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October 3, 2019 No Comments


October 3, 2019 No Comments
Classroom Makeover After Pics

Popping in with an update on the makeover…it’s coming along! While my original plan was to have everything completely done before my first graders stepped through the door, life happened!

Here’s a peek at the progress so far. Stay tuned for a full video tour in the near future. While I put that together, this is a recap of my classroom makeover adventure so far!

While I did a TON of prep during the summer, I grossly underestimated how long it would take to redo every corner of my classroom. OH! And an even bigger reason?! I OVERESTIMATED how much time I had to set up my classroom.

It all has to do with Portugal, Italy and Google calendar. Yup! We were heading to Europe for a 2 week vacay mid-August. (My first time there and it was soooo magical!).

Lisbon Tram Teacher Travel
Lisbon LOVE: Left my heart in Lisbon…apparently left my sense of time there too 😉

And all was well in my little world until…

I returned home and actually looked at a REAL calendar. You see, I’d been experimenting with using a digital calendar rather than my trusty, old friend the paper planner. Apparently my problem was that I didn’t look at that calendar closely enough and I’d added a WHOLE EXTRA WEEK to it! In my head that is. I thought I’d have plenty of time in my classroom when I returned and well… that was not the case. Oopsies!

Teacher Planner
Back to paper & pen planners for me!

Once the panic ended, it was time to load up the car and go face reality! It turned out to be a good lesson. The world did not come to an end because every corner of my room wasn’t fully decorated and some labels were not printed by the first day. My first graders still made a lovely transition to their new home. It’s not what’s on the walls rather what happens within those four walls that matters the most.

Classroom Makeover
Car is loaded! Let the makeover officially begin!!!

The first day was typical…stand, stare at the room, move a few large furniture pieces, drink some coffee, stand, stare, move them back. I’ve been happy with the flow of my room but there’s always that little thought that maaaaybe there’s another floor plan that would be even better. In the end, I kept the arrangement pretty much the same. If it’s not broken…


Here are some before pics taken on my first day of setup. Our custodians are very sweet as they work hard to return the big furniture items to their original locations!

Classroom Setup Before Pictures
A clean slate…the view as I re-entered my room for the first time since last June!
Classroom Setup Before Pictures
Little did I know that placing those desks would prove to be my biggest challenge!
Classroom Decor Before Pictures
The ‘cozy corner’..ummm not looking too cozy yet!!!

This year’s challenge was adding 2 more desks to an already packed room! You wouldn’t think it would be that big of a deal but ohmiword I could not find a place for them. My desks had been arranged in 4 groups with 4 or 6 desks in each group. Adding 2 more just made it feel soooo crowded.


After a workout of moving desks all over (and messing up the freshly waxed floors ugh), my best option seemed to be 2 groups of 8 and 1 group of 6. Yes, you heard that correctly… groups of EIGHT!!! My room currently resembles a banquet hall. May I take your order, please? A few weeks into the school year I had to add another desk for a new student….oh dear!!

Classroom Setup First Day of School
The room as it looked on the first day of school. Still a work in progress but ready for my new firsties!

There was NOWHERE to put it without removing some of the activity spaces around my room. Those are precious to me as my first graders use them all the time during math and literacy centers. It’s important that they have lots of space to spread out and work.

Soooo, after discussing it as a class, we decided that the new desk would be attached to mine. Even though it’s not in a group, they all said they’d love to sit there. Awwww, warms my heart! 🙂 We’ll be rotating who sits there throughout the year.

First Grade classroom
Welcome to our first grade banquet hall 😉 The view from my desk on Open House night!


One of my favorite things as a teacher is looking around the classroom and seeing my first graders curled up with books! It’s a magical time when they learn to read and realize that books can take them anywhere! That’s why the reading corner gets special attention in my room. I know I’ve accomplished the goal of making it a welcoming space when my first graders are naturally drawn to it. And that’s exactly what happened this year!

Classroom Library Corner
Our cozy reading corner is a favorite in our classroom <3

On the first day of school, I have my little ones line up along the back of the classroom with their backpacks and I call them one-by-one to come and see their new desks. When I called out the name of a little girl, I initially couldn’t find her. She was eventually located in the reading corner…lounging on the couch! A couple of other friends had made themselves at home too. 🙂 We’ll be working on listening and following instructions 😉 but it warmed my heart to see that they already felt comfortable and at home in their new space.


Lighting plays a huge role in how a room feels. After a lot of searching, I ordered these fairy lights and they are just perfect! There are several settings, a timer feature, and they come with a handy remote.

Classroom Fairy Lights
Fairy lights above our reading corner give it a cozy vibe!

At 40 feet, they easily run along the entire length of my 3 bulletin boards and there was even some leftover which creates a nice little design above our cozy corner! These are the warm white lights and they’re also available in cool white and multi-color. Click here for my Amazon affiliate link: ADORABLE CLASSROOM FAIRY LIGHTS 🙂


First Grade Word Wall
Updated first grade word wall! Washi tape makes it easy to create sections.

The word wall is a key part of our daily reading and writing instruction. This location works well since it is visible from all areas of the classroom. I put on some new washi tape and updated the look with my new letter headers. Let the reading begin!

Word Wall Student Name Cards
The first words to be added to the Word Wall are student names…of course!


We all know that when you find bins that you like… you buy ALL THE BINS! I found these bins at the Dollar Tree and luckily only had to visit TWO Dollar Trees to get 24 of them. Woot!! They’re sturdy and the perfect size for our Snuggle Books and the shelves that my father built for me years ago. Teaching really is a family affair!

Classroom Book Bins
New book bins…gotta love Dollar Tree!

I attached some simple labels, sorted my home reading ‘Snuggle Books’ and voila! My first graders exchange their books each day so this is a high traffic area. I’ve used these shelves and setup for years and it’s worked well. It’s just a little prettier now!

Home reading ‘snuggle books’ are organized and ready to go!


I had a space beside the SmartBoard that needed some help. When my SB was mounted a couple of years ago, it was placed on top of a whiteboard which left a piece sticking out. It had fabric and borders glued to it and was unsightly.

Classroom Promises
Our classroom promises are simple but powerful

Since it was in our carpet gathering area, I thought it would be an ideal spot to hang our classroom rules promises. In the past, I’ve brainstormed a list of rules with my class and we posted them in the room. I wanted to change it up this year and try to make it more inspiring.

The class discussions that came from these 4 promises were amazing!! The ‘DREAM BIG’ promise turned out to be a class favorite as they loved sharing their hopes and dreams not only for first grade but for their lives. It was a beautiful chance to learn more about our new classmates and to encourage them to try new things and be dreamers!


Supply organization - desk cups
All the love for desk cups! My first graders ALWAYS have a pencil ready now! #happyteacher

I talked about my love of desk cups in a previous post and these IKEA pots have worked out great! Each student has a cup and is responsible for keeping a pencil, eraser, and cup of crayons organized in it. A helper checks them at dismissal time and they must have all supplies before a student leaves for the day.

Desk Cups
Each desk cup has a pencil, eraser, and cup of crayons. Glue sticks and scissors are added later on.

The best thing about desk cups is that they keep supplies out of the desks where I can SEE them. No more supplies disappearing into the desk abyss or messy caddies. I tried to make caddies work. I reeeeeally did but they were a constant mess in my room and it was hard to get my kiddos to take responsibility for them. Problem solved!!!


You can also see that I’ve made the switch to simple desk tags this year. My previous tags had the alphabet and number lines on them. I loved that my first graders could refer to them but it was a constant battle to:

  1. Keep them glued on the desks (full-time job right there)
  2. Stop my kiddos from writing on them
  3. Clean the ickiness that built up UNDER them – ewwww
Desk name tags
Simple desk tags! They saved me some time as I printed a second set for cubby labels!

These little tags serve the purpose of labelling where they sit and are helpful for supply teachers but I’m not relying on them as a resource any longer. Alphabet & number strips, 100 charts, etc. are in a basket and they grab them as needed. Additional bonus: they’re learning to be resourceful and think about the tools they need for each activity. Early days yet but so far so good. I’ll keep you posted!


Classroom Number Line
Number line is color coded for odd and even #s. The hearts help us count by 5s.

Our new number line will help us with our skip counting! Color coded for odd and even numbers and the hearts will help us skip count by 5s. This one is posted above the whiteboard but I’m planning on adding another one that my kiddos can reach and we can use during learning activities.

Classroom Door Decor
LOVE GROWS HERE! Our new classroom door. Totally forgot to take an AFTER pic! This looks familiar to all you teachers though right?! #laminatingfordays

^ So let’s call that an ‘action’ shot shall we?! You can see part of our new classroom door decor. I went with the LOVE GROWS HERE theme and added their names to tags with the sweetest little succulent graphics! I’ll take a pic of how it turned out. I think it’s a welcoming message and my little ones seem to agree!


Staying organized is KEY to keeping a classroom running smoothly (AND for saving our sanity as teachers!!!). I keep a little notebook of things I want to improve and dismissal changes has been on that list for a while. This board now hangs beside the door and within reach of the phone. Changes can be recorded right away when those calls come in rather than writing them on a sticky note that will end up who-knows-where by the end of the day!!

Classroom Dismissal Board
I love this find from the Dollarama…it makes dismissal time much less stressful!

This sweet little board was a dollar store find and with magnets and a marker. Note: we have dollar stores here in Canada called Dollarama and most things are not actually a dollar anymore. This was $4 but I think it was still a great deal. If it helps me get all my kiddos to the right dismissal spots, it’s worth waaay more than that!


Another thing on my list was snack scissors!!!! Yogurt tubes get most of the credit for this little classroom stressor. My first graders love to showcase their independence by opening their own snacks. Unfortunately, yogurt tubes require scissors and they leave a lovely sticky mess behind. So when it came time to use the scissors to cut things like…ya know…paper and stuff, they were a complete mess. Solution? Snack Scissors!!!

Snack Scissors Bins
Cleaning TWO pairs of sticky scissors is soooo much better than cleaning TWENTY pairs!

This adorable little tin came from Michaels and now houses two pairs of snack scissors. Bring on the yogurt tubes! It saves the rest of our scissors and I just have to give TWO pairs of scissors a wipe down. It seems like a small thing but it’s all those little things that add up when you’re trying to teach a room full of little people 😉


Anyone else struggle with choosing volunteers during learning activities?! I tend to forget who has already had a turn but my first graders sure don’t. We have some daily reading and numeracy activities that require helpers and it’s important to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate. Enter LUCKY DUCK sticks!

Lucky Duck Sticks
OOOH PICK ME!! Lucky Duck sticks make choosing volunteers soooo much easier!

My old sticks had student names on them and I had to redo them every year. Now that I have numbers on them, they can be reused. Also great practice for number recognition of those trick teen numbers at the beginning of the year 😉


Classroom Lightbox
Our classroom lightbox greets everyone who enters our classroom.

The room is coming together and now that my new group of firsties have arrived, it’s feeling like home! There are still areas that I’ll continue to work on but that will be done as the year rolls along and the good thing is I can get input from the best experts you can find: the little ones who live and learn in the space!

With love, from my classroom to yours,

Heart of the Class - Donna Signature
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Hello! Welcome to Heart of the Class! I'm a teacher who has found a happy home in first grade. Creating fun and engaging activities for my little ones is a passion of mine and I'm happy to have this space to share them with you. Let's grab a cup of coffee (make that Turkish...mmmm) and hang out for a while! Read More

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