Chalkboard Bulletin Boards

I'm not doing a classroom theme this year (shocking, I know!).  I'm really doing more of a color theme of bright colors of the rainbow and a touch of chalkboard.  I wanted my bulletin boards to really pop out, but we aren't allowed to use fabric.  I bought fadeless black paper (you can just use your school's butcher paper). I made them look like chalkboards with a few easy steps!

This is what it looked like before:

Here's what it looks like as I'm working on it (I plan to add wording and more arrows, but haven't done that yet):

Here's what you need:

White Chalk {Wal-Mart}
Eraser {Wal-Mart}
Spray Adhesive {Hobby Lobby}
 *I did not use the adhesive because I plan on erasing throughout the year and doing different designs*

Well... that's that!  Easy way to make your bulletin boards POP!

Maximum Student Engagement!

Hello Blog Hoppin’ friends!  Holly Ehle here, from 
Every summer I strive to set a few new professional goals for myself.  Thanks to the inspiration of Hope King’s “Set the Stage 2 Engage” SDE session in Vegas  and Kim Bearden’s new CRASH COURSE book, I’m so excited about one of my goals that I’m almost bursting at the seams! 

It’s all about improving…

Student Engagement

Now, if you know me at all…you already know that I’m a fan of teaching a little bit “out of the box” at times. My costume closet is packed, and even though I am NOT a singer…I’ve been known to rock out some pretty epic educational rap songs.  I mean, hey.  if we are going to be in a classroom all day…we might as well have fun, right?! 

But folks, it’s SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!

So what is Student Engagement, really?

Pictures from Primary Graffiti's Dinosaur Themed Unit

In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.
Student engagement occurs when students are
·        invested in their own learning
·        taking pride in NOT simply earning “grades,” but in understanding the material
·         incorporating the material they learn into their lives
You know what I’m talkin’ about!!! 
I know you’ve seen these signs of engagement during a project, presentation or lively class lesson you’ve led!  And if you are like me, when you caught those glimpses of the inspired inner-world of a child, you’ve hoped that someday you will find a way to sustain that wonder, enthusiasm and perseverance every single day in your classroom!
So, now that we know WHAT it is…
How the heck do we go about ENGAGING these kids?
Research shows that students are motivated by…

#1 – Success (Students have an internal need for mastery.)

#2 - Curiosity (Students have a need to understand, make sense of and organize information.)

#3 – Originality (Students have a need to express themselves, have choice, and show creativity.)

#4 – Relationships (Students have a need for building satisfying relationships with others.)

BUT…research also reveals that before students will truly even “buy into” or become “engaged” in their work…that they must first be…


Thus… when planning lessons/units, we all need to think about how we “set the stage” for the rigorous content that we want to teach. How are we “hooking” our kiddos into our lessons? 

Visual appeal and real-life connectable “themes” DO MATTER!

Here’s a little FREEBIE I hope will help you become more “intentional” about planning for student engagement.

So enough “teacher talk”…let’s see what an engaging instructional unit looks like in ACTION!  My friend Cheryl knows all about that....

I'm Cheryl Saoud from and couldn't be more excited to share my annual Camping with Books. 

Teaching thematic units can be extremely rewarding. Integrated curriculum reaches a variety of learning styles by helping students to take control of their own learning while having tons of fun. Instruction is planned to accommodate individual interests while fostering teamwork.  The content is centered around a theme with hands on activities and weaving  various disciplines around a central idea. 

Setting the stage provides my students with the magic needed to believe!  We don't mimic camping, we are nestled deep within an enchanting forest with a babbling brook perfectly twisting through our campsite.  Our fire crackles, glowing red, orange, and yellow.  The night animals are on the prowl as we learn by lantern light and listening to nocturnal sounds.

Our learning begins the week prior to our themed days.  We draw upon our schema and build upon our previous experience to learn about forest animals and camp safety.  As the our week long event draws near, the kids collaborate to decorate the campsite. 

Have you ever seen HGTV?  At some point the designers kick the homeowners out so that there is an overwhelming emotional connection to the final design.  My units are no different.  To ensure ownership, the kids help with the backdrop and hang the decorations with my assistance, but once the final bell rings, my doors are locked closed where I bring in the necessary props to make this experience authentic.

Students are further engaged when weaving our spring content in this culminating unit.  Insects and life cycles are hands-on and exciting for our young learners.  After eight years, I've acquired a collection of creepy crawlers that captivate my young learners and inspire a full day of themed learning.


Interested in learning more about student engagement? Here are a few GREAT resources to get you started:

Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me
This incredible resource will take you through 17 “courses” that will not only teach you about the essentials of student engagement… but will also teach you priceless lessons about becoming the best teacher (and person) you can be!  Not to mention, you’ll be breaking out in both tears and laughter within minutes!  #so inspiring
Click image to link to my book review of Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me.  Don't forget to grab a tissue!

Hope King has an incredible, BRAND new unit that we highly recommend for learning how to set the stage for high student engagement. 

It's HOT off the presses!  #getchaone

Back to School: Establishing Classroom Community

Outside of teaching expectations and routines to your new batch of kiddos, establishing classroom community is one of the most important things you can do during the first few weeks of school.  Taking time to allow your students to get to know each other as classmates, teaching your students how to interact with one another kindly, and building rapport and respect among your class will benefit you immensely throughout the duration of the school year.  Thus, it's worth the time and effort to do this with intentionality from the moment those new school shoes hit the floor of your classroom.  

Here's a few ways to make it happen in your room...

Bond Over Banners

Roll out some banner-sized paper (mine was from IKEA) and allow your students to work in groups to decorate them.  The banners below happen to have three simple classroom rules on them, and were made following a lesson on expectations.  Stickers, crayons, and markers were writing tools of choice.

Not only will this activity give students a brain and body break while they're still adjusting to being back in school, but it will also foster opportunities to share, learn each other's names, and practice working in a group.  After the banners are complete, have the groups share their masterpieces.  Provide plenty of ooooohs and aaaaaahs, praise their amazing abilities to work together and note samples of kindness (i.e. I really like how Savannah shared her green marker with Evan!), and then hang the banners up in your room.  This will add student personalization to your classroom and show your students that you value their work enough to show it off!


Play a Get-to-Know-You Game

This game is a class favorite!  Pass out a copy of this Find-a-Friend activity to each student, read the descriptions in the boxes aloud, and have students talk to their new classmates to find a friend who fits the description.  The friend then signs their name in the box.  This is a fun and easy way for classmates to get to know one another and an opportunity to practice following directions!  Plus, your kiddos get to get up and move around.  #boom

There are three versions of Find-a-Friend in my back to school packs.  Click the pics below to check them out!


Kick Things off with Chrysanthemum

Reading Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a *must do* in the first few days of school.  I'm not going to spoil this amazing book if you haven't read it, but just know that it lends itself quite nicely to building classroom community and kindness.  {And practicing spelling your name, too!}  Afterwards, we made name maps that we then shared-out with each other.  {This idea was adapted from Teaching Heart and the one below was obviously made pre-Faith, and I was still an avid Diet Coke drinker - which I am NOT anymore!}

Happy Back to School, y'all and come visit me at The Inspired Apple!
Click my button below to check it out :)


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