Tag: teacher

flexible classroom seating chair

Flexible Seating: Something Cool From My Classroom

Posted on October 14, 2017 by

I don’t know why it took me so long to jump into flexible classroom seating. After 27 years of dodging clunky desks, tripping over backpacks and watching kids fidget uncomfortably in their hard plastic seats, I had had enough.

I’ve had classes as large as 38, and it just was too hard to fit that many desks in my small classroom.  I needed more space, and so did my students! This year, my middle school students came back to school with flexible classroom seating, and it’s been amazing! To help you jump in, I created a how-to list for flexible classroom seating.

Step One: Start small.

flexible classroom seating beanbags

When I first began teaching a reluctant reader class years ago, I noticed how physically uncomfortable my students were when I asked them to read for an extended period of time. Middle school kids come in all shapes and sizes, and I figured if I could create a more comfortable space to relax and read, I’d at least get them in a good mood! I ended up purchasing four Big Joe bean bag chairs from Amazon – they’re designed for dorm rooms, and fairly durable.

The first year my kids fought over them every day, so I came up with a ‘bean-bag rotation’ chart which did the trick. At the end of the year, I asked the PTA for funding for a few more and built up my first flexible seating. When other teachers saw the way the kids would relax and focus, they even brought in old bean bags from home that their children never used. I’m up to at least a dozen this year, and they still are the preferred place for reading and collaborating.

Step Two: Look for deals.

flexible classroom seating chair

I started scouring the internet for cheap, functional furniture and seating. I found these foldable chairs for $5 each and discovered these stools on Amazon. My local Goodwill has been an amazing source for items such as clipboards, pillows, and various durable furniture. And since I live in a college town, there are always discards around for free! I’ve heard the free pages on Facebook are a great resource, too. I put an ad out on our Nextdoor Neighbor app and had a few donations trickle in that way.

Step Three: Ask for help.

flexible classroom seating

When I thought about getting rid of 20 desks and replacing them with tables, I got a bit nervous. I knew my students would be more comfortable with tables as flexible classroom seating, but how would I find enough? I started asking family and friends if they had anything they weren’t using anymore or wanted to donate to my classroom. I was surprised by the number of people who had old folding tables and chairs in their garages!

Also consider asking your custodian, the principal, and your students’ families for donations – once you put your wishes public, I know you’ll be amazed at what turns up. Remember, you can always replace a table or chair if something better comes along. I even put contact paper on an old card table I was given and it looks awesome!

Step Four: Watch what the kids gravitate towards.

flexible classroom seating chair

Just like with the bean bags, I started small and watched what the kids did. I noticed who liked stools, who needed a spinny chair, and who wanted to plop or flop on the bean bags. Not only could I determine some learning tendencies (the kid reading on his belly every day clearly needed some tactile stimulation to focus) but I also could see who was assertive (they usually claim the folding chairs) and who was easy-going (they just sat wherever there was space). I have one upholstered armchair that rotates and I’ve noticed certain kids really like to sit there and gently move as they read and write, so I’ll look for more of those. I’d also like more two-seaters for those who like to constantly collaborate.

Step Five: Decide what battles you want to fight, and let go of the rest.

Like anything new, there are going to be challenges and unexpected events – and awesome surprises. Many people thought I was a bit crazy to attempt flexible seating in middle school, but I did it anyway. I established expectations around the beginning of class (students must be at a table for attendance/mini-lesson) and that I would announce when flexible classroom seating was ok. I created a seating chart – I actually let students choose their seats for the first month, and then I’ll rotate them around once I get to know them. I advised that they should try multiple locations and seats.

flexible classroom seating beanbags

I carefully organized the room into learning spaces – I have an AVID college corner, a row of bean bags by the classroom library, boxes of clipboards and headphones near the back, and even turned an old shelf board into a lap desk. I stationed a fan by the spinny chair and let kids sit there and feel the cool air when they need to calm down. At first, I thought I would arrange the seats with certain desks, but I noticed the kids moved them around during the day, so I let that go. Sometimes kids have been under tables, and sometimes they whisper more on the bean bags. Occasionally they crowd too many bodies onto the ottoman, but we’ve made it work. I think on my feet a lot, but I’m also able to really get more connected and it feels less teacher-dominated and much more student-focused since I’ve used the flexible classroom seating.  I’ll never go back!

This post was first published on The Educator’s Room website. Visit The Educator’s Room for the latest and greatest hot topics in education.


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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lifelong learner

Are You A Lifelong Learner?

Posted on September 19, 2017 by

As a parent, you know the importance of providing your child with a good education, both in school and out. But what about your learning? Do you strive to deepen your knowledge, take courses, and continue your education, or are you finished with textbooks, tests, and teachings? Don’t you want to ‘walk the talk’ you give to your own children? When kids see adults in their life harnessing curiosity, reading to learn, and striving to improve, their motivation to do better and work harder increases. There are some incredible benefits of becoming a lifelong learner for everyone, not just for kids.

lifelong learner


Are you a lifelong learner?

Higher wages

Money isn’t everything – far from it, in fact. For many professions, including mine, teaching, if you want to raise your earning potential, learning is the route you need to take. I worked hard to increase my salary by obtaining as much post-grad education as possible. Time and again, research shows us that continuing your education improves your chances of earning a higher salary, winning more promotions, and having a greater level of financial security. You will never reach your earning potential if you don’t prove yourself with learning, so whether it’s doing a degree as an adult or taking up a workplace offer of training, consume every opportunity that comes your way. Not only will you be more employable, but you will feel more comfortable in your role, happier at work, and have the skills and knowledge you need to achieve great things. The more I learn, the more exciting teaching becomes! It’s infectious!

Develop natural abilities

Everyone has a talent hidden somewhere within them. But these innate natural abilities will never get the chance to come to the fore without an education. Learning helps you understand your talents, and gives you the tools you need to use them properly. Education refines you in a similar way to how a rough diamond is polished to create beautiful jewelry. You’ll never know what you might bring to the world if you don’t take the time to indulge your curiosity!

A healthy, active mind

It’s never too early to start thinking about life as we grow older; if you want to stave off the threat of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s, you need to keep testing your brain. While diseases such as Alzheimer’s are biological, the simple truth is that you can delay its onset and preserve your quality through lifelong learning. We’re not just talking about reopening the school books again, either. Learning a new instrument or embracing highly skilled challenges on a regular basis can all help by a significant amount. Have you ever thought about taking guitar lessons, or learning how to paint? Trying something new is a great way to grow a healthy, active mind.

lifelong learner source

A chance to be different

I ask my children this question often:  “If you are an employer and have two equally experienced, likable candidates that impress in an interview, what will tip the balance in giving them a job? Is it the person who is bilingual? Will you choose the one without the college qualifications or the one who embraced learning and achieved a master’s in business administration?” Make no mistake about it, lifelong learning can help you stand out front the crowd. And if you have ever pondered the question ‘are MBA degree programs worth it or not,’ ask yourself who you would choose if you were that employer. It’s never been harder to stand out than it is today, and if you want a competitive edge, you need to combine your experience and motivation with an education to prove yourself. I love the app Duolingo – I’m learning Spanish so enhance my ability to communicate at work and as I travel.


People love to achieve things, and if you are looking for genuine self-fulfillment, learning is the only way to go. Whether it’s academic education, traveling the world and experiencing new cultures and ideas, or just stretching your perspectives by reading a challenging book, it all counts as an achievement. You will expand your awareness, knowledge, and create a multifaceted, multidimensional life that actually means something. It’s something you can continue all through your life, too. Your capacity for learning needn’t diminish as you get older, and, in fact, will be improved by educating yourself in your younger years. Your children need role models of adults who practice self-care and self-fulfillment – education is the perfect example to show them you’re never too old to learn something new!

Unique, electrifying experiences

Have you ever felt that sense of pride when you have completed a hard crossword, math problem, or finally read the last page of a tough book? Even these minor accomplishments can give you a major thrill. It’s human nature in action – we are hardwired with a capacity for learning and advancing ourselves intellectually. So, if you want a lifetime of electrifying experiences on a regular basis, push yourself to learn and educate yourself as often as possible. Bear in mind that even if there were zero economic advantage in learning, humans would still do it – and an educated mind is an entirely worthwhile way to express your unique personality and knowledge.

lifelong learner

I’m a lifelong learner through EdTech!

Develop deep relationships

Humans are social animals, and it’s vital that we have the opportunity to connect with other, like-minded individuals. You will meet new people, develop new relationships, enjoy an active social life, and start getting used to having deep conversations with others on a regular basis. The internet has enabled me to build so many professional relationships and cultivate strong friendships with people in my areas of interest – don’t shy away from creating a professional learning network online.

Become a contributor to society

No one wants to become a burden on their family, community, or society as a whole. And lifelong learning – especially when you approach retirement – can help you feel like you are still making a contribution. It will keep you active, sociable, and ensure that you aren’t feeling like you are a drain. Whether it’s learning new skills to help your community or going back to college and writing a Ph.D. that helps humans understand more on any given subject, there are thousands of lifelong learners who are huge contributors to the world – and continually educating yourself is the best way to join them.

Become a person of wisdom

When you commit to lifelong learning, you will develop a thorough understanding of why, how, and what life is really about. You will begin to realize what works – and what doesn’t. You will also develop a deep understanding of yourself, and those around you. Money can’t buy you this kind of wisdom, to become a lifelong learner you have to go through it all yourself to have the ability to put your life into perspective.

Become hungry for more
lifelong learner

The more you learn, the more you want to learn. It’s a mindset that you will grow into when you embrace continual learning and one that you will never fully sate. The beauty of being a lifelong learner is that you can go down any route you like and still learn a lot about yourself and life in the world today. I’d love to hear about your lifelong learning – feel free to leave your comments in the section below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Does Your Child Have These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

Posted on August 29, 2017 by

Other than the first day of kindergarten, the first day of middle school may be one of the most anxiety-producing days for students and parents alike. The good news is that you and your child CAN and WILL survive this transition – especially if you help.  Just ask yourself: can your child do these 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

  1. Teach your child to pack their own lunch – and a good snack. When my kids were little, I always figured if they weren’t hungry or tired I had a chance of surviving the day. This didn’t change as they grew up; the basic needs just get a little more difficult to enforce. Middle school students expend a LOT of energy, and they are hungry all the time. I’m not kidding. If you can teach your child to pack their own lunch – or at least a healthy, energy sustaining snack, not only will your child’s teacher be happy, but you also have a good chance of having a stable child at the end of the day! Reusable water bottles, fruit, protein bars and whole grain crackers are great snacks that help keep students alert and on top of their game. And be sure they pack it themselves- teaching simple self-care techniques prepares them for taking control of their health and wellness and will reduce stress.4 skills before starting middle school
  2. Practice self-awareness. This skill tags along with self-care, and also helps develop an awareness of their emotions and feelings. Middle school students have rapidly changing views and experiences; teaching your child to reflect on life milestones, accomplishments, and successes and challenges from the previous school year helps them to learn about themselves as a learner, as a friend and develops a growth mindset. When school gets challenging, having self-awareness skills to fall back on helps develop confidence and a calm approach.
  3. Teach your child to write an email. Thanks to technology, today’s educators are much more accessible. If your school uses a management system, make sure you and your children understand how to log on and how to contact teachers. But parents – resist the urge to be the first point of contact with teachers. Have your child reach out with a simple, direct email that states their question and asks for help. I also advise middle school students to set up a professional email address that is used for college contacts; Gmail is an excellent service. Developing self-advocacy skills will ease the communication anxiety and provide valuable training for high school and college.
  4. Help create an organization system with specific weekly goals. To develop strong study skills and create a peaceful after school environment, your student should create an organization system that works for them. Binders, color coded and labeled folders, digital systems, and traditional paper calendars are all ways middle school students can stay organized. Setting measurable weekly goals, and reflecting on progress, are ways to teach your child about self-monitoring and problem-solving. Not every system works for every child, so it’s important to listen to your child’s ideas and give things a try, even if it isn’t YOUR way. Setting up a reward and logical consequence system alongside to weekly goals will offer a tangible reason for your child to work hardto meet their expectations.

Helping your child develop these 4 skills your child needs before starting middle school should ease the transition for everyone. Remember, your child is likely nervous and anxious about all the ‘newness’ they are experiencing, and while it may seem as if the last thing they want is your advice, just knowing you’re there and paying attention can open the door for supporting them through this exciting time.

Can Your Child Do These 4 Skills Before Starting Middle School?

*This post first appeared on The Educator’s Room – please visit The Educator’s Room website here for more about teaching and parenting.


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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4 ways to make a classroom more interactive

4 Ways To Make A Classroom More Interactive

Posted on August 22, 2017 by

Starting back for a new school year opens up so many opportunities for teachers to shake things up! Teachers stuck in a classroom droning on at the board with no input from anyone else is a drag on everyone involved. Teachers are constantly looking for ways to keep their students interested and involved in lessons. No matter the age, as a teacher we want growing minds to be the best they can be. So compiled below are a few tips on how teachers can help to keep kids focused and engaged within a classically ‘boring’ setting, and includes multiple ways to vamp a lesson up! 

4 ways to make a classroom more interactive

4 ways to make a classroom more interactive

Image From Pexels

Turn Learning Into A Game

This is a good strategy for anyone who struggles in the traditional classroom model and requires a helping hand in remembering notes or instructions. These days, we know more about the learning difficulties associated with ADHD, Dyslexia, and ADD, just to name a few, that make it difficult for some kids to concentrate on their learning alone and without help. Plenty of classroom stock brands and interesting tools can be found for a discount at DontPayFull.com, such as eye catching posters or digital software guaranteed to bring a whole new world into the classroom. With this handy tool, becoming an innovator in your school doesn’t have to be expensive either. 

Having regular games in the classroom will increase the interaction between your students, building better friendships and people skills. It also can allow them a good sense of independence if they work in teams during a game, with the need to stay on task and involve others around them if they have a flair for natural leadership. Using a game or some kind of toy is especially useful for core subjects such as math, in which you can involve challenges and have small prizes such as cool pens or pencils for whoever wins. A friendly competition will keep them interested for any future activities, and it’ll also help kids to use their mathematical ability in daily situations, so watch out for future chess champions!

4 ways to make a classroom more interactive

Keep Activities Hands On

Learning is an activity that requires all areas of your brain, so keeping each one engaged is important for retaining new information. Use less traditional methods of teaching when it comes to subjects such as history and geography by having students create their own timelines and maps, for example. For a subject like English, using buzzword elements and creative materials like feathers or pipe cleaners around a certain word or phrase to make mind maps is a great way to keep kids involved in their learning. This way they can also direct how they learn, and as a teacher, you’ll be better able to see where they’re going wrong or the areas they need help with. Having a hands on activity in a subject such as science is perfect for learning; students can set up their own experiments and write up reports, both clear definitions of their own time well spent.

Allow Your Students To Work At Their Own Pace

Keeping students at their own pace can sound a little risky; after all, there are deadlines to meet. However, there are ways to let kids study as necessary while at the same time being more suited to them. Homework is an outdated concept and is less rigid than we thought of when we were students. By varying its use, we can make sure it’s both completed and doesn’t turn out to be a chore. With ‘flipped learning’ coming stronger and stronger into fashion, students who are slower in class can learn new things at home, and then reinforce them while in class. This has proved to be effective due to the formal setting of reinforcing the knowledge, with fewer distractions around that aren’t productive. I love the ‘must do’, ‘should do’, ‘could do’ approach – setting due dates and guiding kids with their time management teaches valuable life lessons. Blogs like InteractiveClassroom.net have plenty of tips on incorporating digital elements to better help kids work at their own pace, with software to explore their creative sides.

4 ways to make a classroom more interactive

Keep A Track Of Each Student’s Progress For Them

Records are kept of every student that walks through a school’s doors, but these are less personalized and accessible to the kids themselves. Knowing how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished since learning something new is an idea kids and adults alike revel in. There are multiple ways to have a personalized file for each student while using a general record, such as keeping binders they can read when necessary. By including students in their own time keeping and progress tracking, we’ll afford them a greater feeling of responsibility and direction over their own destiny. As a teacher, it can also give you closer insights into their working troubles with assignment grades and the time taken on each one laid out before you.

So here are just a couple of ideas on ways to keep a classroom more interactive; which way do you think is best for you and your students? I’d love to hear you ideas – please leave them in the comments section or send me a message. Wishing you a great start back to school!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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things teachers should do before the first day of school play dohJPG

5 Things Teachers Should Do Before The First Day Of School

Posted on August 8, 2017 by

Have the teacher dreams started? Does your heart pound when you see the school supply section at Target? While you’re relaxing on the beach, have you defaulted to lesson planning over reading novels? To help calm your nerves, I’ve compiled notes about five things teachers should do before the first day of school – and I guarantee you’ll have a great start!

Things teachers should do before the first day of school:

  1. Organize your classroom

Kids (and administrators) love to walk into a classroom and feel the structure you’ve created.

  • Think about how you (and the kids) will move around your room. Create clear traffic patterns to get in and out, as well as to the trash can, pencil sharpener, and your desk/computer!. Make sure the ‘big’ furniture is in place before school starts.
  • Make supplies visible – labels and signs help everyone know where to find – and put back – their stuff.
  • Figure out your seating chart and how kids will find their seats. I use numbered groups, and each seat has the group number (ex, 5) and a letter (ex, A). I project the seating chart on the screen, and kids find their way.
  • Make bulletin board space for students to put up their work/projects. I have an “A” wall for my kids to hang up work they’re proud of.
  • things teachers should do before the first day of school organize

 2.  Sketch Out Your Year

I’m a HUGE believer in balancing planning with flexibility. At the start of the year, I like to have a road map for what strategies I want to teach, and what content I’ll use to teach them. I’ve found using sticky notes really helps – as I set up my plan book for the year, I create sticky notes for novels/units/strategies, and place them on the monthly page where I think I’ll teach them. Moving the ideas around is much easier when I don’t have to erase – and I like the physical part of placing the notes. Then, talk to your colleagues – can you collaborate on projects, share materials, or build curriculum together? Collaboration is much easier when you do it with a friend! Finally, think ahead about what facilities or tech you’ll need, and sign up! Try not to be last minute and you’ll find that your teaching goes much smoother, and you’re able to conquer so much more than you ever thought you could!

things teachers should do before the first day of school plan

Paper planner or digital?

3. Plan Activities Get To Know Your Students – And To Share About You

One of the most important things teachers should do before the first day of school is to think about how you can infuse a ‘get to know you’ activity for part of every day during the first week. And make sure you create a lesson to help kids get to know you, too! I’ve got some neat ideas on my Pinterest board, Beginning Of The School Year Ideas. Take something and adapt it for your grade level/subject and have fun!

things teachers should do before the first day of school play dohJPG

I surprise my students with Play Doh the first day – they make something that represents them!

4. Get Kids Moving On The First Day

There’s nothing more boring than kids listening to their teachers drone on about the syllabus on the first day of school. For middle schoolers (who I teach) that can really set the tone that your class is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G! Be that teacher who switches things up – I love to use stations for the first days of school. It lets kids get up and moving with hands-on activities, and I can observe and interact with kids as they work. Use this time to learn their names, to teach your classroom signals “1-2-3 eyes on me”, and to establish a student-centered classroom. You can read about my back to school stations here.

things teachers should do before the first day of school stations

Back to school stations can adapt to any curriculum or grade level!

5. Plan On Incorporating Technology

Teaching in the 21st century means meeting kids where they are, and technology is front and center in their lives. If you’re a veteran teacher, plan on how you can make some simple adjustments to use technology in your lessons. Have you tried Google Apps? Can you stream YouTube or Shmoop videos instead of direct instruction? What about trying lessons with kids using their personal devices? Whatever you do, think about your comfort level with technology, and find someone on your site who can mentor you. Join a twitter chat (#2ndaryELA is one of my favorites) and meet educators online who can give you ideas – and confidence.

things teachers should do before the first day of school tech

For more tips about things teachers should do before the first day of school, check out two of my favorite websites – Education World and Scholastic – they’re full of great ideas! And if you have any teacher friends, please share this post and add your ideas in the comments!

What other ideas do you have for a great start to the school year?

Best of luck for an inspiring school year!


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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