Sunday, August 19, 2012

An In-Depth Tour of Mr. Hughes' Classroom

Greetings Fellow Teachers and Friends!
I am excited to bring you the first ever tour of my classroom. I have to be honest here and tell you that I almost cancelled the whole picture tour after seeing all the really amazing rooms that are out there for your viewing pleasure. However, I guess there really is no "perfect" classroom, and I am proud of my room and all the hard work it took to get it in this state!

Okay, I will be the first to admit that I don't have a "cute" room. As a male teacher, that has been something I have never worried about. I go with the clean, organized, and as clutter-free as possible look. In fact this year, I was able to downsize the amount of furniture in my room again. I got rid of a table, a chair, and a stool. With the changes this year of rotating the upper grades, I have to have 26 desks in my classroom. I will only have 11 students. Yes, you read that right. There will only be 11 sixth graders this year. They are a very strong-willed bunch and I am excited to teach them.

This first picture is of my room. I am standing next to my desk and facing the opposite corner. I set up my chairs in pairs facing the board because research has shown that this is the best way for students to sit. They are facing where they need to be and they have a partner to work with IF they need/are asked to work with a partner. In the corner is my reading group table. It is the old corner nook from our last house. I have used it for many years and it has held up pretty well. I will be the first to say that I am not a huge fan of it being at the front of the room- BUT, that is where it best fit, and let me tell you that it was a two day moving furniture event to get it in.

This is facing the exact opposite corner. The dark space in the corner leads to a closet space. I am the only teacher that has one. It was originally a third entrance to my room, but after many years of pleading and begging, they finally closed it off. I didn't want three doorways. It was wasted class space and a nightmare in lock down/fire drill situations.

This is what the students will get to see each day. I have my Smart board front and center. I would be super lost without it.

I have this hanging in a corner of my classroom. I LOVE this. I have the class vote on their top ten favorite books. I will be creating a 10 Ten Books Kit and will offer it on Teachers Pay Teachers in the very near future. After the Top 10 books have been chosen, (and the process has been refined greatly over the years- but I think I have it whittled down pretty well) I scan in the covers and then add a sticker to the front of the book that says "TOP 10 BOOK" with the year. On the back of the card (see below) I scan in a small sample of the pages and the back cover of the book. I then slide them into these awesome little clear plastic sleeves that I found at a thrift store and hang them up for the next year's students to see. It is a great way to promote books.

This is my third year of hanging the titles like this (and my 4th for doing the Top 10 Books for the year). I have taken the past two years and have them hanging just below the current year's display so students can look and see what other books have been favorites of other 6th graders.
 Here is a sample Top 10 Book:
This is the front...
 And this is the back...

This is my personal class library. The top shelf with the red tags are all my picture books that I use for teaching mentor text lessons.  They are in alphabetical order. When I pull a book, I stick a laminated 1/2 sheet of construction paper in the space so I can easily replace it. (You can see the green 1/2 sheet sticking out near the far end). On the spinning rack, I have the popular series books, like Lightning Thief, Fable Haven, 39 clues, etc. I currently have over 5,000 titles for my students to choose from ranging from level A to High School. So students can NEVER say to me that they can't find anything to read. Ha ha.

 I have my library leveled by Guided Reading Level. In the colored bins, I have simply put all the latest additions to our library so that students can see the new arrivals before they get added to the masses. I love doing book talks with my students. I pass the books around and let the kids touch them and look at them. Then, if they see a book they want to use, they add it to their "Books I Plan To Read This Year" page. It is simple and basic. I keep it that way on purpose. However, students don't every really spend a lot of time choosing a book. They have their list of books they want to read and they simply find the next book on the list that looks good, find it on the shelf, and they are off and reading. I will do five-minutes of "Book Look" time with my class before reading time starts each day. This time is used for adding new books to their lists.

I try to add a few positive posters to my wall at the beginning of the year. I love the Turn it Off poster. I got that from Pintrest a long time ago. The other poster used to be mounted on the top of my spinning rack, but I moved the spinning book rack this year and hung the sign on the wall.

This is the corner of my library. I have a set of "Edit-phones" (that's what I call them), and a tub of bookmarks the kids are free to use. They are really good about only using what they need. The next two shelves are my Prize Books. Books the kids can earn. For every book they read, they get a ticket. They put their tickets in Fred (that is what they call our ticket holder. You will meet Fred later on in the tour). Then, once a month I do a drawing for a couple of students to get a free book. They can have one off the shelf, OR, they can get a book $4 or less from the book order. On the podium is my class dictionary. Yeah, the one that has every known word in it Okay, not really, but it feels that way when the kids are trying to find a word.

So, with over 5,000 titles, I had to have an organized way to process books. Thankfully our school had an older library program that they let me use. I love it. I spent my entire Christmas break 2 years ago entering every book by hand. Now, my students have a library card, due dates, and I can even reserve books for students.

This is my new desk arrangement. This isn't what I was originally planning when I changed my room around (dang corner table). But, I have grown to really like it. I don't sit at my desk at all during the day, so the fact that it faces the wall doesn't bother me. I love that I can have items close to all the edges and they won't fall off. It is a cozy little space and all mine. The saying on the wall, "Every True Strength is Gained Through Struggle", was a gift from my mother and father-in-law when I graduated with my Masters Degree. The other frames are my teaching license and my diplomas.

In my class I do "Number of the Day". My students are assigned numbers based on their place on the class roll. For the first week of school, we just start at one and go through the list until every student has had a chance to be the number of the day. What does that mean? Well, the number of the day takes the lunch count to the office, they lead the class in the pledge of allegiance, they are the line leader for the day, and they also run any errands I need done. Those are the top numbers. I made nice numbers this year and bought hooks to hang them on. The numbers under the "One Day at a Time" sign will be the day count for the school year. We use this for a variety of activities in math, as well as count down to 100's day. (Be looking for my 100's Day Kit that I will be making- It will be AWESOME!)

As an upper grade team, we came up with 6 expectations for our classes. I have them covered for the first of school, but they are: Attention Signal, Silent Movement, Raised Hand, Self-Starter, Prepared Everyday, 12-Inch Whisper. They each have a motto hanging above them. I am excited. Most of those were expectations in my classroom for many years, so nothing really new there.We will be doing two expectations a day for the first three days.

I have been reading lots of discussion back and forth about the clip chart. Our school has been using them for quite a while, so I am supportive of it. Each upper grade classroom has three charts, one for each class. The change we made this year was to start at a "3" and let students move up and down. As far as the "public humiliation" angle, each clothespin is labeled with a number and will be reset after each rotation. Also, students are IN the room when the kids are getting in trouble, so it's not really anything new to them. We have also set it up so the kids can earn their way back up the chart.

This year, each classroom will also have four rules. These rules will be:
-When someone is talking, you are listening
-Put people Up, Not down
-Keep your feet, mouth, hands, and objects to yourself
-Use school appropriate language
Again, these are covered because we will be covering them during the first week.

Since I am now the writing/LA teacher this year, I took down all my math and reading materials and replaced them with my writing materials. These are the guidelines I use when I teach my students to draft their writing projects.

I LOVE this bulletin board. It is harder to see, but my amazing wife shaded the edges. We modeled it after a quote we found it on pinterest. I have green rope lights around it to give it that billboard feel.

This is next to my classroom door. On top is a holder where each class will pick up their bell work. The tubs are holding each grades cursive practice books that will be part of the bell work routine. I like the lower shelf unit.

 A close up of the holder. The clothespins are used to make their lunch choice. This also helps take roll each day.

These are my lunch choice hangers. As you can see, I am doing a Looney Tunes theme this year in my room. The students simply clip their clothespin on the ribbon that matches their  choice.

On my wall above the classroom door is my SKUNK High scores board. I have scores up there from 2008. My students try every year to knock off the past students. I LOVE this math game. I will have to cover that in a separate post.

This is the other side of the door. I have a great quote hanging above the calendar. I used to have a traditional calendar with the calendar cards and such. But, It was a time consuming event to change it out, and 6th graders we not into the themed cards. So, I changed to this easy to read format. Next to that is my work group assignments. I also hung the lunch calendar.

This is my Class Job Chart. I have divided the class jobs in to five groups. I listed the jobs and explained how to do them correctly. Then I assigned a group of students to each job. The job assignments change each day.

This is where students will turn in their class assignments. I have two bins for each class.

This is a close up of the tags that are hanging on them:

This is my writing information board. I hope to do a different post on it at a later date. The two white papers will be where I will hang anchor charts.

I set up this area this year for my class to turn in assignments that are not writing related. The smiley face bank is "Fred" that I mentioned above. He holds the tickets (in the clear case on the bookcase) that students fill out after they read a book (or earn it from a different reward).

I am SO excited about this new area I set up. I made a title card that says "Check out this great example of......." and then laminated it so I could write on what example I am highlighting. I have a paper up for each class (have you noticed that we color coded each class yet? My class color is blue... WAHOO! My favorite color).

This is my non-fiction corner. All the book here are non-fiction. The books on the metal rack in the foreground are related to my science and social core. I have put colored stickers on each book to match the colored sticker on the shelf label. That helps keep the books on the correct shelf (mostly).

Okay, don't quit on me yet! I know this is going long. Sorry.
I had to show you this. My son made it last year for our pirate week events. I LOVE it.

After reading many blogs and looking at ideas, I shared with my upper grade team the idea of a 5-minute checklist. As a team, we decided what we wanted our students to do. I am pleased with the outcome. (Update: I have since fixed this header. I took the hyphen out of checklist... silly me!)

This is my technology display. I love my antique spinning wheel. It is over 100 years old. I have an antique typewriter and other wonderful items that my students enjoy looking at. I have pulled many items down and had the kids look at them as we study social studies OR encounter these items in our read alouds.

I was pleased about this idea. Here is where I keep all the copies I need for the days lessons. Again, here by grade level.
The cool part is that the black basket lifts up so I can have the copies for the week underneath. This is handy if we end up getting ahead, I already have the copies ready to go so there is no pausing.

This is another management tool that I use. The students in my class start each day with five minutes they can earn. If they don't listen, are loud, etc. They lose a minute. Every minute they lose, I earn. I let them earn minutes on Monday-Thursday (we have a 1/2 day every Friday, so I don't let them earn on those days). How do they USE the minutes they earn? That is up to them. They can extend their recess, save up for a movie party, extra PE, etc. It will be a little different this year because of the rotation change. But, I will still do it. It is a great motivator for the class.

This year, I moved all my storage to one central area and actually labeled the drawers. I know that they aren't cutesy labels, but they are labeled. :)

This is my outside door. BORING, huh? But, I like it that way. I usually have HUGE hallways displays that are very eye-catching. I do have some fun door decorations that are used during the year as well. But, I keep it simple for back to school.

This is a closeup of my signs outside my door. I LOVE the top one. Found it at some warehouse place my wife likes to shop.

This final stop is my hallways bulletin board. My wife is simply amazing. She took a picture I found and the idea for the Bugs Bunny postage stamp and did what you see below. I LOVE how it turned out. On the popsicle sticks (which you can staple to the board, by the way) are character cards with the student's names on them. With only 11 students, the board is a bit bare, but it looks amazing. 

Again, this amazing display is in existence thanks to my amazing wife.  This is the board in the main hallway that the entire school sees. The quote (again from pinterest) is the upper grade team motto for the year. It is SUCH a powerful thought. She designed and made the kids at the bottom They are all paper pieced together. Again, I added lights for that bling!

Well, that concludes a very lengthy tour of my room and hallway. I hope that you enjoyed seeing my little corner of the world. I must say that after 13 years, I have found that while I like some things the same, I am all about doing new things. I can't wait to share with you my new adventures throughout the years to come.

Have a great school year,



  1. Looking good! You are going to have a great year!

  2. What a fabulous classroom. I like busy rooms and yours is busy. I like the way you've organized your teaching books from the students' reading books (and I envy your 5000 book reading library!). Bravo!

  3. WOW- I Love your classroom!
    Thanks for sharing- I might have to "borrow" some of your ideas!

  4. I LOVE your room! You have so many great ideas. It is busy and fun, and I can't see how any kid would ever be bored there!

    I am totally jealous of your library. It is amazing!

    Also, let me just give your wife a big WOW! Those are two of the most awesome bulletin boards ever in the whole history of bulletin boards.
    She is really talented!

    Your desk area is so cozy. I love it!

    I loved seeing your room! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I just love the Jail sign. LOL!! Also, the P.A.W. s. I think I'll steal it. ;)

  6. Hey All!
    Thanks for the kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed the tour.

    Joan and Peggy- Feel free to "steal" and "borrow" away. :)
    In fact, Joan, in an earlier post (No PAWing) you can just download the poster...

    Have a fantastic school year!

  7. LOVE your room! The quotes and bulletin boards are great. It really looks like you're ready for a great year!

  8. Simply amazing -- and lots of great ideas too!! Thanks for the tour :)

  9. MrsArnold and jennibell-
    Thanks for your kind words. I hope that it was worth your time. I enjoy my room a lot! :)
    Please stop by again soon.
    -MrHughes :0)

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed touring your room! You've gotten me to thinking about possible improvements for my own room. So glad you posted this.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Aimee! I am so pleased to hear that you have a few ideas to try out. Have a great day!

  11. I loved the clip charts method for behavior management when I was in a self contained classroom. However, I am now teaching with a 5th grade team that changes classes. The problem I see is that a child's clip may get moved in my class, then he goes to his next class and breaks another rule. That teacher will move his clip to the same level that I moved it in my class. Therefore, the progression of his consequences will not be accurate. Is there a way to make the clip charts work with changing classes?

    1. Melinda!
      This is a great question! There are two lines of thinking here:
      1) When I did this with rotations, we generally let the students "reset" in each classroom. If we found that they were "playing the system" and pushing each teacher to edge, we went with option #2.
      2) You can put the student on their own chart that is taken with them from room to room. You could also create a chart that went from room to room. However, you are then left to "clean up" the mess of another teacher- and end up being the one to have to give up instruction time to dole out consequences.

      The reset in each class is truly a gift to the students and you. When you do that- you are only dealing with the issues that happened in your classroom. Some students will act fine in one classroom and struggle in another based on lots of factors (peers, academic subject, time of day, etc.).

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have additional questions!

  12. Hi! Could you tell me what you mottos are above your expectations? Then could you tell me a little more about the earning mins management system? I see there is a sad guy drawn on red. Does that mean they lost that min and you earned it? When you have them can they be given back? Is the white board for keeping track of earned mins if they choose to build them up? Also, where can I find the sunk game info? Sorry, one more, on your clip chart management did you keep track of where they were daily in a data style chart? Thanks! You have so many great ideas here in this one spot! I LOVE them. Good job!


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