Friday, July 15, 2016

Refurbishing, Redecorating, Repurposing: Giving That Old Teacher Bar Stool a Facelift

It's the time of year where most of us teachers are getting ready for the upcoming school year. I love the idea of freshening up my classroom every year because I spend SO much of my time there, but if you're like me, it might not be financially responsible to redo your entire classroom theme. With my husband working on his doctorate, I'm our only source of income, which means I have a very small classroom redecorating budget to work with. With that said, I've decided not to scrap my current color scheme but to spruce it up a bit! Because a lot of this "sprucing up" involves a great deal DIY, I've decided to do a blog series on varying classroom projects I have planned. The series is called "Refurbishing, Redecorating, Repurposing" and this is the first post! I hope you enjoy and find something you can use in the freshening up of your own classroom for the upcoming school year! Happy teaching!

 Giving That Old Teacher Bar Stool a Facelift 

We all have that bar stool in our classroom that sits at the front of the room near our podium, front table, standing desk, etc. My particular stool was inexpensive when I bought it and, honestly, not very sturdily built. Despite the fact that it rocks a little (it isn't supposed to) and it's a little dirty, I love my bar stool. I decided that instead of shopping for a new one this summer that I would first attempt to give mine a makeover. Now, before I start in on how I did this, I want to add a disclaimer. The following project should be done at your own risk. I do not promise/guarantee that your end project will look like mine (though hopefully it will!). 

My old bar stool has a metal frame and a fabric cushion seat. If yours is all metal or all wood, you have an easy fix! Simply repaint it , spray it with an acrylic sealant (found next to the spray paint in almost any store that carries it), and voila! If your chair looks like mine or you would like to purchase one from a secondhand store (my sister purchased one for the purpose of refurbishing it for $3.50 at a Goodwill), the directions down below will walk you through how I personally did it!

-staple gun (handheld, not electric)
-fabric of your choice (amount depends on the size of the cushion, but 1 square yard should be more than enough)
-*If the fabric you choose is light in color (like the one I chose) you may need to purchase a plain color fabric to line the padding

Step #1:
Flip the bar stool all the way over so the legs pointing at the ceiling and the underside of the seat is exposed. There should be screws visible that attach the cushion to the chair frame. You'll need to carefully remove these screws. Be sure that you do not remove any of the screws that are holding the actual frame together! I started to remove the wrong screws but quickly noticed and put them back in without issue. 

Step #2:
Next, lay out and smooth your fabric. If you have a lining fabric, like I did, put one over the other. You can save a little time by cutting them at the same time because the cut doesn't have to be neat! Lay the cushion and the support board (if there is one) on top of the fabric and trace a circle about 2 inches larger than the cushion itself. 

Step #3:
Cut out your circle(s). As you can see in the pictures, I didn't worry about drawing or cutting a perfectly round circle. If you're a perfectionist, I promise it will be a waste of time to trace and cut perfect circles because no one will be able to tell once you're finished!

Step #4:
For this step, you may need an extra set of hands to help you out. I made my husband use the staple gun while I held the fabric in place. Make sure that you're pulling the fabric taught as you secure it to the underside of the support board. You will also need to make sure that you aren't pulling it too taught and stealing fabric from the other sides. Just take your time and, if you need to, pull the "uh-oh" staples out!

Step #5:
The last step (before securing the seat cushion back on the bar stool frame) isn't completely necessary, however I didn't skip it because I feel it polishes the whole look of the "new" bar stool. Anyway, most cushioned bar stools have a piece of fabric stapled over the upholstery fabric on the bottom to cover it. When I took my cushion apart, I carefully removed the bottom cover fabric and then re-stapled it to the bottom when I was finished. However, I noticed while I was in HobbyLobby the next week that you can purchase this material in the fabric section in a rainbow of colors. So, you can forego this step completely, you can save the old fabric and reuse it, or you can purchase new material and add it at the end. The choice is yours!

** One step I considered adding during this process was painting the frame when I had removed the cushion. My classroom has a lot of black and grey, so I decided against it because the black works for my room. Spray painting the frame outside with multipurpose spray would be a piece of cake though!
So, there it is! A brand new bar stool! Inexpensive and super easy! I'd love to see how yours turns out! Post a picture in the comments below!


Friday, March 11, 2016

Silent Reading-Getting Secondary Students Excited About Reading

I teach 8th grade English and it is no secret that most of my beloved students hate reading. I know, I know! That statement hurts my heart too! Every time I ask my students to get out their independent reading books (IRBs) or their class novels, I hear a groan of disappointment and dissatisfaction. When I ask them why they hate reading so much, most of them say it’s because they can’t stay interested, they don’t like what they’re reading, they can’t get comfortable, or they get sleepy. It occurred to me that not one of my students’ replies to my question was that they genuinely harbored a hatred towards the act of reading. This was reassuring to me and honestly, quite fixable! So, this year I set out on a mission to inspire a love (or at the very least, a tolerance) of reading in my students! I took each of the four main complaints and have attempted to come up with a solution for each. Hold onto your seats though, this is going to be one of my longer posts!

Let them get comfortable!

I find that letting my students read in a comfortable and laidback environment puts them in a better mindset for reading. Instead of making them feel as though they’re being forced to do something they really don’t want to do, I want them to feel like it’s a treat! Being that most of my students (sadly) don’t like to read to begin with, forcing them to do so within the confines of their desk area makes me feel as though I am a prison warden.

Instead of reading at their desks, I like to let my students read their novels in whatever position they feel is most agreeable to them. To facilitate this, I make my classroom look and feel different for the day. I move every single desk and chair to the outside border of the classroom to create a huge open space! The reaction I receive when the kids walk in for class that day is my favorite because they suddenly remember that we’ll be sitting/lying on the floor that day. In addition to opening my classroom up and allowing the students to sit/lie down, I like to let them bring in their pillows and blankets from home (if they choose to). Like I mentioned before, this is all about making reading seem like a privilege and not a forced punishment. Of course I do have rules for silent reading days in my classroom. They are as follows:
  1. No student may fall asleep during Silent Reading Day. This is not naptime. If you are caught sleeping, you will promptly be woken up with a pass to the library where you will read your novel every Silent Reading Day for the rest of the year.
  2. No student may share their pillow and/or blanket with another student. If caught sharing pillows and/or blankets, all students involved will no longer be allowed to bring in such items for Silent Reading Day.

Let them eat!

Though eating does create a level of comfort for my students, when I decided to attempt letting them bring a snack in for Silent Reading Day, my main goal was to prevent students from falling asleep. My theory is that you can’t fall asleep if you’re eating, right…? On the day of a silent read, I told my students that in addition to being allowed to bring a pillow and a blanket, they could also bring a snack. Of course, that had to come with a set of rules as well. They are as follows:

  1. Do not bring messy snacks in for Silent Reading day. We want there to be absolutely no cheesy or sticky fingerprints on the pages of our books!
  2. All students will clean up after themselves! If you leave your trash or crumbs behind, you will no longer be allowed to bring a snack in for Silent Reading Day.

Let them choose!
When it comes to reading, I personally can attest to the disappointment and dislike of being forced to read a book I didn’t choose for myself. How can I expect my students to be excited about reading if I’m making them read something they don’t necessarily want to. This year instead of having all of my students read Night by Elie Wiesel for their Holocaust novel study, I picked nine different age appropriate Holocaust novels and put a packet together with descriptions of each book in it. I let them use that packet to choose the top three books they’d like to read and then I took those choices and placed them in groups according to their reading level and behavior. Ultimately, I made the final decision on which book they read, but even just letting them choose their top three books first there was a considerable surge in buy-in.
Obviously there will be times when students will be required to read specific books because they are part of the curriculum or because those books are required reading as mandated by district/school, but when starting a novel study that is a little more open-ended, giving students a bit of a choice makes reading, once again, feel like a privilege and not a punishment.

Now, I know my approach to silent reading may be different than what you feel is appropriate for your personal classroom and students and that’s okay! Having and sharing the mindset that reading is a privilege and not a punishment is the main idea to take away from this post. Do you have to go all-out like I do with moving your classroom around allowing students to eat and lounge about? Of course not, but try something new like taking your students to the campus library or the outside lunch table to read! You could even try something as simple as letting them bring a snack to eat while they read! The possibilities are truly endless!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Trying Something New: We're writing on the desks?!

Wow! Where did the last two months go? I know I said I was going to make sure I was posting at least once a month, but I guess I just let it get away from me again. My apologies!

It's at about this time of the school year every year where my eight graders begin to think they're too cool for school. They start caring less and showing off more. When they get like this, I start wracking my brains trying to think of ways to get them to "buy-in" to class activities again. We're starting a new summative writing assessment and that's always the worst when it comes to student interest. I decided I needed a fresh way of getting my students excited about their writing.

So I put it in the back of my mind as I helped my husband with some of his physical therapy school homework. His homework consisted of measuring and timing him complete physical fitness tests. Bare with me; it's important that you know this. As I was taping off my kitchen floor for a flexibility test, it occurred to me that I could ditch the tape and use a dry erase maker to record the results directly on the floor. I tested this in the corner, where no one could see before I decided to go for it out in the open.

That idea led to another idea. What if I gave each student a dry erase marker and let them do their prewriting for their essays directly on their desks? I knew I didn't have enough whiteboards for each student and it wasn't an option to have them share. Once again, I tested this out in one of the corners of one of the desks before I gave 180 teenagers each a marker. It came off with water beautifully!

When I announced that we would be writing directly on our desks I told the kids in a quiet voice "Today, we're going to break a school rule." The reaction I received from my students was the best. "Are you sure, Mrs. Koch?" was the most common question I was asked.  After I assured them that it would be okay, they began their prewriting assignment with devious looks on their faces. There was complete buy-in! SUCCESS!

Before I handed out wetwipes, I had students take pictures of their completed charts with their Chromebooks and upload them to our Google Classroom. We did this assignment two weeks ago and I'm still being asked when we'll be drawing on our desks again.

Have you ever tried this in your classroom? What was the result? Did your students love it? Tell me your story in the comments below!

-Taliena (Koch's Odds 'N Ends)