Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Classroom File Cabinet Makeover


I wasn't sure I would have the time or drive to do something about my filing cabinet this year.  On the one hand, a white cabinet is not going to help my students any more than a grey one would.  But on the other hand, this depressing looking thing is the first thing you see when you walk into my classroom.  After all the time, money and effort I've put into the decor, I really wanted to make a better first impression!  So I bought the paint I needed before my trip.  Sure enough, once I got back I had that sense of, "Well, I have what I need, I might as well."  So here's how I did it!

Step 1:  Decide where it's being painted.  I asked our head custodian if he could move it outside but he suggested I do it indoors, using my rug turned upside down as a drop cloth.  I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me!  (Note:  Do NOT spray paint indoors; I learned the hard way the cleanup was a NIGHTMARE.  Also my normally very laid back principal told me do NOT do that again, haha.  Do this project OUTSIDE).

Primed and ready!
Step 2:  Remove as much of the hardware as possible.  I asked our custodian for a screwdriver and he actually removed the handles for me.  None of the rest of it came off, unfortunately.

Step 3:  Remove bits of tape and grunge.  You might even want to wash it at this point, just be sure to let it dry a few minutes before the next step.

Step 4:  Sand.  I did it by hand with fine sandpaper and a woodblock.  This was a lot of work!  If you're planning to do this project at school, the rest of your time should be spent on something light and not very physical, like filing paperwork.  I'd also recommend goggles and a mask so you don't inhale the dust.  And of course if you're not sure if the cabinet has lead paint, don't sand it!!!  Finally, be sure to open a window for ventilation (although this is a mute point because you've already decided to take my advice and do this outside, right?).

Step 5:  Dust.  It's going to be messy.

Step 6:  Wash.  Again, messy.  Give it a few minutes to dry.  In fact, I called it quits for the day at this point.  It was a lot of work!

Step 7:  Mask the rest of the hardware (carefully wrap masking tape around those bits you want to stay the old color, like the lock).  See the little "frames" on each drawer?  I decided to let the inside remain grey for ease of masking purposes.  I figure I can put an insert into those easily enough. 

Step 8:  Prime.  I used Rustoleum primer and just sprayed it all over.  I gave it 2 or 3 coats as suggested.  Unfortunately I also discovered that the "drop cloth" was not big enough.  :(  I'd say the range of settling paint was about 12 to 15 feed from the area I was standing.  I tried to mop up as much as I could but I did not time this right.  My plan was to do other work in the room and then spray primer at the end so that I wasn't inhaling the fumes the rest of the afternoon.  However, I needed more than an hour to spray and clean up.  So two lessons learned here:  Really prepare a wide area to spray paint on and save an hour to clean up!  It's easier to clean wet paint than dried on paint another day.

Step 9:  I hope I haven't scared you from trying this yourself at this point, haha.  I suggest again, call it quits for the day and pick up step 8 tomorrow.  It lets you rest and gives the primer time to dry completely.  The next step is, of course, to paint. 

Word of advice:  Buy TWO to THREE cans for your file cabinet!  I bought one and didn't even finish the first coat.  :/  I was so annoyed.  More mess to clean another day.  Then I couldn't remember if I needed gloss white or semi gloss white.  At least I had the forethought to get both and return the rest after so I wasn't stuck for a third time. 

Oh, and just a little aside here.  I'd struggled with what color to paint my cabinet.  My classroom colors are the same as my blog (lime, aqua, teal, brown and white).  I was going to go with brown because I love it for my furniture at home, but just before I primed my husband pointed out I have very little brown in the room (just the floor).  I'd have loved aqua or teal but it's only available online at Walmart.  Rather than delay the project a week (too close for my comfort in getting the project done before school starts) I figured white would let it blend right in with the walls. 

White!
So what do I find when I went back for a couple extra cans of white paint?  You guessed it.  Teal.  AND AQUA.  I could have had EITHER COLOR!!!  *Sad face*  I just need to keep telling myself that having it blend in with the walls and not standing out is for the best.  Why bring the kids' attention to something that doesn't have information they need written on it?  I'll just keep telling myself that...

So anyway, I got back to school after the weekend and luckily something told me to do a little test patch on the "drop cloth."  Sure enough, it wasn't white; someone at the store had switched the caps; I had a can of blue.  So instead of continuing with the gloss paint, I did the final few coats with semi-gloss white.  At least it's done!

Step 10:  Call it quits for the day and let it dry for 24 hours (the can said you can touch it after 9 hours, but might as well give it extra time).  Remove masking tape.

Step 11:  Reattach hardware.

Step 12:  I finished it off with just a little Washi Tape to dress it up.  I was planning on outlining all the drawers completely, (but waited since time is ticking before the kids' first day and I need to start prioritizing) but now I sort of think less is more!  I LOVE how it turned out so I think I'll keep it just like this.  :D



Has anyone else "upcycled" an old filing cabinet? 

 








Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Covering Classroom Closet Doors: Trying Something New

After reading this post from Schoolgirl Style I decided it was time to update my classroom decor.  Don't get me wrong, I love my color scheme!  It's the same as I have for my blog (teal, aqua, lime green, and brown) and it coordinates with a lot of the existing colors of the furniture and built-ins in the room.  No, what this post got me thinking about was the idea of consistency.  I wasn't going to change my palette; I needed to bring more consistency to my classroom decor.  And that meant changing out my bulletin board borders.

Planets
Jungle

As much as I like my Trend rainbow swirly star borders, I've had them since my second year at this school.  My rainforest border and planet borders have followed me from my previous school...and before that, when I taught preschool.  I felt I was justified in my decision to splurge in the name of change!

Before I show you the end result, I wanted to talk about the issues and process of mounting my borders.  See I don't just use them on normal bulletin borders; I have them covering two different problem areas.

Rainbow Stars
1.  The front and back of my classroom is a weird mix of whiteboards mounted on top of chalkboards and framed by thin panels of cork boards.  This may work for some teachers, but I decided early on to hide everything but the whiteboards under shower curtains instead of butcher paper.  This way I don't have to change it out every year.  It's worked well so far!  I just have to tape in the chalkboard spots and staple in the cork board spots.

2.  I have 6 closet doors that I use as bulletin boards.  Three of them are actual bulletin board, and the other 3 are more chalkboards.  Once again I covered them all, this time with fabric.  Not only does it resist fading like the shower curtains, the fabric also helps to dampen the sound in the room a little.  I've also found that my borders really last a long time if I laminate them.  Before I did that they'd get shredded and fall off with use (kids opening and closing the closet doors every day).

In the past I used Velcro to adhere the fabric to the chalkboards and then stapled the border to the fabric.  It works pretty well!  There is some sagging, so I've had to replace the Velcro in places, but it's not a bad system.  However, since I splurged on all new borders, I decided to try a new approach.  My idea was to use those tiny Command hooks at the top only.  This way they'd hold the weight of the laminated border and fabric, and the Velcro left on the sides would be more to prevent it from swinging than holding it up.

It took a little trial and error, but here's how I did it:
 
1.  After taking down the old stuff and cleaning the area where the hooks would hang, I stuck one hook in each corner and two in the middle.
 
2.  I carefully hole punched the fabric so it could hang on the hooks.  Take your time to line up the hook with the area you hole punch!  It helped to have sticky spots to hold the fabric in place during this process, so if you're starting with a clean slate either enlist a partner's help or tape it temporarily.

3. Create frames out of your border.  You're NOT attaching the border to the wall or fabric in this step.  To do this, hold the border up to the top and trim it to the size you need (if you make 2 for each door, use one for the top and one for the bottom.  Put the bottom aside to save for the final step).  Then, staple the sides to the perfectly measured border.  I needed just over 2 strips to equal the height of the door.  Of course you want to overlap the strips to staple the ends together (line them up for a continuous ripple pattern). 

4.  Hole punch the top of this border frame the same way as you did the fabric, starting from the hook in one corner.  DO NOT staple the top of the border to the fabric.  If you do, you have more of a chance that the border or the fabric will pucker.  Just let the hook hold things up and gravity straighten things out below.

5.  Start stapling this unfinished border frame to the fabric.  Again, at this point gravity should have straightened the sides out for you.  As long as your sides are perpendicular with the top of your frame, this step should be easy (if not, you can detach and re-attach the sides from the top).

6.  Finish up your frame by stapling on the bottom of the fabric.


Although I felt a little sad when I took down the old stars (more so than the Jungle and planets borders) I'm very pleased with how my doors look now! 

They flow not just with each other, but with the whole room.  I can't wait to be finished with the cleaning and organizing so I can see how it all looks together!  It's already looking a lot more cohesive and calming.  I'll have more pictures of the rest of the room up hopefully at the end of the month, and as the year goes on I'll try to remember to update you on how the Command hooks "hold up."  


I've already made headway with several of the other projects in my summer series, (as you can see above the Teacher's Bulletin Area is pretty much set) which I'll post next week.  Sadly, once that's done it's on to filing paperwork, which is sadly more like ACTUAL work!  At least being in an updated, pretty room will help me feel renewed.  That and hitting the beach once the building shuts each afternoon for as long as the sun will let me!  If you're still on vacation, I hope you're finding a good balance between preparing and relaxing. 

Also, I'm linking up with Swimming Into Second for her Show Off Your Space linky!  If you love to check out classroom design there are some great ideas here.

 




Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers

In case you missed my last post, I wanted to highlight the HUGE SALE going on at Teachers Pay Teachers to help the beginning of your school year get off to a good start!  I'm teaming up with my co-bloggers over at All Things Upper Elementary and offering discounts on all the products in my store for two days only!   

Whether you are in the pre-planning stages like me or you're already back to school already, it's a great opportunity to stock up on those items that you know your students would benefit from but that you just don't want to make yourself (after all, why reinvent the wheel?)  I'll be marking down all my products, so if you want to save 28% on your purchases just enter promo code BTS13 on 8/18 and 8/19.  Here are a few items that have kept my students really engaged:

Fraction of a Set Task Card Bundle regularly $5.99
Long Division Games Bundle regularly $3.99
Multiplication Task Cards regularly $2.00
And a few more items that have helped with organization:

Parent's Night Packet regularly $3.00
Common Core Check In regularly $1.00
Student Organizational Tools regularly $2.50
And if you love my color scheme with aqua, teal and lime green, check out my classroom theme pack.  It's not just decorative; it has useful items that will enhance the organization and management of your class.

Make sure to stop by all of our stores and stock up on the amazing savings!  UP TO 28% OFF in each of our stores!!   



Math Manipulatives Shelf Organization Update


I'm writing an extra blog post this week because I've got so much done in my room over the last week and a half!  I didn't want to wait a whole week when I know many of you are starting back to school this month and can't wait for those new ideas.  :)  Plus I promised a special announcement (that will be toward the end of this post).

At the beginning of the summer I decided to make a number of changes in my classroom in the hopes of making it not only more inviting but also even more organized.  I finished the bookshelf the other day, and today I finished the math manipulatives shelf.  Here's what it looked like near the end of last year. 

Although I love the curtains that cover a few materials that we don't use as often (as well as the indoor recess games) I still felt like it's not as neat as it could be.  So I started out by purchasing just a few extra Sterilite containers.  My goal was to have a uniform look.  I was a little nervous about having all my materials fit in them (there is more empty space around each than I would have liked) so I knew I needed to purge.  And I finally did.  I'm ashamed to say it, but there were a couple boxes from my classroom's "previous owner" that I'd never even looked in.  

Here's how it looked at the end of Monday (right).  At this point I also started thinking about the base ten blocks (top right corner).  These have always been an eyesore, and I dreaded using them in lessons because they are a pain to distribute.  Plus with my shoulder issue (that the doctor says will only get worse) it's  been painful for me to get them down for the past year.  So I decided while I'm making the commitment to organize, I need to separate them into 5 containers: one per group.  So here is how it looked at the end of Tuesday (below).



Nearly there!  I had lots of extra base ten blocks, but now the extra tens are in gallon bags that I can lift out individually instead of having to move the whole bucket.  The extra hundreds are in that brown crate on top, and the thousands are stacked in the corner for easy lifting.  I also decided that the stuff on the far right, the recess games, would have to stay mostly as is, just neater. 
 


The only thing left to do today was enlist the help of my husband to peel off all the old labels so I could replace them with new ones I made that match my classroom colors.  And here is the end result!


Close up of the bins with labels:



It doesn't get much better than this!  I can't wait to reveal the rest of my classroom photos so you can see it all in context.  :)  I'm really excited about how it's all coming together to look organized, cohesive, and fresh. 



Finally, for those of you who have been looking forward to my announcement, here it is! 

Teachers Pay Teachers is holding its annual Back to School sale on Sunday and Monday!  Whether you are in the pre-planning stages like me or you're already back to school already, it's a great opportunity to stock up on those items that you know your students would benefit from but that you just don't want to make yourself (after all, why reinvent the wheel?)  I'll be marking down all my products, so if you want to save 28% on your purchases just enter promo code BTS13 on 8/18 and 8/19. 

Tomorrow I'll highlight some specific items I have available for you that were tried and tested last year that became favorites of my students and myself.  Plus, today I'm linking up with other upper elementary bloggers  to share my top 2 wish listed items from my store, and 1 thing that I'll be buying during the sale:

1.  My Long Division Games Bundle is a great way to get fourth graders engaged when it comes to practicing long division.  They use visual as well as hands on models to help kids really see what division is all about.  My students actually request time to do the money activity during math!  I never thought kids would ask me for more long division!





2.  My ELA Common Core Menus and Checklists.  I've reorganized the fourth grade common core standards according to ELA class periods, such as reading, writing, and Morning Meeting. Each topic is a page (or half page) so all the standards are there at a glance.  They are paraphrased in kid friendly language so you can distribute them to students as well.


3.  I can't wait to buy the TPT Sales Tracker for Sellers!  I've been coveting this for ages and I'm going to finally give in to temptation and go for it!  It's got a lot of good reviews so I'm excited to grab it up.

I hope you find some great deals during the sale and have a great start to your year!




Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Classroom Library Setup: Uniform Book Basket Color


I'm back from visiting my husband's family in England and had an amazing time as always!  We got back last week and after unpacking and recovering from the time difference we went in on Friday to begin the classroom setup process.

Since our custodians set up our furniture for us (roughly, based on a classroom map we provide) we started by cleaning.  My husband is sweet enough to help me with this so that I can get right into organizing.  You may remember that 4 of the 6 goals I set for my summer projects included the classroom library, kids' manipulatives shelf, kids' materials shelf, and the students' paperwork table (each link brings you to a blog post).  Although I've already made good headway on these 4 goals, the first project I completed is the bookshelf. 

It looked like this mostly still packed up (left). I wasn't planning on radical changes from previous years.  I made new labels last year (the link will bring you to a blog post) which I enjoy so I'll be reusing them; I just wanted uniform colored baskets.  Since I had more black than any other color, I decided to go with it; I just bought a few more.  





 And here's how it looked at the end of Monday.

 Not.  Enough.  BASKETS!!!

From now on:  Measure twice, shop once.  Don't make my mistake, people.

That afternoon I went to 3 different stores:  Walmart, Target, then Bed Bath and Beyond.  NO ONE had black baskets or dishpans.  :(  Finally I went online and found a different Walmart in my area that had them, so here's the after photo:

Yay!  

You may be wondering, "Amber, do you really have so much time on your hands that you felt the urge to add blue trim to your bookshelf?"  And to that I say there is a PURPOSE besides beatification.  As I was cleaning on Monday I got a splinter from that shelf (not for the first time).  My students have got splinters from that shelf.  I decided that trimming out the shelves in Duck Tape would not just be a way to carry my color scheme through; it would also be a safety feature!  Although I'm sure it will look even more amazing once the aqua bordered book bin labels are attached.  :)  I'll have to wait to show that off, however, since I do a library sorting activity with my students the first week of school so I need them blank until then. 

Since I'm making good progress on my projects, I've decided to publish a BONUS post on Friday.  Not only will I have more photos to show you of the process and result of my summer projects, I also  have a special announcement that I think you'll enjoy!

In the meantime, for anyone who's interested, here are a few of my England vacation photos:














 Remember, come back Friday for a (time sensitive) bonus post!

 



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