. We then had a huge discussion about what THEY learned and WE listed the classroom expectations that would make THEIR year a success. I made it about THEM, not me. At no point did I alienate them from the process. And you know what? It worked then and it continues to work.

So my advice?
1. Make students feel involved in the process.
2. Allow students to model expected behaviors. This will set the tone for your entire year, so you want the students to be engaged.
3. Write your rules together. Post them in the room after all students have added their signature to the rules that they helped you to create.
4. Present the rules not as a because the teacher said so, but instead as a you have to because you want to learn each day. Make it their non-negotiable, and then make it yours.

Keep in mind, clear expectations aren't just about the first day, they are about holding students responsible for following them every day, and being consistent. If you are not consistent with your expectations, your students won't be consistent with their behavior.

I'm including a freebie pack that includes 15 of the behavior scenarios that I've used and were created by a former colleague and I. They cover a number of different areas of the school (assemblies, hallways, cafeteria, etc). I've also added recording pages for students to use during and after they've completed their scenarios. I hope that this will be helpful as you kick off your new year. These are also great to pull out as a refresher after the long winter break, or if you find yourself taking over a classroom at the end of April, like me! :-)



2015 Virginia Teacher Bloggers Meet-Up

Last Friday a group of 30 fabulous Virginia teacher bloggers {including myself!} descended upon the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club for an afternoon of networking, laughs, food, drinks, and some incredible swag and prizes! It was an incredible time, and well worth all of the planning and logistics that went into it. I want to share some of the experience with you!

First of all, I have to tell you how absolutely AMAZING all of our sponsors were to work with. If you are making any back-to-school purchases this year, I really urge you to consider purchasing from these businesses and individuals -- they truly value teachers and aren't afraid to show it!

A HUGE thank you goes especially to Educents (one of THE best companies around!) for helping with the costs of the meetup and providing some FANTASTIC swag! Make sure you check out their new Educents Wallet feature to get all of those resources for your classroom at a steep discount! If you sign-up for a new teacher wallet account you'll receive $10 to spend on your classroom -- who couldn't use $10?!

We had over $4,000 in prizes thanks to these fantastic folks! It was so much fun to see the excitement on each of the winner's faces!

Check our our FANTASTIC sponsors:

And some AMAZING TpT sellers that contributed raffle prizes or digital swag:

[Teaching in the Tongass] [Janiel Wagstaff] [Kimberly Geswein] [Polka Dots & Pals] [Laugh, Eat, Learn Designs] [Whimsy Workshop] [Jewel's School Gems] [The Joy of Teaching] [The Teacher Studio] [KristyBear Designs] [Chalk & Apples] [Teaching in Progress] [There's No Place Like Second Grade]

Also, a GIANT THANK YOU goes out to Sarah from There's No Place Like Second (And now Third!) and Nikki from Teaching in Progress
Sarah worked night and day (seriously, Sarah, did you sleep?) to do everything from gather donations to create adorable name tags and create super cute programs. Sarah was truly the backbone of this meet-up and I hope she knows how much we all appreciated her efforts. And without Nikki, we wouldn't have had such an amazing venue two years in a row. These two ladies rock my world! 

1. Nikki (from Teaching in Progress) and I worked the front table, which meant that we were able to meet and greet each and every teacher blogger. I challenged myself to recognize each face before they reached the table. It was super fun to guess who each person was as they entered! I got them all correct, too! Each person was so impressed by all of the goodies we had for them, especially the awesome name tags that Sarah from There's no Place Like Second Grade (And now Third!)

2 Lunch. The food was fabulous, but I'm talking about the company. I don't think I went a minute without laughter, especially with the crew that was sitting at our table. Carla, Karen, Nikki, Haley, Heather, Erin, Sarah, and I had the BEST time during lunch. In the moments that we weren't being silly, we had great chats about blogging and creating. We had a wonderful time together and it wasn't superficial at all. I consider each of these women my real life friends and I know I can count on them. That's pretty special, y'all!

3. Being in a room with so many talented women. There was a moment where I stopped talking (shocking, I know) and just sat back and took in the fact that I was in a room with so many creative women, all of whom share the same goal of improving education by sharing our ideas, resources, and expertise. In the time that I've been connected to these women, I've learned a ton about creating, teaching, and handling life outside of it all. I'm lucky to be a part of such a knowledgeable, inspiring group and I know that I'll forever be a part of this awesome group, even if I'm not in Virginia forever.


You can see more fun meetup photos by looking at the hashtag #VATeacherBloggersMeet on Instagram, or by looking at the photo album here:

Some of the fantastic Virginia teacher bloggers from the meetup are linking up with Sarah from There's No Place Like Second Grade to share their favorite moments and photo memories from the meetup, as well as share their swag and prizes! Be sure and check-out their posts!

You are next...


Back to Top