Saturday, August 5, 2017

How to space your posters evenly

Have you ever embarked on a decorating job in your classroom, only to get near the end of your job and realize that you have spaced out your letters or posters unevenly?  Sometimes you end up with a big blank area where you didn't want it, or your display is off center, or even worse, you run out of room completely?  Here's a tip for how to solve that problem.  And yes, it does include measuring, but it's not super painful. I'm showing the easy version first.  Scroll down to find a freebie and all the way to the end if you want the "perfectionist" version of putting up your posters evenly.

Measure to find out how long your space is, and then divide that number in half to find the middle.  Or, if you aren't in the mood for perfection, use a reference point (flooring, ceiling tiles, joints between whiteboards, etc.) Mark the middle spot with a pencil mark or a push pin or a sticker.

Find the poster that you want to place at the center of your horizontal display.  If you have an odd number, it's easy (with 21 posters, the 11th poster is the middle. If you have an even number, just find the two middle (with 20 posters, find the 10th and 11th posters).

For an odd number of posters, put the middle poster smack dab in the center (on top of the middle mark). For an even number of posters, this middle point is going to be your middle gap. I like to use either push pins or sticky putty so that my initial poster placement can be checked for even spacing before I use staples.

After putting up your middle poster(s), work your way out to the left and the right by using a ruler or other spacing guide (see the cardstock I used below) to make all of the gaps even.

By doing this, you'll end up with an even empty space on the left and the right!  Pain free :)

And a freebie!

Want to do some math for a more specific space to fill, here's the details:

Step 1: Measure your total length that you want to fill up.

For example, say you have 200 inches of space above your boards. You want to fill up that space with some posters and you want it to be evenly spaced.

200 inches is your total length

Step 2: Count how many pieces you want to put up.  Let's say you have 21 posters.

Step 3: Measure the width of each poster.  Let's say each poster is 8.5 inches wide.

Step 4: Multiply the number of posters by the width of each poster (I know, this is so obvious...but I've seriously been so desperate to have something fit before, that I have skipped this and felt ridiculous after).  For our example, we get 178.5 inches.  As long as this number (total poster space) is less than your total length, you are good to go.  So far, this is nothing new!

Step 5: Subtract your total poster space from your total length.  200-178.5=21.5  This is the amount of space that can be divided between each poster.  Because we have 21 posters, there are 20 spaces between them (there will be either a bit more or a bit less on each end).  Each space is going to be around 1 inch.

Step 6: take a piece of cardstock and cut it to the width of each space (for our example it is 1 inch).  Use this as your spacer. Start either at the left, the right, or the center.  I prefer the center even if I have measured.

Math check: 8.5 inches plus 1 inch in between = 9.5 inches.  9.5 times 20=190, plus 8.5 for the last poster = 198.5.  I don't know about you, but that's close enough to 200 as far as I'm concerned!

If you are looking for the number posters pictured above, they can be found here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

First Day of School Plans

What do I do on the first day of school?   The way you start off your year is crucial, but it doesn't have to be difficult at all!  Here are 3 things that I think every primary teacher should do on the first day of school.

1) Provide accessible and non-threatening seatwork

I like to set up my classroom with playdough and blank paper with crayons on the first morning of school.  Most, if not all, students will enjoy being able to focus on something accessible that doesn't require instructions, and YOU will enjoy the freedom that gives you to be able to talk with parents or help students who are having a hard time adjusting.

Throughout the day I also ensure that all seatwork is accessible and review only.  I think it's imperative that the students feel like they CAN DO this new grade.  

Back to my morning....once we are underway and the parents have departed, I gather the students at the carpet and I tell them how excited I am that I get to be their teacher.  I tell them in a whisper voice that I feel like I'm the luckiest teacher in the world because I get to teach them this year. This is the perfect way to ....

2) Focus on Connections with students and break the ice

Connect with the students by learning their names, learning a bit about each child, and telling them a few facts about yourself that students can relate to (favourite foods, pets, activities you enjoy).  Give the students the opportunity to talk with one another by playing ice-breaker games or sharing about something they did in the summer.

Throughout the whole day, the focus is on the CHILDREN and not what we can accomplish.  I usually way over-plan, but this actually helps out, because I can push any unfinished read-alouds, games, or activities onto the next day(s). 

One of my favorite games to play is "Red Elbow."  You simply combine a body part name and a color.  Students need to put that body part on something of that same color in the room.  So "red elbow" means they put their elbow on something red, like a poster or a backpack, etc.  To save your sanity, start off with some really simple ones like combine hand+the color of your tables/desks, etc so that kids aren't too squished :)  

I also like to take the time to do physical activities (outside if possible) to let off some of the first day of school excitement.  If we can't go outdoors for whatever reason, I like to do "animal poses and stretches".  It takes no prep, just ask students to stretch like a cat, or wiggle like a snake, or hop like a bunny, etc.

3) Settle the nerves about what will happen the next day

I know that anxiety is a reality for many of us (teachers AND students) and I try to do my best to relieve any anxieties that I have the power to reduce.  At the end of the first day I make sure that the students understand what will be happening on the next day.  I preview the "shape of the day" and make sure they know what will be waiting for them first thing in the morning (playdough, drawing, pattern blocks).

Some of my favorite activities for the first day(s) of school are found in these packets.  Simply click to take a closer look:

I wish you a most wonderful back to school season.  And remember, you've got this!  Just be you; have faith in your abilities!