Making Things Match - my classroom makeover

This year I wanted my classroom to be colorful, but really focused on creating an environment that would eliminate as much distraction as possible. I found that using only two colors (lime green & aqua) with black accents helped me with that goal. I included different patterns and textures to keep it interesting, but overall the look is cohesive.

Once the boards and bigger items were done, I started looking for small projects that would be quick and easy, but would make a difference. This took under 5 minutes and cost nothing since I used scraps from other projects. I simply trimmed down some black cardstock, wrapped it around the tissue box and hand sanitizer and hot glued it closed in the back. Next I hot-glued some ribbon that coordinates with my classroom around each item. Done!
I would suggest adding a label to the item since you are covering it. The labels were already hanging. They are from my Classroom Labels Kit.
This was a spontaneous project. If I were to do it again (and I'm sure I will...I'm looking at you hand soap), I would cut the strips of paper to size and laminate them before attaching them to protect them from drips.
What can you think of from your classroom that you would cover?


I recently posted about how I created designated spaces in my classroom to display all of the anchor charts I make with my students. I had used ribbon to create an additional border around each chart.
Today I wanted to share another idea with you that will make your charts extra fancy with little effort.
Simply add a border of tape around all four edges of your chart or poster. 
  • It will define them.
  • It will make them pop and stand out from their background.
  • It will give them a finished look.
  • It will give a splash of color.
  • It will take any ordinary chart and instantly make it match your classroom theme or color scheme.

And Oh.My.Gosh. the options are ENDLESS!
My most popular thematic packet has always been my Jungle / Safari Classroom Decor Packet {with my Camping Decor Packets  and Beach Decor Packets next in line}. If you are doing a jungle theme then you are in luck because there are so many animal print tapes available. 
For those of you doing a Hollywood Theme or if you just like to bring out your inner diva, might I suggest some glitter tape. The kids would go nuts for that!

If you aren’t doing a classroom theme, but are instead focusing on pulling your classroom together with a color scheme there are options out there for just about any color under the sun.

All of these items can be found at craft stores where you can score some decent discounts. Have fun and be creative!

{photo sources: 1 / 2 / 3}

Paper Banner - my classroom makeover

I have a whiteboard in my classroom. There is a strip of cork that runs along the top of it. In the past I have tried putting border around it. There is no real reason to do so other than to give it a finished look.
I like things to look finished.
After some trial and error with double-sided tape, sticky-tac, and hot glue, I finally settled on magnets. It worked.
Sort of.
The borders shifted around and when students would clean the board for me, the border would get wet. I waved the proverbial white flag and gave up.
But, I was making a banner for the twins' room and realized that might be an option for the whiteboard.
And ooh-la-la I love the result.

I never wrote on the top 1/4 of the board.

And I never used the cork strip. Whenever I hang anything on the board I use magnets.

So I covered the strip with coordinating paper. Then armed with some twine, a hole punch, and a cutting board, I created a banner to hang at the top.

I cut rectangles from scraps of paper in a size that worked for my space.
Next I found the center at the bottom of the paper and cut a diagonal line from that point to the upper corner.
Using the hole punch, I made 4 holes (2 close together).
I threaded the twine through each and hung it on the cork board.
Total time: About 30 minutes.

Easy-Peasy Bookshelf Project - my classroom makeover

I've s-l-o-w-l-y been making over my classroom.

I started back in the early spring with the goal of transforming it completely for the new school year.
A project here. A project there.
It's getting done.
It all started with the fact that I used to be a crafty person and hadn't had the time or a purpose to get my craft on lately. A classroom makeover was the perfect opportunity to use up some of my supplies and really personalize my classroom with creative details.
In years past I was a Theme Queen. I do love themes. I think part of the reason I did my Classroom Theme Series was because I was having theme-planning withdrawals. In place of a theme, I went with a color combo: lime green and aqua. I used black as a base so that I could change things out relatively easily in the future.
In addition to my daily Classroom Management Series that is kicking off tonight, I plan to share the personal touches I made to the classroom each morning.
Today I want to show you an easy way to transform shelves.
My inherited wooden shelves were really worn and tired looking. There was nothing special about them.
That all changed with a 15-20 minute project (save for drying time). I took a roller and ran it over the sides, top and front of the shelves.
I applied 2 quick coats. Next, I selected scrapbook papers in bright, fun patterns. And attached them to the back of the shelves with double-sided tape.
I love what a difference it made and how coordinates so well with my room for a cohesive look. If you are doing a theme, this would be an easy way to make an impact because there are so many themed scrapbook pages available. You could even skip the painting step and it would still make a big impact. The finished product houses my chapter books in small teal baskets.

Fire Code Schmire Code: Cute Classroom Tips & Ideas

classroom organization organizing a classroom classroom projects classroom libra
I have been getting a lot of emails lately that read something like this, "I love all of the ideas I see for classrooms, but we have strict fire codes." Well, this post is for you...and anyone else who is crafty and likes color. I've brainstormed a few ideas that you may be able to use to make your room fun and inviting without the fire department taking a hose to it.
And on a sidenote, I find the whole thing kind of silly. Schools are stocked with books and paper. It doesn't get more flammable than that. But, I digress.
  • Brightly colored baskets and bins!
  • Spray paint your trashcan. I just repainted mine. Easy peasy!

  • Paint your bulletin boards...ask first, I suppose.
  • Duct Tape: Have you seen Duct Tape lately. Oh the colors! Oh the designs! Use it as borders by taping it onto the boards or around your whiteboard.
  • Plants! Not only will plants and flowers add color and pizzazz, but how cute would snazzy painted pots be?

  • Vinyl Wall Clings
Oh my, I heart these. I have some in my twins' room. They stick on. They peel off. They are cheap and easy.

  • Funky Frames:

Even if you can't wall mount them, how great would it be to have a snazzy frame for each kiddo lining a shelf. Paint them fun colors. The more mismatched the better.
  • Fabric Chair
Please tell me that they are at least giving those of you in the strict fire code school an upholstered chair of sorts. Recover it in super fun fabrics. I can't sew to save my life, but you would be amazed at what you can do with a hot glue gun and a stapler.

  • Homemade Vinyl Rug-
Oh friends! This one is just way. too. cool. It's a vinyl tablecloth coated in a sealer to make a rug of sorts. Wipes clean and looks amazing. LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

  • Tape Flooring
Not into the vinyl tablecloth rug wannabe above? Well, how about vinyl tape put down to create an awesome look all its own?

  • Paperless Bulletin Board:
A picture frame with clothesline nailed to the back. Extremely cute even if you aren't restricted from paper and fabric goodness on your boards.

  • Clipboards
I had posted about using clipboards to display work on my other blog back in the spring when I scored some super cute decorative clipboards that would have been complete crud to use as a clipboard to write on. If you can't find them in cool designs then I suggest you make friends with some scrapbook paper and a jar of Modge Podge. Don't know what Modge Podge is? Google it and prepare to have your life changed for the better.

Let's pool together and help our fire code restricted friends out. Leave comments with any other ideas you might have for them to make their rooms cute, colorful and all that good stuff.
If you are one of those fire code restricted folk...well, first of all I'm sorry...but, feel free to leave a link to photos of your classroom and inspire others in the same situation.

SIMPLE DOOR DECOR {Classroom 360}

Classroom 360 is a complete tour of my classroom as designed for the 2012-2013 school year. Each post highlights an aspect of my room with photos, a detailed explanation of it's purpose, and often times videos.

I can’t say enough about how much I love ribbon as a decorative tool. It adds a finishing touch to everything. 
{Also Pictured: Hand Signal Signs for Classroom Management}

It's easy to find in just about every width, color, and pattern.

You can buy it at craft stores and Walmart and fabric stores.

At a low cost. Bonus!

Later this week you’ll see how I used it it define anchor chart spaces. In the past I have added bulletin board border alone to the window on my door and was quite happy with it. This year I decided to mix it up and use ribbon. 

I used the blue, but felt like it needed more color.  So I layered on some orange.

I slept on it and when I looked at it again the next day I felt like it needed a little something more. So I added the black border.
{Also Pictured: Hand Signal Signs for Classroom Management}
There wasn’t anything wrong with the window or it’s natural border. However, this is a great example of how simple (and also cheap and easy) touches can make a big impact on the overall appearance of your classroom.
Always be on the lookout for little ways that you can personalize your classroom and make it something special.

For more tips and ideas on organizing and managing your classroom please check out my Clutter-Free Guide along with my Teaching Procedures and Routines Workbook. This post is part of:

Recycling Bins Can Be Cute {Downsize Your Classroom, Get More Space, Recycling in the Classroom}

{Click to Access and Download: Recycling Bin Labels}

It's not easy being green.

Well, at least that is what Kermit the Frog claims. And, as a teacher, I am in agreement.

Classroom real estate is always at a premium and finding a home for a big, huge, bulky recycling bin can be a challenge. It's size often makes it too big to fit on a shelf and yet, short enough that it isn't always seen and can be tripped over if not tucked away.

And the color? Blah!

Admittedly, I get a bit nutty when it comes to making everything match my classroom color scheme, but the reality is that swamp green (the world's most common recycling bin color) doesn't match much.

When consulting with clients about organizing and managing their classrooms, I encourage them to start by purging anything unnecessary. I then tell them to look around with a creative eye and try to find think outside the box about the things that are necessary. Often times this involves finding multipurpose items (using the front of a teacher desk or heater as a magnetic board, selecting seats that serve as storage containers, etc). Other times it involves simply downsizing.

And that is what I did with my recycling bin.

Oh, and I made it much more adorable in the process.

Purchase 2 wastebaskets. The ones I used are 16 qt and cost $2.99 each. I specifically selected baskets that would fit onto a shelf in my classroom so they wouldn't take up floor space. I find the 16 qt size were big enough to hold quite a bit, but not intrusive. I encourage the kids to take paper from the bin for drawing, indoor recess games and as scrap paper during Math Workshop. When they get too full a student brings them to the large school-wide barrels in and transfers the contents.

Print out the labels and secure them in place with a thin coat of Modge Podge. The label shown has the blue chevron border. The packet also includes a set of labels with only the inner black border. You can mount these onto scrapbook paper to match your color scheme or classroom theme.

Apply Modge Podge on top of the label in several thin coats to adhere it. If you use an inkjet printer you’ll want to take precautions to keep the ink from running. Some ideas include freezing the paper overnight or a layer of hairspray.  Alternatively, you could use clear packing tape to adhere it to the container as well. 
{Click to Access and Download: Recycling Bin Labels}
I created a packet that includes the labels with a blue chevron border shown in the picture above. It also includes a set of labels with a simple black border around them that you can mount onto scrapbook paper to match your classroom theme or color scheme.

My "CREATE" Board to Showcase Student Projects {Classroom 360}

Classroom 360 is a complete tour of my classroom as designed for the 2012-2013 school year. Each post highlights an aspect of my room with photos, a detailed explanation of it's purpose, and often times videos. Be sure to check out all the other posts.

When I started to plan my classroom design for the upcoming year I flipped and flopped between doing a classroom theme vs sticking to a color scheme. I've done both in the past and loved each room for different reasons. Over the years my classroom has featured a beach theme, camping theme, western theme, Hollywood theme, detective theme, and a jungle theme

Then I switched to a "color scheme" last year and was quite happy with it.

Because I like change and I love to set up classrooms, I couldn't resist mixing things up.

I loved how the black accents looked with the bright colors in my room and ultimately decided to go with a bright and cheerful scheme.  This was perfect because my goal this year is to really find ways to foster creativity and inspire kids to want to learn instead of just expecting them to do so. 

With the national push for data-driven instruction, it is important to put in extra efforts to make sure that opportunities for creativity and open-ended, project-based learning exist.

To help with my goal, I've designated a board in my classroom specifically for displaying all of those gorgeous, colorful creations that kids design when given some construction paper, paints, glue, and scissors. The work will be changed out regularly, but the hot pink background and the title in the center will remain the same throughout the year. 

It states simply, "Create." It will be a constant reminder of the importance of establishing an environment that values learning "outside the box."

Plus, the darn thing makes me smile everytime I look at it's Crayola-goodness! 

It was super fun to make too.

What is Your #1 Goal for the Year?

Painted Trash Cans {Classroom Design Photos, Set Up Pictures & Ideas, Organization & Management}

In a post last week I shared how simply sliding a colorful, patterned piece of paper into the literature sorter we use to organize and manage the "work in progress" in my third grade classroom made a big difference in visually enhancing the space. It's those little pops of color and attention to detail that help transform a classroom.

The Guide to Decorating Your Classroom includes many tips for using creating a beautiful learning space on a tight budget using inexpensive supplies. One of my favorite things to use is spray paint and today I want to share a very simple idea you can use to make your classroom look even more cohesive.

While I don't have a before picture, but if you imagine dingy, dirty, boring beige cans then you have an idea of what I started with. Since my classroom color scheme this year is aqua chevron with black and white polka dots and accents of yellow I chose to use those three colors to paint the trash cans. 

If you're feeling extra fancy, you can upstyle them even more by getting crafty with painter's tape. I suggest starting with painting the cans white. After they dry, use the tape to make stripes, dots, chevron, etc. Make sure it is stuck down well and then spray over it with the color of your choice. Once it is dry simply peel off the tape and you'll have a customized trash can that adds detail to your classroom.

If you do plan to spray paint anything I highly recommend using a spray paint nozzle. They easily slide on and off the cans and can be used over and over. It certainly makes the task easier and you don't end up with colorful fingertips.

You may also be interested in reading a blog post from last summer that shows how to ditch those oversized green recycling bins for something that better fits your space and style: Recycling Bins for the Classroom.


Classroom 360 is a complete tour of my classroom as designed for the 2012-2013 school year. Each post highlights an aspect of my room with photos, a detailed explanation of it's purpose, and often times videos.

This is a fantastic solution for those of you who may have ratty, beat up desks that you want to fix up. For me it was more about being matchy-matchy. I love matchy-matchy.

I’ve mentioned a time or two thousand that I don’t love on the color red. Sure it’s the color of love and yes it looks great with my dark hair and pastey Irish complexion, but it clashes with my otherwise perfectly color-coordinated classroom and therefore me no likey. 
So you can only imagine my feelings towards red desks. 
The thought of spray painting them had crossed my mind...briefly. But that would mean taping them to paint them. And it would be permanent. I quickly realized I could eliminate a step and simply tape them.
I actually only have a couple desks and decided Duck tape would be the perfect solution. I had fallen in love with a damask pattern I had seen online, but couldn’t find it in any of my local stores. 

I opted instead for a solid aqua and was very pleased with the results. It peels off easily and a little vegetable oil or vinegar will easily take care of the stick residue if I want to change it out in the future. After all was said and done I realized I could have also used colored painters tape. So if you are thinking about making over some desks, or a filing cabinet, or anything else for that matter you may want to go that route.

SIDENOTE: Duck Tape is the name brand for the fun pattern / colorful Duct Tape maker. You can do a google search for either to find lots of fun options. I went back and forth on which spelling to use for the post, but ultimately decided to go with the brand I used.

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.