Character Affirmation Posters: Purposeful Reading Decor for Your Upper Elementary Classroom

24 August 2023

As I've said in previous posts, I love decorating a classroom, but those decorations need to have a purpose.  I leave a lot of empty space on my bulletin boards at the beginning of the school year so the students can fill the walls with their learning.  So, when I do take up that precious wall space, the decor has to have purpose for my upper elementary classroom.

These Character Affirmation Posters are perfect!  Bridging literature and character growth, these positive affirmations for my students are linked to some of their favorite main characters in popular novels for upper elementary and middle school classrooms.  Not only will these posters hopefully inspire my students to check some of these books out on the shelves, but they are also a great model when analyzing characters and writing reader responses because they describe the character with a trait and give supporting evidence from the novel.  I know I'm going to refer to these all the time.

There are 20 posters included in this resource.  As a bonus, there are also 8 blank templates students can use to create their own character affirmation posters for their independent reading, or empower a classmate with a positive affirmation poster celebrating their strengths. Whether it's celebrating a classmate's kindness or portraying their personal growth journey, these templates encourage creativity and collaboration within the classroom.

Designed on 8.5 x 11 paper, these posters can also easily be enlarged to 11 x 17 on a photocopier - I need both sizes for my bulletin board.

 **Key Features:**

- 20 Character Affirmation Posters: Fuel character growth through evidence-based positive affirmations.

- Literary Connections: Connect students' favorite characters with real-life values and traits.

- Evidence from Text: Strengthen character understanding with quotes directly from the novels.

- Classroom Enhancement: Elevate your learning environment with purposeful decor.

- 8 Customizable Templates: Foster creativity and collaboration among students.

You can take a peek at these Character Affirmation Posters in my TpT store by clicking HERE or on any of the pictures.

I also have a bright and bold version of these beautiful posters.  Click on the picture below to see them.  And ... each of the previews on TpT contain one full poster and one full template poster if you wanted to try this activity with your class.

Giant Friendship Bracelet D.I.Y.

15 August 2023

With three teenage daughters, the summer of Taylor Swift hasn't escaped our house.  And that's perfectly O.K. with me.  We didn't score tickets, or even an access code (large sigh), but we've been living vicariously through friends' posts. So when I saw the cutest friendship bracelet bulletin board by A Girl and A Glue Gun, I started to get a great idea.

These Taylor-inspired friendship bracelets,  with Taylor's lyrics, are the most adorable addition to my classroom, and looking at them just makes me happy.

I bought large wooden beads, wooden toy car wheels (about one and half inch diameter), and 2" wood discs.  I ordered all the wooden pieces from Amazon, but many large craft stores may stock them as well.  I also bought acrylic paint to match my theme, black letter stickers (1"), and some twine.

Plan out your patterns before you paint so you make sure you have enough of each colour (just trust me on that one).  

I used twine to string the beads, and I used a glue gun to attach the wooden discs to the twine.  I actually sandwiched the twine between 2 discs.

So, my new classroom is quite old and showing every single minute.  Any space that isn't covered by bulletin board is fairly worn, and there's only one very small window.  I wanted to cover some of the ugly and bring in some outdoors, so I added a small green wall to my room - the boxwood panels.  The box that I got from Amazon had enough to do two of these small spaces in my room, so I'm very happy.

This wall is on the way out the door, so the students will see this message as one of the last things as they leave each day.  Exactly the message I want them to have.  I added some fairy lights, and clipped some positive affirmation cards to the clothespins.  I will add in some pictures later, once I get to meet my new kiddos.  The best part about it was that one of my daughters worked on the whole thing with me - it may have been because of Taylor, but I'll take it.

Creating a Calm and Content Rich Classroom - Decorating My New Space

10 August 2023

The countdown is on.  After 22 years at the school I started at, I'm moving to a new school this year.  Like any good introvert, the prospect of change is a scary one for me, so I'm excited that my new school isn't so new to me.  In fact, I'm heading to my own kids' elementary school ... and MY old elementary school.  I do enjoy a whole full circle thing.  ;) 

While packing up my old classroom, I decided to change my classroom theme and colours.  I thought this would help me purge more, but the stacks of boxes in my basement report that was a lie.  Oh well.

If you're redecorating your classroom, or just starting out in upper elementary, I have a few back to school classroom decor tips for you, and I will be back to share more as my class comes together to match the calm and organized classroom vision in my head.

1.  Set the Tone with a Calm Atmosphere

Creating a soothing classroom environment is crucial for students to feel comfortable and engaged.  Consider using a soft, neutral colour palette for your walls or bulletin boards, that way you can make the important academic pieces POP on your board, rather than compete with bright colours everywhere.  Cozy rugs or pillows, soft lighting like fairy lights or table lamps, and different textures and fabrics work together to create a sensory calming space that encourages relaxation and focus.

In my new room, all the walls and bulletin boards were painted the exact same bland beige tan colour.  Like, the whole room.  I was going for neutral, but that's a bit much.  I also know my classroom may change in a year or two so I didn't want to take on repainting.  Instead I chose a calming neutral colour theme that matches the walls, and chose to not paper the bulletin boards.  Not buying bulletin board paper leaves me a little extra to get some fun touches for the room that I can't wait to show off a little later when they're done.

I'm using a combination of "Everyone is Welcome" and "Home Sweet Classroom" pieces from Teacher Created Resources to create this calming classroom atmosphere, and adding in some extra special pieces to spark learning and joy.  In an upper elementary classroom, I don't worry as much about an overall decor theme as much as I try to pull together a pleasing colour scheme with matching decor pieces when possible.

2.  Thoughtful Wall Displays

THIS is where the magic happens.  Decorating these wall spaces, like bulletin boards, is very important.  You know your students and their needs better than anyone, so make sure the information on boards is important, relevant, and engaging.  Plan bulletin board displays around their actual work spaces so it is a content-rich classroom environment they can pull from when working.

This is the start of my math wall.  Yes, that's a big chalkboard (it's actually twice that length).  Apparently 50 year old classrooms still have these.  haha.  I used a roll of whiteboard wall sticker to make 6 "thinking boards" for the wall, and this is where groups of 2 - 3 will work on problem-solving while other students work with me, independently, or in small groups.  These groups are always rotated.  

I want to provide students with useful tools while working at the boards, so the first thing I created for my math wall are these Factor and Multiple Number Posters.  I've seen the great skip-counting number posters on classroom walls on instagram, but I knew I wanted something where students could see BOTH factors and multiples, so I made some.  My students really need this visual reference in the classroom.  I will be adding our math response goals next.

My language wall is huge and will need to be divided into smaller sections for morphology, writing. and reading.  I'm actually quite excited about all the space I have.  Since cursive writing is coming back into the curriculum, a new alphabet was put up first.  And then I started on the borders (keeping the same neutral calming theme through all the borders).  As I was finishing up the borders, I got the idea to turn my grammar dots into a fantastic bulletin board border, and I absolutely LOVE how it turned out.  This Grammar Dot Bulletin Board Border includes 45 common grammar errors - ones that I definitely want my students to be aware of as they're writing.  My students used my old grammar dots all the time in the classroom, but the sizes and colours wouldn't work for me this year, so this new resource is perfect.  I can't wait to get back into my classroom and hang it up!

And lastly for today, my agenda wall.  This space is SO important in my classroom - we refer to it all the time, so I wanted it to have the same matching colour theme.  Again, more blackboards, so I ordered magnetic borders this time.  I don't like the way paper borders hold up on blackboards that get cleaned all the time (even when laminated).  This 'motherboard' has everything - our daily agenda, homework, reminders, new vocabulary, learning goals, and catch-up space.  I even started to include our "You Try / I Try" spelling technique on the board last year - just another way to keep them looking at the board.  You will notice I don't have the times beside the subject labels on the agenda board.  Totally intentional.  I have found that when the times are listed, that's all the students pay attention to.  The last 10 minutes of the class are spent watching the clock rather than in lesson consolidation, and that's not an awesome thing.  And I frequently run over time in some lessons, and borrow time from other lessons, and that's perfectly ok.  But the students would struggle with this if I had the subject times on the board.  So, a few years ago I kept the agenda schedule, but ditched the times, and it's perfect.  Students look at it first thing every day, even if it is just to check if we have gym that day. ;)  My Agenda Board Subject Labels resource contains over 40 different labels and subjects, so you're sure to be covered.  Better yet, assign it as a student job and have them post the agenda cards each day.  I leave all the extra cards in a magnetic cup holder beside the schedule.

That's it for now, but I'll keep sharing tips and ideas as I get my new space set up.  Happy Back to School!

You can take a peek at some of my newest resources by clicking on the pictures below.

Elevate Learning with Drama Circles: The Ultimate Novel Study Culminating Activity

03 July 2023

Are you tired of the routine book reports and presentations for novel studies? Do you dream of adding an engaging, interactive, and imaginative twist to your novel read aloud? Well, if you haven't heard of them before, welcome to the world of Drama Circles, an incredible tool that can take your novel study culminating activity to new heights.

Breaking down Drama Circles

I started to make drama circles over 20 years ago for my classroom.  Over the years, my drama circles have evolved from random fun topics that got my students building confidence in drama activities, to a more engaging and kinesthetic activity, offering students a new way to delve into their favorite books or learn more subject-based content.

Why Drama Circles?

Now, you might be wondering, why Drama Circles? How do they provide more value than a traditional book report or worksheet?

1. Active Participation

Firstly, Drama Circles encourage active participation, acting as a great student engagement strategy. Each student plays an integral part, making them feel responsible for their contribution and promoting active learning.  They must follow along (encouraging active listening skills), then follow the instructions on their card to perform once it is their turn.

2. Develops Social-Emotional Skills

Drama Circles are wonderful for building social-emotional skills. They foster empathy as students step into the shoes of different characters, experiencing their struggles, joys, and dilemmas. This is particularly impactful with books like "Wonder," which delve into themes of acceptance and kindness.

3. Enhances Comprehension

By acting out scenes from the novel, students deepen their understanding and comprehension of the plot. Becoming the characters, explaining their motivations, and acting out the conflicts, makes novels like "The City of Ember" or "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" more vivid and engaging.

4. Creativity and Imagination

Unleashing their creativity, students reimagine scenes from novels, add dialogue, and even craft new scenarios. This is a powerful exercise that fires up their imagination, making the learning process fun and exciting.

5. Boosts Confidence 

Standing up in front of the class, performing and expressing oneself helps students improve their communication skills, boosts their self-confidence, and reduces stage fright.  And this is a great thing to remind them of when they are nervous about an upcoming oral presentation - look what you've already done in the classroom!

Implementing Drama Circles in Your Classroom

You can kick-start Drama Circles in your classroom by trying one out at the end of your novel study.  They are easy and no-prep - just print, cut out the cards, and go!  Assemble your students in a large, standing circle (you can do this in the classroom by moving around some desks).  Hand out the cards, in random order, to all students in the class.  Depending on your numbers, some students may have more than one card.  (This is where your 'teacher wizardry' comes in - match the amount of dramatic activity and difficulty of lines to the student's ability as you hand out the cards.  As the lines are bolded on the cards, this is very easy to do quickly).  After you hand out the cards, allow a few minutes for students to read over and plan their moves - they may also want to check with a peer beside them if they have any questions about the words or the meanings.  And then, that's it.  Have the person with the first card step into the middle of the circle and start the drama.  Students do not read out the card numbers, and they only read out the bolded lines on the card.  The actions are not in bold, they are simply to be performed.  Students must listen and follow along so they know when their part is, however, if a student misses their line, the cards are numbered so you can easily pick up where you left off.

Take a step back and allow the children to steer the action. You'll be amazed at how they interpret the text, bring it to life, and, in the process, deepen their understanding of the novel.  And you'll be even more amazed as some of your shyest students come of their shells.

If this is their first drama circle, students sometimes start a little shy.  However, it is amazing to watch how quickly the students catch on and how popular the drama circles become with a little practice as the format for every drama circle is the same.  One teacher friend said, "My students loved these!! They would beg to do them. It was so wonderful to see kids come out of their shells to act out parts. My 5th graders could be a tough crowd at times but they ALL laughed and had fun together during these. Some of my favorite moments from the school year!"


Why show a movie at the end of your novel study when you can get your students out of their seats, improving their comprehension and presentation skills, and maybe even grab a drama mark or too (yes, a rubric is included) with a drama circle?  Trust me.  They'll like them.

Take a peek at my new (with more being added all the time) line of Drama Circle Novel Culminating Activities by clicking HERE or on some of the titles below:

5 Activities for October in the Upper Grade Classrooms

17 October 2021

Activities for October in Upper Grade Classrooms

I love everything about the Fall.  It's the perfect combination of weather, beauty, and all things cozy.  It's also one of my favourite months in the classroom.  We're starting to get our routines down pat, beginning of the year assessments are complete (or almost ... haha), and our classroom community vibes are pretty strong.  We can start to handle some more engaging and hands-on activities ... and in my opinion, there is no better month to do it.  

Falling into Poetry Writing and Figurative Language Activities
1.  Fall Poetry Books
- Falling into Poetry is easy with this resource that's perfect for the beginning of the year when the leaves start to change.  Students get an introduction to many different forms of poetry, as well as figurative language.  There are examples of each type of poetry and figurative language device, as well as space for students to complete their own examples.  Completed pages turn into a beautiful poetry mini book.  Each poetry form also has a leaf outline so students can copy their best poems onto the leaf and colour for display.  There is a branch included for each student to make their own little poet-tree, or individual leaves could be added to a bulletin board, kraft paper tree in the classroom, or REAL branches for a gorgeous autumn display.  

I have also integrated this into an art activity, where students paint a Fall background on a page, then choose 2 -4 completed poem leaves to glue down onto the background for a beautiful writing and art piece.  Click either picture to take a closer peek at this resource in my store.

2.  Clay Sculpted Leaf Art - Every year I look forward to decorating my classroom with gorgeous Fall Leaf Art.  For these beautiful Fall Leaf bowls, we used air dry clay.  I had students pick a real leaf from the school ground (a fallen leaf, of course) - one they felt they could trace.  Students were each given some air dry clay to flatten out to about 1/4 of an inch thickness (and just slightly larger than the leaf they chose).  Note - be sure to have them work with the clay on some type of paper, it's no mess that way.  Students then used a pencil to trace around their leaves on the wet clay, and then used a plastic butter knife to "cut out" their leaves and draw on the veining (copying their real leaf).  When done, we put them vein side down, over some crumpled up paper to sort of form the leaves into a slight bowl shape.  It takes about 3 - 4 days to fully dry.  Once dry, paint (we used acrylic paint) the leaves in gorgeous Fall colours.  Experiment a bit with this.  Using a toothbrush to splatter some of the paint on top makes very realistic spotting on the leaf - and practice mixing and blending with colours.  We sealed our leaves with a spray varnish when complete, but you don't need to do this step.

Fall Leaf Art Lesson

3.  More Leaf Art -
This Fall Leaf Art Lesson is perfect to study line, shape, form, and colour with the elements of design.  Students will trace 2 - 4 leaves on their page, then fill the rest of the page with concentric circles (if you're brave you can have students use a compass, or use the page I included with the circles already drawn).  Choose 3 or more warm colours for the leaves, and colour each section made (by the circles) in a pattern.  When the leaves are coloured, choose 3 or more cool colours for the background, again alternating colours in a pattern.  The leaves look like they're falling against a beautifully windy sky backdrop, or falling into a pool of water.

October Literacy 3D Activities

4.  ALL the Craftivities
- While I do love to sneak in my 3D craftivities at different points in the year, I have to admit, all the Fall ones top my list.  These activities make the perfect station activity, or independent work activity so you can meet with small groups or get some assessment done while students are hard at work.  Each one takes approximately one week.  I usually have students finish 2 questions (2 panels) from Monday - Wednesday.  On Thursday they colour all the panels, and then Friday is assembly day.  I have craftivity packages for both literacy and math.  The October Literacy 3D Craftivities Bundle has two different book report resources covering story elements and reading comprehension (the pumpkins and the ghost), as well as a fun one for synonyms and over-used words.  The Fall Math Review 3D Activity Bundle has a candy corn place value review, as well as a pumpkin pie shaped activity with word problems (about pumpkin pies, of course).  Click on either title or picture to the right to see these resources in my TpT store.

Fall Math Review 3D Activity Bundle

5.  Fall Drama Circle
- You can't have all that Fall beauty without a little drama. ;)  A drama circle, that is.  This is a new drama circle with a Fall theme - make a circle, hand out the cards, and have some fun.  If the weather is nice, this one is even better outside!  All drama circles now contain colour and black and white copies, and a observation rubric for assessment of drama skills.  Click HERE or on the picture below to take a peek.

Fall Drama Circle
Fall Activity Bundle for Upper Grade Classrooms

You can find all of these Fall-themed resources in one bundle that can take you through the month of October in your classroom.  You can out my Fall Activity Bundle HERE, or by clicking the picture on the right.

Candy Corn Decimals Printable
And lastly, if you made it all the way to the bottom, reward yourself with this little Candy Corn Decimals Place Value Printable.  Just click on the picture to the right to grab a copy for yourself.  Happy Fall, Y'All!