Author: TCR Staff

Starting Fresh in the Classroom for the New Year

Did you know that January 17th is the day people are most likely to drop their New Year’s resolutions? It’s even been dubbed Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. As we head towards the end of January, you may be feeling like you’re ready to give up your resolutions, or are already overwhelmed by what the year has piled on your plate, work-wise. Many teachers want to start fresh in the classroom when the New Year rolls around, but then get bogged down with the same onslaught of paperwork, testing, refocusing students after a long break, and everything else that seems to lend itself to thwarting all your best intentions for getting your classroom organized for the new year.

Fear not, all is not lost. Instead of trying to do a major overhaul to completely revamp your classroom, we have some ideas for small tweaks and changes that can help you feel like you’re on a newly-organized path even when you don’t have a lot of time or energy to completely redo your classroom.

• Start by taking down any holiday décor or student work that’s still lingering on walls or surfaces in the classroom. It’s okay if you haven’t had time to do another artistic activity with the students that will fill the blank walls. It’s nice to have some open space to allow everyone’s focus to reset and not feel distracted over over-stimulated. You might even start a conversation with your students about what they would like to do to decorate the walls. Add back décor and student work slowly and intentionally.

• Now is a good time to rearrange the desks and other furniture to get an instant refresh. Again, you might ask your students for their input. Perhaps try a couple of their suggestions for a week or so, just to see how it works. This will also give the kids a sense of ownership in their classroom, knowing that they have a say in the setup. 

• Simply changing the borders and/or backgrounds of bulletin boards or other displays can add a fresh new feel to a room. If you did this and nothing else, it would still feel like a completely different space. And that can get you in the right headspace for thinking more clearly about what you want to organize next.

• Pick ONE area at a time that you’d like to reorganize, whether it’s a paperwork management system, student routine, or organization of materials, and focus on cultivating ideas for that area. Start small. For example, if you want to better organize materials that students use, start by just walking around your classroom with a notepad to jot down what hot spots aren’t working. Then pick one of them to organize. Ask yourself if the area just needs some easy-to-read labels, or maybe you need to get some different-sized plastic tubs to keep everything in that area corralled. Maybe it just needs to be moved somewhere else in the room to make materials easier to access. Next create a list of what you need to do to organize that area and get that spot set before moving on to another zone.

Classroom Storage

• Ask colleagues for suggestions; a fresh pair of eyes can see things from a different perspective and another teacher might have an idea you wouldn’t normally think of. They might even have some extra organizational supplies you can use!

• Most importantly, be patient with yourself. You and your students are all readjusting to the routine, and it’s okay if things take longer than you’d like, including organization. Just because January is drawing to a close, doesn’t mean you have to automatically give up on being organized for the rest of the school year. If you tried a few things at the beginning and they’re not working, revisit them and try something else.

There’s still time to get the classroom design and system that you desire.

STEM Leprechaun Trap Activity

Looking for a fun but educational activity to do with your students for St. Patrick’s Day?  We’ve put together a STEM focused lesson where students will figure out how to catch their own leprechaun!

Leprechauns are smart and very tricky, too.  Do your students want to catch one?  If so, they will need to make a very special trap – one that has a simple machine or two as part of the construction.  Students will also have to think of something to get the leprechaun’s attention.  What would make him come out of hiding so they can catch him in their traps?

The STEM: Catching a Leprechaun Handout will start by walking students through examples of common machines they see around them every day.  Next they will get to know leprechauns by learning facts like… They make shoes for themselves and for fairies.  Next, students will need to decide which machine(s) they are planning to use in their trap, and for extra fun, allow your students to get crafty and decorate their traps.  After all, they need to attract their leprechaun!

The activity will then ask a series of questions for the technology and engineering aspects where students will have to discuss their processes.  And finally, will do a bit of math!

Feel free to add on to this activity or possibly celebrate the capture of your leprechauns with a St. Patrick’s Day Party!



Related St. Patrick’s Day Products 

TCR5281 Shamrocks Accents

TCR6526 St. Patrick’s Day Wristbands

TCR4224 For All Seasons Sticker Book

Quick Tip: Colorful Bulletin Board Titles

QUICK TIP! When creating a title for a bulletin board (like our science one below), we know many of you want to make sure you don’t end up with two of the same color in a row. Luckily, it is pretty easy to avoid!

Instead of punching out just one ‘A’, punch out all of the color options available in the pack. Stack on top of each other so you are able to see what you have to work with.

Some letters like the teal ‘Y’ will be a given, (since it is the only ‘Y’ in this pack) so start there. Slowly take away the colors that CAN’T be used… You would not put a teal ‘D’ next to the ‘Y’, or a pink ‘O’ next to the ‘B’. Set aside the leftover letters to use in another spot in the classroom.


With a little playing around, you will get the right (color-balanced) look!

Here we were working with the Chalkboard Brights 3″ Magnetic Bold Block Letters:

Olympics in the Classroom: 5 Word Problems

Olympics In the ClassroomGet your students excited about the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. Kick off an Olympic themed lesson with a fun math activity. Read each word problem to your student, and have them write the answer on a dry erase board. Reward students with Olympic Medal Wear ‘Em Badges.

Olympic Word Problems:

    1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a great Olympic athlete who has won many medals. Over the years, she has won three gold medals, one silver medal, and two bronze medals. How many medals has Jackie won in all?
    2. The city of Los Angeles, California, has hosted the Olympic Games twice. The first time was in 1932. The second time was in 1984. How many years passed between those two Olympic Games?
    3. In 1992, the U.S. men’s basketball team was nicknamed “The Dream Team.” Everybody on the team was a great player. None of the teams they faced in the Olympic Games came close to beating them. In the finals, “The Dream Team” beat the team from Croatia by a score of 117–85. By how many points did “The Dream Team” beat Croatia in that game?
    4. There were many exciting track-and-field events that took place during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. In 24 of the events, men competed against each other. In the other 23 events, women competed against each other. How many total (men’s and women’s) track-and-field events was there in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?
    5. During the time of the 1996 Olympic Games, Michael Johnson might have been the fastest human on the planet. He broke the world record when he ran the 200-meter race in 19.32 seconds. Whose record did he break? He broke his own record! His fastest time had been 19.66 seconds. By how many seconds did he break his old record?

Do you want more Olympic activities? Try these:

10 Fun Facts about the Olympic Games & Free Lesson

The Olympics in Your Classroom