Classroom Organization

2018-2019 Classroom Tour

Classroom tours are one of those internet things that I can get lost in for hours. Elementary, middle, high school, homeschool rooms – it doesn’t matter. I will read your classroom tour post, and I will enjoy it.

So here’s mine! Matt (my room buddy) and I are going into our second year of sharing this room together. I love this room. It’s huge, it has a wall full of windows, and we asked for (and received!) the desks you see in these photos – the kind that roll and fit together.


This is our room from the front. My desk is the one in the back right corner, and you can see Matt’s in the right foreground. One of the things I like about the way our room has turned out is how much color there is. That and those big windows really help to keep the atmosphere energetic, which I need all the help I can get with – I am naturally a pretty mellow person and it takes a lot to get me really keyed up (at least with/around students).


To the left of the main white board is this view (sorry I didn’t clean the white board in this picture). The table with the models on it actually doesn’t belong to us; our colleague moved to a smaller room this year and couldn’t move these in, so they moved to our room. Those bins under the table are some of our Latin Club supplies – mostly Breakout Edu kits.


This is our left wall from the front of the room. The posters at the top are constellations with little blurbs about their mythological origins. If you’re wondering what the tiny papers on the desks are, those are the Post-It notes I use on the first day of school to assign seats. Just number each desk with a Post-It note and then project the roster of each class in a numbered list so that when kids walk in, they just look at their name, see the number beside it, and find their seat.


Back left corner. The dining booth came to me from a friend in the building who was getting rid of it; I think it originally came from the drama program. I got it for students to use during silent reading or any other independent work time. The Pantheon frame above it is something I found at Goodwill a few years ago for just a few dollars.

This is an important area in our room, because the kids (at least in my classes, though Matt may have a different management system) can just get up (as long as I am not in the middle of saying something) and grab what they need. I like to let those issues (needing a pencil, piece of paper, whatever) take up as little class time as possible, and letting them get up as needed (again, as long as it’s not a distraction) has worked for me so far.

Re: the yellow sign. I promise I know how to spell “declension.” My students, on the other hand… 



A better view of this area. Most of these bins I got from the Dollar Tree (red marker bin, blue rag hamper, purple pencil bucket), Goodwill (pink beverage container that’s holding mini whiteboards), or the “please take this!” table in our teachers’ lounge (yellow bin holding books, red bin holding gum erasers). Most of the supplies belong either to our program or our department; I bought the highlighters (really, rounded up a bunch of extra highlighters I had collected during grad school) and the rulers (during a summer camp a few years ago). As far as pencils go, these are supplied to us, but I pretty much just try to pick up whatever kids have dropped on the floor in my room, the cafeteria, and the hall. I also use any leftover pencils that we get from GJCL Convention. Same thing with paper… I had quite a bit of notebook paper left over from college, and then I just pick up a notebook or two when the kids are doing locker cleanout at the end of the year.

The sheets under the table are our Latin Club togas – probably about 50 in all. Some of these were here before Matt and I got here, but I bought a few really cheap ones at Walmart. The rest were donated by parents and faculty.


think we are the only room at school with a door like this that connects to the room next to us. Usually there is something blocking that uncovered window on the other side. I found all these memes and images on Tumblr and Twitter, and one of my students printed some new ones out for me for my birthday this year. The poster on the left is from ACIS, the company we use to travel with students.


My desk area. A good friend of mine at work calls this “busy,” which, yeah, I can see that… but my justification is that I touch or use everything behind my desk at least once a week. (Also, if you couldn’t tell I work at a Catholic school yet, here’s your sign, or like 50 of them.)


This is my upgraded silent reading display. I have written pretty extensively about how I do silent reading given that this (and the two blue milk crates to the right) is about as much room as I can devote to a physical library. I got the shelf display on top from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con last year for free, and I bought the larger one on bottom from Amazon. I’m trying to rotate the books on display this year, but I’m starting out with the newest ones on top. I generally reserve these display shelves for books that actually have a cover, like these. If I print them myself from Google Docs and then bind them in our school library or with report covers, they get filed in those blue crates. Again, if you are wondering how I manage all this, see this post – it explains it pretty well.

On the top shelf in the clear pencil box is a set of annotation supplies for students: small sticky notes and paperclips. We will be using these this year in CP as students work on their portfolios, and I had a ton of these supplies to spare (seriously – all those sticky note pads came from my desk and I still have enough to last me at least this year).

Behind the Kleenex is a bin of about 5 or 6 Latin dictionaries.



Two closer shots of the area behind my desk. The top photo is the left side. Those blue milk crates on the bottom are where I store the rest of my silent reading library. The crates on the top are where I will be storing students’ tests this year. I don’t know why it took me this long to figure out this system. In the past I just clipped all the tests for a stage together and threw them in a drawer. Then when it came time for exams or to correct a test, I would have to search through the stack for a student’s test. So this year, no more. When we are done reviewing a test together, students will put it in their own file folder, so that when it’s time to revisit that test for whatever reason, they have easy access to their own work.

On top of that is where I keep all my “all-purpose” papers, meaning that they are not specific to any one section or class. The pull-out trays hold ZipGrade forms. The folders on top are no-name papers, test correction forms, free write forms, 6-word story templates (instructions on Keith Toda’s site), and permission slips for whatever field trip or event is coming up. Students are allowed to access most things on this left side.

On the right side (bottom photo) is strictly my area. All those spiral books are CLC resources. The file holder to the right with the manila folders is where I store anything I need to hand out in class that day; there is a folder for each class period. On the front are forms I use often: test reflection forms (for the kids) and scan/copy request forms (for me).

Below that… I really keep most things digitized, but I have found it essential to have this set of binders. The permission slips we need for GJCL Convention are enough to fill up one entire binder (as you can see). I keep original receipts, reimbursement forms, registration materials, and any other Latin Club-related permission slips in the Junior Classical League binder. The small white binder has my MVQs for Latin I and Latin II. MVQs are mini vocab quizzes: just 10-question quizzes that count for half a quiz grade. I project the quiz using Google Slides, but there’s always a kid who misses it or otherwise needs to retake it, so I have printed them all out and put them in page protectors so I can just hand “the book” as we call it to the kid and she can take the quiz without me needing to pull it up on the computer.

I need to re-label the blue binder for this year, but my “students” binder is where I keep all my signed syllabus agreements and returned student questionnaires. I also keep the carbon copy of any discipline referral slip in here as well as printed copies of important email correspondence with parents. The other two binders are master copy binders for courses I am building this year. Once I’m done with the courses, I will digitize everything.

The other stuff back here includes games like Zeus on the Loose and Verba cards, plus BINGO cards and “I Have, Who Has” cards that I’ve made. I also keep large mailing folders, my report covers for printed silent reading materials, and laminating sheets back here. I keep all of our NJCLLHS materials, including honor cords, in the double-decker plastic bin on the bottom right.


My windowsill and desk area – I promise I use every single one of those books on a regular basis. I generally try to keep a clean desk surface but it doesn’t always work that way. The purple bin that is simply overflowing with papers at the moment is what I call the paper horreum (because it is where I keep halves of paper that I have “harvested” from students). Students use those paper halves to take the MVQs mentioned above, but they also just use them for scrap paper. I use the black paper tray on the right as my one inbox for turned-in papers. I’m not organized enough to have a multi-inbox system.


Right side of the room. The podium has some extra art supplies like markers and old magazines in it. It’s also where I store the doc box that my students use to store the books that they are reading for silent reading. The bin under the shelf is yet another Latin Club supply bin. This one is for all our paper plates, napkins, and other party supplies.

And… the bed. A dear colleague in our department left our school in May to work at another school, and this bed had been in his room, so he donated it to me and Matt when he left. I scooped it up a) because it’s more flexible seating during silent reading and independent work times, b) we can use it in the videos our Latin students make and during “demonstrations” of Roman dining practices, and c) there is a not-insignificant chance that I will end up taking at least one nap on it during the course of the school year.


And last but not least, the front of the room. That thing on the board is our Mimio board tool, which turns any whiteboard into a smartboard. Please forgive the Jake Paul/Logan Paul/whichever Paul hellspawn quote that is on top of the board. It magically appeared there one day and I haven’t had the heart to take it down.

So that’s it! This room will be filled with students in exactly one week. I can’t wait!


FVR/SSR · Technology in the Latin Classroom

FVR Setup and Tour

I’ve written a few posts on how I do FVR , so I thought I would post some visuals to help you… well… visualize our routine.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my Latin 2 CP class does FVR, which I refer to as “silent reading” with them. We do silent reading for a minimum of 5 minutes each time, but I increase the time by 1 minute each week or so (it really just depends on how I feel and how they are getting on that day).

I tell whoever gets into class first to grab the doc box, which lives in this podium that I picked up from the band teacher, who was giving it away a few years ago:


That student puts the doc box on one of the empty desks in our room. The students know that they are supposed to grab their reading log and current book out of their hanging folder from the doc box as they walk in.

Some students choose to start reading before the bell rings and class begins, but most of them wait until I have taken attendance and we have prayed. Most of them don’t mind silent reading, and some of them really like it, but only a few of them are fond enough of it to do it before I start the timer.

If it’s the beginning of a new month, students know they should grab a reading log from behind my desk. The space behind my desk is pretty open, and I generally don’t mind students being back there as long as they aren’t at my actual desk. I love that this class knows exactly where they are supposed to go to get reading logs and that they do it without being prompted. The reading log folder is behind the no name papers folder. By the way, I bought this contraption at Wal-Mart for about $15. It has three paper trays (I use those for ZipGrade forms) and five folder slots at the top. As you can see, I use those folder slots for what I think of as “universal” items – things that apply to most of or all of my classes and aren’t specific to a certain stage or unit.


Once the kids are in their seats with their books and reading logs, I start the timer (just Google 5 minute timer or whatever you need). Sometimes I project it on the board. As students read, I circulate. Some teachers read while their students read, but this is not a class that can go without me watching them like a hawk for 5+ minutes. It’s just not going to happen.

A few students will finish reading their book or story before the timer is done, and that’s okay. They know that they are supposed to fill out their reading log (feel free to use), give the book they just finished to me, and then request a new book by first looking at the options on what we affectionately call Lil Bib (read about here; view my library here). After they find the book they want, they request it through a Google Form on my Haiku page (our LMS).

This is where I come in. I have set the Google Form to alert me whenever a student requests a new book. I find the book they want either in the milk crate where most of the books live or on the cardboard display I got from the Chessex booth at Dragon Con (for free!). Both of these things are immediately behind my desk for easy access.

I use the barcode on the back of the books to check them out quickly. I am very Type-A and have a secret wish to be a librarian, so when I realized that libib gives you the ability to print barcodes to use to check out books, I went to town.


I place the returned book in a “check-in” spot on the window ledge next to my desk and place the new book with the student’s last name written on a post-it note on the cover in a “check-out” spot.

I have my work study student place the check-out books into the students’ file folders in the doc box when she comes in after school.

This whole process sounds like a lot of work, I am sure, and it is definitely more work than having students simply put their books back on the shelf each day. But since I share a classroom, I just do not have the space to have a set-up like that. Surprisingly, though, the process really only takes about 5 minutes total to check in all the finished books and check out all the new books.

I’ll close this one out with some photos of the books I have either printed from places like Tarheel Reader or created in Google Docs. Our library is awesome and binds these for me for free. These are easily some of the most popular titles in the FVR library. I think it’s for two reasons: 1) they are pretty easy, since most of these are either written by students or for novice-level readers, and 2) they are colorful and have pictures.