Wednesday, June 2, 2021

School Year in Review: Faves and Flops

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Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

This abnormal school year is finally drawing to a close. Though it has been shorter in duration (we started a month later than usual, as did many other districts), it has felt longer with the extra strain of teaching during a pandemic. I was blessed to be fully in-person for most of the year, with the exception of the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, during which we were remote, but that was not without its challenges. Keeping 6-year-olds distanced and wearing masks, making sure everyone was frequently washing hands, the revolving door of students in quarantine, the lack of in-person connection with parents, the absence of fun traditions like field trips, etc.--it has all taken its toll. As usual, I am sad to tell my students goodbye, but I am more than ready for a break.

Looking back on this crazy year, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite things, and some things I tried that didn't work out as well. Teaching is an art, and, as with any other art form, you are constantly learning and honing your skill.


Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

Fave: This adorable rug

My littles love to scooch close to me on the carpet and I am constantly afraid of rocking over their little fingers. I also am a person who gets overwhelmed by too much sensory input, like touching, and sometimes need some space from the little hands that want to constantly be patting or tugging at me. I realized that a rug would provide a perfect visual boundary, as well as being cute. It matches my colorful decor well and, being an inexpensive rag rug, I'm not too worried about it getting torn up. I love the happy pop of color it provides, and it has worked quite well to define my space for my students.

Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique
They do *not* still look this cute after a year of use!

Flop: Individual student lap desks

Oh, they looked so cute on Pinterest, and as we were being told we had to keep kids spaced apart all day, the collaborative tables I usually use were not an option. Individual desks were low in supply in my district, with everyone wanting them, and it didn't seem age appropriate to ask first graders to sit at them all day. This seemed like such a good option!

At first, I loved it, and my kids loved it. But as time went on, I realized the desks were a pain. They were so lightweight that they got kicked/knocked over easily, they moved about too freely on the carpet, and they became a catch-all for all the little things that 6-year-olds treasure (read: stuff that should be thrown away). They also were not as sturdy as I had hoped, and it didn't take long for many of them to crack. Surprisingly, many of my students started requesting to sit at the couple of traditional desks I had left in the room. As I had already suspected in years prior, the kids do better with occasional movement, and going from desk to floor sitting throughout the day provides that.

I'm looking forward to ditching the individual desks and returning to collaborative tables next year, but hey, I tried something new!


Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

Fave: This student mailbox system

This helped so much with organization and made it possible for me to only send home papers once a week, as opposed to every day, without having them piled on my desk or having the kids shove them in their cubbies. It was a little pricey, but it was worth it to me to get the wooden version as opposed to the cardboard versions. It also took a bit of time to put together, but I am so glad I took that time.

Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

Flop: Yoga mats for students 

These seemed like a great idea to accompany the lap desks. However, it didn't take long for little pieces of the foam to start flaking off. I even had a couple of students cut slits in the sides of them with safety scissors, so they just weren't durable enough for daily classroom use. They also became a tripping hazard, and cleaning and rolling them up each day became quite the chore. This flexible seating option gets a hard "no" from me.

Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

Fave: This small group system

I love, love, love this thing! It makes it so easy to change groups around and to organize materials--provided they are worksheet-type activities. My only complaint is that it's not convenient to organize small group activities such as games, which I tend to utilize a lot in my classroom. On those days, I put a note in the file folder that lists/explains the day's activity and then put the activity materials in a color-coordinated tub. Problem solved! This system makes things really easy for subs, paras, and anyone else who may be coming in to work with small groups.


Classroom Faves and Flops | Apples to Applique

Flop: This headphones organizer

You guys, I really wanted to love this. It seemed like such a great organizational solution! I even created an editable headphones organizer that I listed in my TPT store. This may be fine for older grades, but most of my kids were too short to reach the top row or two. The bottom of the organizer was already at the floor, so I couldn't lower it anymore. The weight of all of the headphones (plus the kids yanking on it trying to get headphones out from higher rows) proved to be too much for the Command hooks holding it on the wall, too, so I was having to frequently rehang it. All in all, I decided it was easier for the kids to keep their headphones in the baskets in their cubbies.

Well, there's my list of faves and flops for the 2020-2021 school year. I would love to hear your own faves and flops!

Until next time, keep teaching with heart and passion!

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