Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Going to the fair!

This week is our local county fair - one of my favorite weeks of the entire year!  The fair is a big deal at my house, my husband and I were both raised in 4H, we met when we were counselors at 4H camp in high school, and now we serve as advisors for our local 4H club.  We take the entire week off of work to help out with fundraisers and special events, watch our club members show their animals, and enjoy spending time with friends that we don't get to see very often.

In honor of the fair I wanted to share some of my favorite farm themed books with you.  Here are five books that I love to share with my students.

1. Charlie the Ranch Dog.  I love Ree Drummond's Blog, so when I found out that she was writing a children's book I was ecstatic.  She writes books exactly the same way that she writes blog posts, children love the conversational style and her animal characters have wonderful personalities.  Whenever I pull this book out my students respond with a chorus of "I love Charlie!"

2. Rosie's Walk.  I've written about Rosie a number of times, but I can't make a list of books about farm animals and not mention this one.  Rosie's Walk gives children the opportunity to become storytellers, helping them to feel confidant about reading.

3. Click Clack Moo.  I love this series by Doreen Cronin, her characters are hilarious and their solutions to the problems that they encounter are genius.  The children love these stories, and I think they teach children to solve problems using creativity and perseverance.

4. Otis. This is a great book about old friends and new friends, and how everyone is a valuable member of the farm (or the classroom).  The illustrations are incredible, and they do a wonderful job of turning Otis the tractor into a character with feelings and emotions all his own.

5. Barnyard Dance.  No one understands young children quite like Sandra Boynton.  Her funny rhymes and nonsense words speak to them.  Barnyard dance is no exception, it makes you want to get up and square dance.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Time to say goodbye

In a couple of weeks my pre-k students will start kindergarten.  We had a graduation ceremony in May because some of my students stay for the summer, while others do not, but now that it's time for all of them to go, I really want to do something to send them off.

I'm planning a pizza party, because really, what 5 year old wouldn't want a pizza party.  Other than that, I didn't really have a lot of ideas, so I turned to Pinterest, which of course, was full of inspiration.  Our kindergarten send-off isn't for a couple more weeks, but here are a few of the things that I'm planning.

This idea is from Kindergarten Lifestyle, it's actually for the parents.  It's a package of kleenex and chocolate hugs to help parents get through sending their little one off to kindergarten.  I think it's not only a cute idea, but also a great way to let parents know that I'm thinking of them too. I've built great relationships with many of my students' parents, and I'll miss them too!

Abrams Learning Trends suggests creating a mini time capsule.  The instructions for their time capsule make an eco-friendly version, that children will be able to revisit and look at often, as they grow.  I'm just going to have my students answer a few questions and put the paper in an envelope.  People move and things get lost, but an envelope can easily be slipped in a safe place and kept for many years.  When I was in sixth grade, my elementary school principal had all of the sixth graders write a letter to themselves and put it in an envelope. We were instructed to keep the letter and open it when we graduated from high school. As a consummate rule-follower I did exactly as instructed, and I am so glad that I had that little snap shot of a younger me.  I would love to be able to do something similar for my students.

This next idea is just too cute not to try.  East Coast Mommy made a "preschool finish line" for her son on his last day of preschool. I am in love with this idea - they're done, really done with preschool, why not have a finish line?!

PopSugar columnist Sarah Lipoff has a great article about sending your child off to preschool, but this little tip would be perfect for kindergarten too.  Make small felt hearts and stick one in your child's pocket, then they can squeeze it anytime throughout the day.  I might have the students make these for their parents, or I might make two little hearts to stick in each of the "hug packages" that I showed you above, that way the parents and the kids will each have one. 

This last idea is a great way to send them off with a hug - it's a hug to go.  Little Pink Monster has a template for this bracelet that kids can wear to remind them that we're thinking of them and wishing them lots of love as they start their big new adventure.  

I'm going to miss my kiddos, but I also know that they are so ready for kindergarten! I am looking forward to sending them off right and wishing them tons of luck.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Freebie!

Happy happy happy Friday! This week seemed to drag on forever, maybe because it finally got really hot and I was desperately seeking time in the air conditioning! I made a cute little freebie for you today. This one is a blog exclusive, so send all of your friends here to get it.

I'm gearing up for back to school, and this year I have a lot of students who will be new to my teaching philosophy.  I'm at a Reggio inspired school and I absolutely love all of the hands-on learning, exploration, and creativity that this philosophy promotes, but sometimes it can take a little getting used to for parents because it doesn't look like "traditional" preschool.  These bookmarks include Loris Malaguzzi's Hundred Languages of Children.  I think that this is the perfect way to explain why we do what we do in my classroom, and I'll be giving them to all of my parents at the beginning of the year.

To download the printable version click here!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A back to school tip

I've put together a little back to school treat - a tip for helping children get excited about learning letters and starting to read, along with a great freebie.  Please check out my freebie and feel free to share my tips!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Must haves for the preschool classroom

I've taught toddlers and preschoolers for 6 years, at three different schools, in 4 different classrooms.  Through each of these moves I've come up with a list of items that are must haves for the classroom.  Whether you teach preschool, elementary school, or even home school, the vast majority of items on this list will be helpful for your classroom.  Some of the items on my list may be things that you use every day, but I'm sure that there are a few items that will surprise you, or make you think.  If you know a teacher, any of these items are always appreciated, send some in with your child on the first day and the teacher will be so thankful!

1. Plastic zipper bags. Oh. My. Goodness.  I use these for everything! Storage for my own supplies, gathering students' things to send home, keeping track of tiny pieces and parts, every single day I need a ziploc bag, and the fact that they come in different sizes is part of why I love them so much!

2. Paper towels.  This is pretty self explanatory, but the ones supplied by the school don't always cut it. I actually have a stash of old wash cloths for cleaning up the big messes, but paper towels are heaven sent.

3. Cookie sheets.  Old cookie sheets can be easily painted and they instantly look like new. I use cookie sheets as trays for activities, experiments, and art projects.  The best feature of a cookie tray is that magnets will stick to them , so they can also be used for almost any activity that can be magnetic (magnet board stories, matching and sorting activities, magnet letters, etc.).

4. Waxed paper and aluminum foil.  These are great for protecting surfaces from messy projects, wrapping up art projects to take home, and even for creating artwork with.  Waxed paper is wonderful for projects that involve glue because it will peel off after the glue dries, and aluminum foil can be molded and sculpted to create any thing that little imaginations can come up with.

5. Label Stickers.  I label everything.  Not just the supplies in my closet, but also the items and objects in the classroom.  This helps children become familiar with the words associated with familiar items, and helps them learn where items belong.

6. Plastic silverware.  I never know when a situation will call for a fork or spoon.  We might need silverware for a snack or treat, but we also might use the silverware with sensory materials, to help children improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

7. Painters tape.  I go through masking tape or painter's tape pretty quickly, but I don't really use it for hanging things on the wall.  I use masking tape to make shapes on the floor for the children to walk on, to label artwork, to put letters on the floor to drive toy cars on, to create obstacle courses, and to build forts.

8. Cotton balls.  There is an endless list of science experiments that can be done with cotton balls - exploring absorption, soaking them in extracts to smell and identify, trying to stack or unroll them. They are also great for art projects, counting, practicing depth perception, and dramatic play.

9. Q-tips.  Q-tips fall into many of the same categories as cotton balls.  They are also ideal when small groups have to share containers of glue.

10. Muffin tins and ice cube trays.  Muffin tins and ice cube trays are perfect for sorting exercises because they are sectioned into a number of different mini-containers.  They are also wonderful for art projects because they can store a number of items.  My students love to use them in the sensory table to scoop material into.

11. Sheet protectors. If I can't make it to the laminator, but I really want to share a photo or document with my students, I'll slip it into a sheet protector.  The sheet protector keeps it clean until I can decide if I want to laminate it and leave it out.  I also use sheet protectors in my planning binders, this way I can work on them in the classroom, while my students are working, and not worry about things getting spilled, or someone accidentally drawing on my paperwork.

12. Post-it notes.  I can't seem to remember anything anymore, so I am constantly leaving little post-its in cubbies with notes for parents.  When they get the note they'll usually come talk to me about it, so essentially they are reminding me what I needed to talk to them about.  I also like to use post-its to write down what children say about their work, then I can stick the post-it to their paper until I have a minute to write out a separate card or create a documentation panel.

13.  Pens. Do your pens disappear too? I can never find them (generally they end up at the bottom of my bag).  I'm picky too, I only like black pens, so when I lose mine It makes it even harder to find a new one.

14. Food trays. I am forever collecting trays from cupcakes and fruit and veggie platters.  These are perfect for math sorting and counting, and I love to use them on the light table.

15. A matching set of plastic bowls and cups. I use bowls and cups for everything from science experiments to art projects.  They can hold paint brushes and markers, be used to mix ingredients, or hold items for activities.  If they all match then it makes the classroom much more aesthetically pleasing, and they are harder to lose because they are distinctive.

16. Food coloring. It seems like every classroom project on Pinterest contains baking soda or cornstarch and is colored with food coloring. I go through food coloring like water. We often use it for paint as well, simply because young children end up with all manner of things in their mouth, and food coloring is safe.

17. Scrap paper.  If I had a dollar for every drawing that my students had ever done, I'm sure I would be a millionaire.  Unfortunately, way too many of those drawings end up in the garbage because they don't want to take them home, and I can't possibly keep all of them.  I live for donations of scrap paper, then I don't feel like I'm wasting good paper or killing entire forests.

18. Clothespins.  These are great for encouraging fine motor skills, but they are also wonderful for projects, and my students love to use them in the block area to make people, or hold pieces of building together.

19. Balloons.  What kid doesn't love a balloon? Any time that I bring out balloons, my students will gladly do what ever I ask them to in order to play with the balloon.  I've successfully taught a number of concepts using balloons, simply because my students were willing to pay attention to the activity.

20.  File folders.  Many people think that all of the files are in the office, teachers have so many of their own files it will blow your mind (unless you're a teacher, then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about).  File folders can also make you look more prepared for a meeting - simply placing all of your loose papers into a file folder before walking into the meeting will make you seem organized and professional.  I have a bad habit of doodling on my file folders, and I hate re-using them, so I'm constantly searching for new folders.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Back to School Book

I know, I know, shame on me for gearing up for back to school already. In my defense I do have an excuse, I will be MIA for the next two weeks, so I want to make sure I get the good posts out before it's too late! Plus, if I prep for back to school now, I might still be able to steal a week in August for fun summer stuff.

The book that I want to share with you today is my absolute favorite back to school book ever. Yes, ever.  Llama Llama Misses Mama is about Llama's first day at school, and all of the feelings that the Llama experiences throughout the day, from nervousness to loneliness, anger to enjoyment, and finally happiness that Mama returns and not wanting to leave school.

I always read this book during the first week of school because it communicates all of the feelings and emotions that my students are experiencing.  It voices these experiences in a way that my students understand, and can relate with.  This book also serves as a starting point for discussion about their feelings at this point in the school year.  It is especially helpful for students who don't want to admit how they are feeling, because they are able to talk about the characters in the book, instead of themselves.

All of the Llama Llama books are wonderful. I have to stop myself from laughing when I read them out loud to my class because Llama Llama's behaviors are so similar to the way my students behave, and my students are so quick to correct the Llama, even though I know that they would behave in exactly the same way.  Please make sure to check out this collection by Anna Dewdney, especially Llama Llama Misses Mama for back to school!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Teaching Gadgets

There are a few tools that I have collected over the years that have made my job a million times easier. Now is the perfect time to share my list of awesome tools because you still have time to splurge on a couple of these before school starts.  Some might be fairly obvious, but if I use it every day, then it warrants a spot on the list.  There is a pretty large range of prices as well, so even if you don't have room in your budget for a new color laser printer (my summer splurge!) you should still be able to find something on this list that you can add to your stash.

1. The one tool that I can't teach without is my 3 Hole Punch.  I don't know a teacher who doesn't have a 3 hole punch, and for obvious reasons of course.  BUT all 3 hole punches are not created equal.  This high capacity punch is a monster, and completely amazing! It can cut through 45 sheets of paper at one time, and of course, the nice little drawer to catch all of the punched pieces.  Time is a precious commodity to any teacher, and being able to punch all of the pages that you would need for an entire class at one time is incredibly valuable!

2. My favorite fun tool is my binding machine.  I make class books all the time, I also use it to bind my own planners, put together portfolios and memory books, and make gifts for other teachers (personalized notebooks, planners, etc.).  I have a Zutter Bind-It-All, which I originally got for my personal scrapbooking projects, but it has proven far more useful in the classroom.  There are so many pros to this machine - it is compact so I can easily take it to and from school with me, it will bind any size project, the blades can cut through chipboard and plexiglass, and it uses wire bindings so projects look really professional.  The supplies aren't exactly cheap, but I buy my bindings at Hobby Lobby, so I can always use a 40% off coupon.  

3. One of the most convenient tools I own is my personal laminator.  It doesn't make sense for me to use this to laminate everything that I need for the classroom, but for little projects it is so nice to have.  I have a Xyron Creative Station. This machine does cold lamination, and while I can definitely see how a heat laminator would be nice to have, I also don't have to wait for this one to heat up before laminating.  The best thing about the Creative Station is that it has removable cartridges.  When I'm done laminating I can take out the laminating film and easily switch to an adhesive cartridge to make my own stickers, or I can use the adhesive magnet cartridge to make my own magnets.  The versatility of this machine is what makes it perfect for the classroom. 

4. The one tech tool that makes my list is the iPad. I know that many classrooms have sets of iPads for the students to use, but it is so helpful to have one dedicated for teacher use. I don't have iPads for my students, but I do use my personal iPad for school.  It is so much easier to send a quick email, check the weather before recess, find a you tube video to share with a small group, and take notes during a meeting on an iPad.  I always have mine with me, and I love that I am able to work on projects anywhere. I can read documents, look up articles, and collaborate with colleagues, all while I wait for an appointment to start or right from my comfy couch at home.  

5. Ok, I lied, there is one more tech tool on my list, a color laser printer.  There is just no way that I could possibly print everything I need for my classroom at school, but with my Brother Laser Printer, I might have a little too much fun printing stuff at home.  I actually just bought a new model because my 6 year old printer bit the dust, and I am so excited to hook up the new one.  In the long run, the laser printer is much cheaper than an inkjet, because you can print so many more pages with one set of toner cartridges.  The reason that I had to have one of these was so that I wouldn't have to worry about smudging the ink after it printed - and because I love to print full color documents and decorations for the classroom.  This printer is so fast, which is great because I happen to be very impatient!

6. The tool that saves my sanity is my miniature paper cutter. I am honestly terrified of the giant guillotine cutters.  When I was in third grade I watched my student teacher cut off the tip of her finger with one and have refused to use them ever since.  This little paper cutter may take longer, but at least I know that my edges will be straight and my fingers will remain intact! 

7. The biggest time saving tool in my collection is my circle punch.  I own three different circle punches, all in different sizes because I use them so often.  Cutting out circles by hand takes forever, and they never look like perfect circles, but punches take care of all of that! I use my circle punches to create game pieces, cut out circles for lessons and activities, make garlands for bulletin boards, and to make tags for artwork or parent gifts.  My favorite punch is the Fiskars Squeeze Punch because it is so easy to use, it was actually recognized by the arthritis foundation.  

8. The most surprising tool on my list is my sewing machine.  I've always loved to sew, and thank goodness too, because this machine has saved me a ton of money! I've used my sewing machine to make pillows and curtains for my classroom.  I've also sewn play mats, garlands, dramatic play costumes, and even tote bags for myself and my students.  Last year I made a class mascot for my room, and I've taken my machine to school to make scarves with my students.  Sewing is not hard, and many stores that sell sewing machines also offer introductory classes to help you learn how to use your machine.  You can really do a lot if you only know how to sew a straight line!

9. Another crafting tool that has migrated to my classroom is my hot glue gun.  I can make anything stick together with my hot glue gun.  Whether I'm fixing something that has broken (which happens a lot in a preschool room), or making something completely new, this is my go-to adhesive.  I firmly believe that you can make just about anything for your classroom with a hot glue gun!

10. The last tool on my list is an adhesive runner.  I hate glue. hate it.  I can't stand glue sticks because half the time the glue dries before I can stick the papers together, and the other half of the time I end up sharing them with my students, who get the glue all over their hands, and all over the outside of the glue stick.  School glue drives me crazy because no matter how hard I try, it always leaves wrinkles in the paper after it dries.  My solution is my adhesive runner. This thing is great because I don't have to use a ton of adhesive to know that it will stick.  My hands are never going to get sticky while using it, and I don't have to wait for it to dry.  I've used this for everything from classroom projects to wedding invitations.  I started out using the little one-use runners, but I went through so many of them that I finally broke down and bought the Glue Glider Pro, so that I just buy refills (again, thank goodness for Hobby Lobby Coupons). 

I love every single one of these products, and own each of them.  I do think that I may have a problem though - is it normal to ask for cardstock, adhesive refills, cutting blades, and hot glue sticks for your birthday?! I would love to know what gadgets have been lifesavers in your classroom, let me know in the comments!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Freebie Friday

Ugh. I know its only the middle of July, but I am feeling the summer slipping away - maybe it's worse this week because it was so chilly, I wore a sweatshirt on Tuesday! That must be what's got me thinking about school.  Today's freebie is a cute idea for back to school, this template is from Amber Polk, and it is designed so that you can add your contact information and print as a business card or magnet to hand out to parents. This would be a cute, easy way to make sure that parents are able to get a hold of you, and express that you want to keep the lines of communication open.  Download Amber's Editable Teacher Magnet Template here.

Enjoy your weekend, I hope it is beautiful and relaxing!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Motivating Young Readers

My students are participating in the summer reading program at our local library and they absolutely love tracking the number of books that they've read.  They are constantly asking to read books (I know, awesome!) and I am happy to oblige.  I know that this is something I want to continue throughout the school year.

For the library's program my kiddos have to write down the title of each book that they read - which really means I have to write down the title of each book that they read. This doesn't sound so bad, until I think about the fact that my 12 students are each reading at least four books a day. That's a lot of time spent writing titles.

If I'm going to continue working with my students to track their reading, I need to find a way to do so that doesn't mean so much writing on my part.  I made a reading tracker for the month of August that asks students to color in a small picture (in this case, a sailboat) each time that they read a book.  They can do this independently, and still track their progress.

I thought I'd share the August tracker with all of you to get a little feedback before creating one for each month.  These are really easy to differentiate with because prolific readers can print multiple pages per month, while students who are not quite as avid in their reading can focus on filling in one whole page.

Please click on the link to download the August Reading Tracker and let me know what you think!
August Reading Tracker

Update: I went ahead and designed a set for the entire year because i'm planning on using it in my classroom. You can check out the full set here!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's time for a new planner!

One of my favorite things about July (besides my birthday, and the Fourth, and the gorgeous summer weather) has always been picking out a new planner. Yep, I'm a nerd - and proud of it!

 In Jr. High and High School I would get my school-issued planner and immediately start filling in important dates and color-coding pages.  In college, I started creating my own planners to make sure that the pages were set up how I wanted them and to make sure that I would have enough room to write down everything that I needed to do.

Over the last couple of years I've gone through planners like water because things have been changing so quickly. This year I decided that the best organizational strategy for me is to use a 3-ring binder. This way I can add or remove pages as I need them.  It also allows me to include information that I need for specific projects, and then take this info out and file it when I'm done working on that particular project.  The other great thing about using a binder is that I can combine aspects of two different planners, to create one that really works for me.

The two planners that I have combined are The Teacher Lesson Planner in gold by A Modern Teacher and the TPT Seller Planner by Crayonbox Learning. Both are available for instant download on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I started by splurging just a little on a Vera Bradley 3-Ring Binder. It's bright and fun, plus its plastic so it'll hold up for as long as I'm going to use it.  This binder also came with matching divider tabs.

Then I added calendar pages - I modified these just a little because they were designed to be a two-page spread, but I wanted the entire month on one page.

Then I added weekly pages. I separated each day into three parts - school, preschool ponderings, and personal. This lets me write out to do lists for each job every single day.

As if that didn't leave enough space for my to-do lists, I printed extra list sheets, and separated those so that there was a list for each job.  I occasionally cross out the job titles and write other lists.

The next section in my binder is the TPT Seller Planner. I especially like the goals sheets, project planning sheets, and the expense record.  After the seller planner, the next tab in my binder is where I keep all of my sales records. I like having these with me because I can go back and look at each month any time.

The last section in my binder is a copy of the Ohio Early Learning Development Standards.  I work in tons of different places, and I was constantly pulling these up on my ipad - I use them when I write, plan lessons, and create resources, plus friends are always asking me what kinds of things are developmentally appropriate. Even though I know the standards pretty well, it is so nice to have a copy with me to refer to.

This notebook has everything that I need on a regular basis, and it keeps me so organized! What I love about my planner is that it works for me, and when it doesn't work for me any more, I can change it easily. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Children's Book for a Bridal Shower

My sister is getting married in November, so at the moment I am knee-deep in bridal shower projects that I want to finish before summer is over.  She's a Kindergarten teacher, so for her shower I wanted to find a children's book that all of the guests could sign as a keepsake for the bride.

That was easier said than done.  There aren't a ton of great children's books about weddings.  I do love Lily's Big Day - it's a very cute book, but the story isn't quite what I was looking for. There are plenty of children's books about love, but the vast majority are explicitly about the love between a parent and a child. I was really looking for something a little more general. There were a couple of other criteria that I wanted to meet, I wanted guests to be somewhat familiar with the story, or at least recognize the author.  I also wanted them to understand why they were signing this book, which means that I will either have to read it, or they will have to read it - so it should be fairly short.

I ended up ordering The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.  To be completely honest, this book irritated me as a child, because inevitable, the book's chirpy noisemaker would stop working, rendering the book fairly anticlimactic (Update: you can change the battery in the version I just bought - genius!). I also have a deep, irrational fear of crickets (seriously!), but this isn't about me. The story is exactly what I was looking for. The cricket wants to make beautiful  music, and he attempts every time that he meets someone new (the other insects), but it isn't until he meets his match (another cricket), that he is finally able to chirp.

That's a cute little love story about finding your mate and discovering your potential.  I chose the board book, so that it would be sturdy as guests signed the book, and so that it wouldn't take up a ton of space in my sister's ridiculous book collection.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Creating an Aesthetically Organized Classroom

I'm a neat freak. When I interviewed for my first teaching position I distinctly remember telling the interview committee that being organized was my greatest strength. I wasn't exaggerating. Not only does every item in my classroom have it's own designated space, but I also have a checklist for every possible situation. This is one reason that the Reggio Emilia Philosophy resonates with me. This way of teaching encourages an aesthetically pleasing classroom environment, which helps me manage the chaos that preschool materials can create.

Here are some of my all-time favorite storage solutions for the classroom. Each one of these items helps to keep my classroom organized, but they also encourage independence in my students.  With some guidance my kiddos are able to use each of these items successfully to create order in our classroom.  This means that they feel confident in their abilities to take care of our materials, and I'm not constantly cleaning!

1. Natural Baskets in all shapes and sizes.
Baskets are seriously the best thing ever.  Think about this; you probably have baskets in your own home, so you know that when you put something in a basket, you can't see it anymore.  Now imagine that everything in your classroom had it's own pretty basket. Instead of seeing all of those toys and art supplies, you would just see baskets. I could honestly write an entire book on the awesomeness of storing classroom materials in baskets, They do an incredible job of storing classroom materials in a way that aesthetically pleasing and they come in endless shapes, sizes and natural colors. The baskets pictured above are available on Amazon.

2. Metal Buckets. 
These buckets are perfect for storing small objects and art supplies - pencils, markers and crayons, glue and glue sticks, scissors, marbles or gems, natural materials, and other loose parts.  They can sit on a shelf or table, or hang from a hook.  They look cute and serve a number of different possible storage purposes.  The bucket pictured is available on Amazon, however they can also be found at craft stores and garden supply stores.

3. Ikea Bygel Rod and Containers.
I added these to my classroom this year and I absolutely love them.  I store all kinds of little things in them - loose parts and natural materials, pencils, name tags and vocabulary cards, dice for math games, stamps and stamp pads, silverware for dramatic play, you name it, I've probably stored it in one of these.  The only down fall of this set is that it has to be secured to the wall, and I love to rearrange my furniture, but that has made me get really creative about how to use these bins.  I have also removed the bins entirely and used the rods to display photos and artwork in sheet protectors, which brings me to the next item on my list... (more Ikea Bygel Storage Solutions here).

4. Binder rings.
I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn't love office supplies, I'm definitely no exception to that rule.  Binder rings may just be my favorite thing.  You can use them for so much! I have used them to display artwork, photos, and documentation, which my children can take down from a hook or bar and use in basically any way that they want.  I have also used them to put together class books, and label hanging objects.  You can purchase them at office supply stores or on Amazon.

5. Command Hooks.
These should be in the running for best invention ever.  There are so many different sizes and shapes available, there is literally a Command hook for anything that you could ever want to hang.  I use them to hold up pocket charts, organize classroom centers, keep my first aid kit close at hand, display licensing paperwork, hang documentation, display three-dimensional artwork, and for hanging classroom decorations.  My personal favorites are the hooks with different metal finishes, they look so nice, and no one would ever guess that it is a plastic adhesive hook.

6. Mat boards and picture frames.
Hanging to many pieces of paper on the wall can be distracting and make the classroom feel chaotic, but between the papers that I am required to have posted and the student work and documentation that I want to display, I need to have a lot on the walls.  My solution to this issue is mat boards and picture frames.  Putting my newsletter in a picture frame makes it look like an important piece of information that I want to showcase, as opposed to a piece of paper that I threw on the wall at the last minute.  I love to display student work, but sometimes crinkled edges and tape take away from the focus of the work.  When I put work behind a light-weight mat board it looks professional and valued.  I try to make sure that my frames and mats are simple and neutral, so they do not draw attention from the item inside of the frame. (Frame from Ikea, pre-cut mat boards from Amazon)

7. Clipboards.
We use clipboards a lot in my classroom, especially when engaged in a project investigation.  I also love to use them to keep loose paper organized in the classroom.  I try to have paper available in every single classroom center, in case the children need it for drawing out plans, creating materials for dramatic play, spelling out vocabulary words, or just drawing the items that they are using.  The clipboards keep the paper together, so it is easy to find, and I don't have to include a basket for paper in each space.  All of my classroom clipboards have the center that they belong in written on the back so that students can match the words with the center labels, and so that I can easy see where they belong.  The clipboard pictured above is available on Amazon - they also have them in multi-packs. The natural wood versions are my favorites, they are inexpensive and they match well with the natural, neutral aesthetic of a Reggio classroom.

8. Post-it flags.
I know. Again with the office supplies.  I use these to inconspicuously color-code EVERYTHING! I organize my books with post-it flag labels. I have given each center a color, and then added the same color flag to every basket, container, and clipboard that belongs in that center.  This helps my students identify where each item belongs.  When I place one of these flags on an item, I cover it with clear packing tape to make sure that it stays where it belongs.  I originally started using these because They offer the most colors in one package, so it is a better value than buying multiple packages of  labels or stickers in different colors.  I will never use anything else, I absolutely love them. (Available on Amazon).

9. Over the door shoe organizer.
You can find a million different ideas on Pinterest for using these organizers. I don't have a desk or counter, or any teacher storage space in my classroom, so I use mine to store all of those things I need to be able to have within easy reach. Mine keeps my teacher scissors, good set of markers, extra grocery bags, scotch tape, ziploc bags, sharpies, extra pens, binder clips, paper clips, and hole punches where I can get to them easily, but still out of reach of my students.  My favorite hanging organizers are available from 31 Gifts. They are durable, but still very cute.

10. Photo boxes.
Photo boxes are wonderful for many of the same reasons that I love baskets - they hid messes well, and are much more aesthetically pleasing than clear tubs.  These generally only come in one size, so they aren't ideal for all classroom materials, but they do have lids and can be stacked, which are both great features.  (Available at craft stores or on Amazon).

I would love to know how you keep your classroom organized. If you use any of these items please share how you use them in the comments!