ELL Classroom Tour

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Why Redesign?

After listening to the Cult of Pedagogy podcast on classroom design and following some fantastic inspiration from teachers on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram I decided it was time to redo my room. I wanted it to be more student-centered, less all over the place and a more cohesive design. I decided to take up less room for teacher real estate and give my students more autonomy. I’ve implemented flexible seating and hope to move to a full workshop model with my ELL class. That means students will be working independently on reading, writing or vocabulary most of the time. I’ll do mini-lessons as a whole class, or in small groups as the main form of direct instruction.

“Where we are from” Bulletin Board.

I posted the above picture of my newest bulletin board on Instagram this weekend. I have since added a couple more kids’ “instagrams” and a title.

where we are from bulletin board

This is our “where we are from Instagram style” bulletin board. I asked each student to use the Instagram template and find a photo that represented something interesting from their home country. A lot of kids had pictures on their Instagram accounts that they downloaded to use for the assignment. Then they needed to write one to two sentences to describe the photo or something interesting about their country. Finally, I asked for relevant hashtags. Some kids got really into it. I printed the photos in color, laminated them and then used push pins and string to attach them to the correct countries/cities. The result is in the picture. I’m still debating whether the board needs a title or not.

The map is from Amazon. I decided to stick it to a piece of white butcher paper before affixing it to the board because I thought it would be easier to use/reuse it that way. (I was right, I had to move classrooms and it came with me, no problem. I’m now in year 4 with it.)

Charging Station:

This is the shoe organizer. I printed out the free posters to explain the charging station from In the Middle of Class on TpT. Next to the charging station is the entry table. I have a cup of pretty pencils – that way I know who is using my pencils and can demand that they return them at the end of class with a quick scan of the room. I also keep hand sanitizer, hand soap (in case the bathroom runs out) and tissues up there.

Entrance Table

In addition, this year I’ve added an old iPad that I have specifically for checking out classroom library books.  That’s its only function. I have a FREE account on booksource.com. I scanned all my books in, added in my students into the app. Now they can grab the iPad and scan the book’s barcode using the app and easily check it out to themselves. It’s easy peasy and eliminates me having to deal with a paper list. I can also check out books on my computer, as well as my phone if I need to. It’s easy to add books – just scan the barcodes when you get them and they get added to the library.

Teacher Area

This is still a work in progress. I hope to keep to this area, but not really spend much time here when the kids are in the room. The most pertinent parts are the printer, the computer and the teachers files in the organizer to the right. I purchased the printer myself because it makes my life so much easier and it prints in color.

I also use different expandable files in a file sorter, pictured on the right of my desk, to keep things organized. Since I am teaching multiple subjects (ESOL and Spanish) I really need a way to keep things separate.

The only cool thing here is that I covered the desk with contact paper. I also created a teacher bookshelf, after reading about it in 180 Days by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. I have a “Ms. K is currently reading…” poster as well. I switched to printing a picture of the cover of the book I’m currently reading instead of writing the title and I like it better. To the right of the desk is the teacher cart. I saw this all over Pinterest and it is genius. Grade, copy, and file – all in a moveable cart that is big enough to hold a lot of paper. Tons of paperwork not on my desk = amazing. Other people are so ingenious.

Crates – I’ve moved to putting papers to be returned into crate files. I’m pretty excited to escape from the horror of passing back papers taking a half hour every couple of days. So far I’ve had good success with this and it keeps me from having to have huge stacks of paper.

Reading Tracker

On the back wall to the left of the dry-erase calendar, I do my reading tracker. The idea is from Kelly Gallagher’s Reading Reasons. It is one of the best and most amazing resources for teaching older, reluctant readers the REASONS it is important to read. Gallagher emphasizes the need to create lifelong readers. He has kids track their reading in hours. I am doing the same. It’s simple. I bought trackers, some sticky stars and wrote the kids names down the lefthand-side. They get a sticker when they can prove they have read for one hour. They write down the amount of time they have read in a reading log (they can also track reading time done in class). I look at the log and ask them some questions about the book/reading before giving them the sticker. The reader with the most hours at the end of the semester/year gets a prize.

A note for ELLs – the overall level of the class greatly impacts how I decide to track their reading. Last year, I had a really low group and we would track in 15-minute intervals. It was too much for them at the start of the year to think about tracking their reading in English in hour increments. I also allow newcomer students to track reading done in their native language.

Calendar and Raffle Area

I switched from a more traditional classroom calendar to this large whiteboard calendar after getting feedback from students. They look at it a lot. I try to list anything pertinent to them in my class and school-wide. Below the calendar is the “raffle winner”. There are small buckets labeled with “raffle” and “raffle tickets”. I have a post about this. This is something I do with my interactive read aloud each day to incentivize paying attention. I draw one name at the end of the month. Kids who have gotten the daily read-aloud prediction questions correct get a raffle ticket. Prizes are any silly thing I can think of and put in the raffle box.

Classroom Library

I moved my bookshelves close together and decided to alphabetize by author. I still have an entirely separate shelf for graphic novels and a rotating book promo shelf (near the door) where I put books I’m featuring that month/week/unit. I’m hoping the new signs about how the books are organized by author will help with re-shelving and kids finding books. I feel like my classroom library is always a work in progress.

Above the library shelves, are blue baskets that I’m trying out again this year after having stopped using them several years ago. This definitely will not work if you have more than approximately 20 students. I’m lucky to have so few. I’m having kids keep a readers notebook, writers notebook, and a vocabulary notebook as well as the independent reading book so they need storage. I tried buckets for each notebook – it was a mess. I think crates would also work, but for the time being, we are using these baskets. I bought them years ago at the dollar store and they have not failed me. I have small ESOL class numbers (but growing quickly) so these baskets are manageable for me.

I also have my Chromebooks up here in a dish drainer. Another amazing Pinterest idea. Seriously, people are GENIUSES. I just got more Chromebooks so I need to get another dish rack. I also affixed power strips to the sides of the dish rack with zip ties. I found that kids were not re-shelving their Chromebooks appropriately so they have been assigned numbers. I posted the list above the Chromebooks and each Chromebook is labeled. Now I know exactly who didn’t put away their stuff properly!

Book Display Shelf

Right off the door I have three shelves designated as a rotating book display. This month we are doing memoirs so I have a shelf designated for that. I also recently purchased some new graphic novels and some new fiction so each has its own shelf and they are labeled with the genre. So far kids have been checking out these shelves the most out of the whole library and borrowing things from them as well. I also do book talks specifically about books on those shelves to highlight them. The book talks are something that Kelly Gallagher is big on. I know they definitely work and increase engagement, so I plan on doing more of them.

Weathered Wood Bulletin Board Paper Wall

I’m not allowed to paint the walls at my school. There is both removable wallpapers as well as contact paper that looks like this weathered wood on the market. I didn’t want to damage the walls with something sticky that I  potentially would not be able to remove. I decided to go with butcher paper. I price shopped A LOT. At the time of purchase oriental trading had the best price on rolls of this stuff. It was about $15 a roll. I taped that up using…Frog Tape. I don’t remember where I read about Frog Tape, but it is magical. Another teacher blogged about how it will adhere to the walls even in areas with a lot of temperature fluctuation and high-humidity. That sounded like life in my classroom. It is just souped-up painters tape. I HIGHLY recommend.

Birthday Board:

This was an easy display. I got the bunting for free from Pastel in Primary on TpT. I got the “Happy Birthday” for free from Mrs. Patricks Open Door. The first link for the display explains, but you just print and laminate and then you can hang the bunting to display birthdays. It’s funny that even kids in secondary always notice if you have birthdays displayed but don’t have theirs.

Great Work Bulletin Board

One other thing on this wall is the “Great Work” bulletin board with clipboards attached. It’s all over Pinterest so I don’t think I can credit anyone in particular. I didn’t have bulletin board letters that I liked so I downloaded these from Mrs. Dusek’s Dreamers, again free. It’s amazing how much great stuff is free on TpT! I created a bulletin board using black butcher paper, ordered from Oriental Trading, and the borders around it. The little bunting in the corner of this display is also from Oriental Trading. Most of my wall decor is from there. It was cheaper than other options and they had a good selection.

I had seen clipboards used for “Great Work” all around the teacher blogosphere so I thought I would do that. I didn’t want to look at the ugly clipboards though, so I went and purchased some scrapbooking paper from Walmart to cover them with. There were exactly 10 million clipboard DIY makeover tutorials and I got overwhelmed. I literally just Mod Podged the board and put the paper on the front and then folded it to the back and Mod Podged it again. The clipboards are just being held up by tacks.

Quote Board

I’ve always used a “quote of the week”. I saw somewhere a teacher used a chalkboard for this kind of display. I used one of my farmhouse editable classroom rules posters to create a matching “quote of the week” sign and used an old DIY chalkboard I had from my wedding.  Writing in chalk is somehow more satisfying than writing on a whiteboard.

Student Supply Table

In trying to make the room more student-centered I added this student supply table. On the table, they have access to bins of everything they need to do assignments: markers, colored pencils, scissors, whiteboards, whiteboard markers, rulers, glue (sticks and Elmers), highlighters, etc. There is also a small book display shelf here that I got many years ago when Border’s Books was going out of business. It was ugly so I painted it gray and then sprayed the display part with chalkboard paint. I can write little blurbs in chalk about the books displayed on it.


This where the main instruction is happening, but the wall around it was ugly, so I covered it with black butcher paper. The borders are actually made from party streamers affixed to the paper with hot glue and/or tape. I’m not loving them, but at the time I needed to get it done and could not find bulletin board borders locally that matched my theme. I had a TON of old frames lying around and so did my mom. I commandeered a bunch of them for my classroom. I wanted to have some sort of a quote display and went with mostly Harry Potter quotes – lots of Albus Dumbledore. I purchased all the quotes you see from Etsy. It was worth it because I can print them again if I want to make quotes from my house. I printed them at home on card stock and framed them. Some of them are all sparkly. I had some gold leaf left over from another project. I used Mod Podge to affix some of the gold leaf to the frames. Be advised, I did not follow the instruction for how to use the gold leaf. I literally just slapped it on there with some adhesive.

I divided my white board up using Washi tape which peels off easily. I have a label for the date, then the “Do Now” (which is almost always silent reading in my room as per advice from Donalyn Miller in the Book Whisperer), then the learning targets/objectives and finally, the agenda for the day.

Missed Work

I’ve always had a missed work folder. I just stick whatever we did that day in the folder and the next day the kids can grab it. However, now it has a meme above it that I’m completely obsessed with.  I died laughing the first time I saw it. This is ESOL-kid-life, all day, every day. I wish I knew the original attribution. I know you can make your own memes at Somee cards.

absent student meme

Memes and Rules

So there were packs of memes on TpT for rules and decor etc. I didn’t purchase any to create this little wall. I feel bad because I can’t remember which seller was the one who I got the idea from, but I know that Tarcee Orman has a great meme activity bundle I’ve used in the past.

Labels are all from TpT seller Cursive and Crayons because they went with my design. I bought a couple of her label packs, including “editable farmhouse floral rules” and “editable farmhouse floral supply labels.

Flexible Seating

I gathered a bunch of different kinds of chairs from the school and my house. I ended up with three different office chairs. You can see that two of them are covered. I had extra fabric around the house. My mom is a sewing expert and she made covers for them. They have a string in the cover so you can remove and use them for any size chair. The bench near the library was an old ottoman from my sister. It was all cracked and broken, so I covered the top with old fabric and used an electric staple gun to tack the fabric on. The pillows are ones that I had previously made, or were from my house and was no longer using. The two pink loungers were a STEAL on facebook marketplace. I just scoured the marketplace all summer until they came up. $20 for the both of them. The round, bucket chair was from my college dorm and was still kicking around in my parents’ attic.

Misc Decor Items

I ordered the rest of the decor stuff from Oriental Trading. That includes the hanging pompoms, the colored fans on the walls and the burlap pennant. I also covered both the teacher desk and the student supply table with marble colored contact paper I got that from Amazon. It supposedly peels right off, we shall see. I had seen someone redo their desk this way on Pinterest.

The curtains were about $14 for a two pack of panels from Walmart. That was WELL worth it – curtains change the whole room.

To hang the curtains…I used a Pinterest hack (shocking, I know). I purchased the cheapest rods I could from Walmart, and then used the sticky hooks that could hold up to 5 pounds to hold the rods. I also put Frog Tape under the hooks so that hopefully I can get them off without damaging the paint too much.

The Door

The door has the “Who’s out?” sign hanging out it. I got it from another teacher at my school who got it from Pinterest, so again, I’m failing at giving the original attribution. Anyway, the kids aren’t allowed to take their phones in the hallway anymore, so that’s next to the sign. I hung a magnetic whiteboard that I got from Walmart on the door. Kids should write their name, the time and the destination before leaving the room. The marker is magnetic and has an eraser attached to it. Can’t get better than that!

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed the tour!


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