How to use DonorsChoose.org

One of my favorite discoveries as a teacher is DonorsChoose.org. It’s a free site to teachers in order to raise donations for supplies or materials you need for your classroom. There is even the option for you to raise funds to attend professional development conferences if you choose.

I have successfully had two projects funded over the past year. The first one I asked for about $400 worth of new books. I received those donations very quickly. New books were important to me being a new teacher building her classroom library up.

My second project that was just completed and we just received our materials this past Friday was for six hokki stools to add to my flexible seating classroom. That project totaled over $800.

So how easy is DonorsChoose to use? That’s what I’m always asked.

The answer is VERY EASY! You simply sign up for free. Add your teaching information, a photo, a photo of your classroom. You will need parents to sign photo permission slips if they are in any photos for your page or for the thank you package upon a completed project. Your page will look like the photo below. This is a screenshot of my last project.

The essay can be intimidating at first to type for each project. However, just be honest. DonorsChoose is also good about guiding you step by step on writing your essay and what to include. It’s broken up into sections to make it simpler for you.  As teachers we know why we need these materials and how we are going to use them. So pour your heart out. Tell them about your students, what you need, why you need it, how important it is, and how it will benefit your classroom. Let your donors know why this project means so much to you. If you are invested in it, nobody will invest in it.

Watch out for matching offers too. I believe any project under $400 is eligible for a matching offer that your donors can use to have DonorsChoose donate the same amount they do. There are also several promotional offers through certain companies you will be notified of if your project meets their requirements.

Another thing I always do…I am the firs to donate to my project. Even if it’s $20 or $25. I make sure I donate. Some people may say that defeats the purpose, but I want my donors to know that the project means something to me.

Once you’ve typed your essay and find your materials you need, you submit your project. DonorsChoose will review it and let you know if it’s approved or if you need to fix anything first. Which is no big deal. It’s happened to me before.

Once your project is live….SHARE, SHARE, SHARE! I post it on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even e-mail it to people. I ask others to share it. Get the word out as much and as often as you can. That’s the quickest way to get donations. Let everyone know how much it means to you. Share each time someone donates and thank your donors on your page.

Once your project is funded you will receive an e-mail with instructions as to what to do next. You have to approve your materials again and then they’ll be shipped to you! You will type a thank you letter to your donors that will also be posted on  your project’s page.

A thank you package is required for every project. Once you receive your materials you have a certain date to complete this by. The packages always includes an impact letter as to how the materials have impacted your classroom and how you’re using them. You also need to upload six photos of the materials in action (make sure if you have student faces to have permission slips signed). Some thank you packages require your students to make thank you letters to mail to your donors. This is not hard either if you are required to do so. They give you the names of the donors that chose to receive them, you put them in one large envelope and mail them to DonorsChoose. They do the rest to get them to your donors.

It honestly is a simple process that a lot of teachers avoid thinking it is more work than worth it. DonorsChoose is definitely worth using and using often if needed. It’s one of the most valuable resources to teachers because it allows you to give other people an opportunity to help your classroom. I know how much us teachers spend out of pocket on our classroom each year…it’s a ridiculous amount! So take the opportunity to allow others to help you when needed.

Below is a few photos from our hokki stool project the day we received our materials.

As you can see…so much joy! My heart is overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness. Your students deserve the materials they need, and believe me there are other people out there willing to donate who believe the same thing. So take a chance, make a project, and get it funded!

-Miss Layfield

Flexible seating

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If you walk into my classroom at any given time during the day, you’re going to see a classroom unlike traditional classrooms. You will see kids sitting on exercise balls bouncing, sitting on crate seats, leaning on pillows on the carpet, sitting in scoop chairs, laying on mats, and even sitting on stools.

The only desk I have is a pink one seen in the above photo and it isn’t really a desk like you would find in traditional classrooms. Flexible seating has taken over my classroom.

If you’ve read my blog for any given time, you know I’ve been teaching since this past January. The other second grade teacher at my school and I started incorporating flexible seating back in March. It was successful, but our rules/expectations weren’t like they are this year because we were new to it as well.

We wondered how our year would go starting with flexible seating and how the kids would react. You don’t know how excited they were back at Meet the Teacher night. They continue to be excited every day about their seating options.

Our classroom rotates through centers the majority of the day allowing each group to sit at every option every day. This eliminates any sort of arguments like, “I want to sit there!” Everyone has the opportunity to sit every where.

“Where do they store their stuff?” This is another question I get. We have community supplies with bins around the room containing crayons, glue sticks, pencils, scissors, etc. to eliminate kids having to get up and retrieve items. Library books are stored in bins. The kids have binders that are stored in a crate unit when they enter the classroom. They take these to their other class when we switch. We have had no problem with supplies at all this year so far.

Another pro of flexible seating is the fact that my classroom is less cluttered. I couldn’t stand the amount of papers, etc. that would be kept in student desks. They just looked messy after awhile. They took up a ton of space too.

Flexible seating allows students to utilize their individual learning styles. Before with desks, there is always the unconscious mindset that the kid has to be seated at all times. If they stood up, there was something wrong. With flexible seating, if a kid prefers to stand, he can at the tall table. If a kid wants to lay down and use a clip board, GO FOR IT! It never bothers me to look up and see a kid just chilling on the floor and working away.

I know I can’t stand when I have to sit still for too long. Classwork I did for college online classes was done on my couch. I never sat at a desk, so why should we ask kids to do that ALL day long? I know for certain I feel much more tired at the end of a day where I sit all day than one I am up moving the whole time. I’m sure it’s the same for kids.

The combination of doing stations and having kids rotate with flexible seating to me is a winning combo. You’re giving them movement and comfort all day long.

The only cons that I have had with flexible seating is the initial stages of teaching rules/expectations of how to use the flexible seating. I even added where I can take a dojo point on ClassDojo if a child continues to misuse flexible seating. This has helped tremendously. I make it a point to give positive immediate reinforcement to kids who are using the seating correctly so that other kids notice and do the same. I also immediately ward off any misuse. Modeling at the beginning of the year helps as well. It takes time to make sure everyone understands the expectations on how to use flexible seating, but you also have to remember that these are kids and they will make mistakes. The pros of flexible seating outweigh the cons all day in my book.

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I can say for sure that the kids act a lot more motivated and excited to be at school. They’ve told me they feel lucky to have the seating options that we have provided for them.

In my heart I feel like flexible seating is best for kids and that’s why I’m such a big fan of it.

-Miss Layfield

Kids Deserve It

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Tomorrow is the beginning of the new school year! The above photo captures my personal motto for this year. KIDS DESERVE IT!

Deserve what, you ask?!

Kids deserve:

-The very best from me (their teacher).
-To feel safe at school.
-The basic necessities (food, water, etc.)
-To be in an environment with a positive and happy classroom culture.
-Flexible seating that allows them to be comfortable while learning.
-Lessons that are both engaging and top notch for them to learn from.
-To feel important.
-To have a voice in their learning.
-To be in a student-centered environment.
-To be encouraged to grow no matter what level they’re at.
-To feel loved.
-To know that their teacher cares for not just their learning, but them as a whole person.
-Someone who always looks for the best in them.
-Someone who is also tough on them when needed.

This list could go on and on and on and on and on. You get the picture. Kids deserve our best. They don’t always come to us at school from the best environment or the best home life. We spend eight hours a day with these kids and they deserve something really great in their life that they look forward to.

My goal is for my students to wake up each day and say, “I can’t wait to go to Miss Layfield’s class!” Not, “Why do I have to go to school today.”

I am also the tennis coach as I’ve said previously. My motto extends to those kids as well.

My tennis players deserve the best from me as a coach. I look at them like they can succeed in this sport. If they aren’t learning something, I’m not a very good coach. They deserve to have a coach invested in them and who cares about them. They deserve someone who knows the game they want to play and who loves it enough to be just as motivated as they are for this year.

So no matter what kids I interact with throughout the school year, they deserve IT! Hopefully I’ll be something positive in their lives.

 

-Miss Layfield

Classroom Reveal

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My classroom is officially DONE being set up for the new school year. While I am savoring every last bit of summer I have left, I am excited for the new year to begin. This will be my first full year teaching (seeing as I started back in January, I’m still a newbie). I cannot wait for all that lies ahead.

I wanted to use this post to share a few photos of things around my classroom. I am sure that if you follow me on Instagram (talesofanaccidentalteacher) you have probably seen most of these photos before, but I’ll try to add a little more commentary here.

In the photo above, you can see that I am as I have said before, taking on flexible seating. I believe it empowers our children in the classroom. It allows kids to utilize their unique learning styles, be more comfortable and increase their motivation for learning. It can also improve behavior and the atmosphere of your classroom which is a big plus.

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My cousin wrote my name on my pencil sign I picked up at the Target Dollar Spot. I think it’s one of the cutest things and this was the perfect place for it. I love the inspirational signs I have underneath too (they’re from Glitter and Glue 4 K-2’s Teachers Pay Teachers store).

I hung my spelling words pocket chart over here as well. I wanted my spelling words near my Word Wall so all my word work items could be together.

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The above photo is a closer look at my Word Wall. As you can see I already have some words on there. I know most people start the year with no words. I did this because these words as Saxon Phonics words that my kids will be introduced to throughout the year. I truly believe if they start the year using these words, they will learn them much better and they will already be familiar with them improving their performance using and recognition of the words.

I also have index cards that I will write high frequency words, commonly misspelled words and words that students as for help spelling throughout the year. It will be an ever growing Word Wall.

My Word Wall is also mobile. I believe in empowering our students to take control of their learning. Have a static Word Wall to me doesn’t allow that. If it’s something they can go grab with their own hands, work with the words, know when they need help and seek the words they need, they are learning much more. At least that’s my philosophy I suppose.

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I will most likely be doing more like a Daily 4 because of time constraints, but I am utilizing the Daily 5 mindset/centers during my Guided Reading time every day. This board allows me/students to know where everyone should be during that time.

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Being a book lover and someone who loves learning about people, I wanted my kids to have an Author Study section of our classroom. I took a bin I will have books in each week by a specific author. The area will also include posters and other materials for them to learn about that author.

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I love my trunk in my classroom. I’m using it for seating and storage. Inside I have my Rooted in Reading units and Guided Reading units for the whole year.

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Since I am using Rooted in Reading, I took one of my bulletin boards and turned it into a RIR focus board. I have our focus book, vocabulary, posters and anything extra related to our story for that week here.

My classroom library is also now completely labeled.

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This is just a photo from my teacher space in my classroom. I love quote signs. I also added a tennis ball coin bank because I will also be coaching tennis this year. YAY!

Below are just a few more photos…enjoy!

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The above are Saxon Phonics crates that I just added Duck Tape to in order to make them cuter.

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I wanted to end with this photo because my brother said this was his favorite area in my classroom. I love how colorful it is!

I have had so many people tell me that they’d love to be in my classroom and they love what I’ve done with my room. That makes my heart so happy and to me these kids deserve the best. It is well worth all the hard work.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing photos from my classroom!

-Miss Layfield

How to: Crate Seats

The first time I saw someone post about crate seats, I knew I needed them in my classroom. After switching over to flexible seating, I’m always on the lookout for any new seating options. I especially love if something can double as storage.

I recruited my mom as I always do for most of the DIY projects I take on for my classroom. So give her a round of applause for helping with these!

Let’s start with what you need to make your own crate seats:
-Crates
-Fabric (I bought two yards for four crates)
-Ribbon
-Scissors
-Stapler (the heavy duty kind, not what you have in your classroom!)
-Plywood (sizing will vary depending on what crates you are using)
-Cushioning of whatever kind you choose (I used an old memory foam bed topper)

Step 1: Measure and cut your plywood to fit the inside of the crate you are using. We literally DIY’d this with plywood and other wood we had from other projects. However, you can take your crate to somewhere like Home Depot and they will measure and cut the plywood for you.
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As you can see it fits perfectly inside the crate!

Step 2: Cut your cushioning to fit the tops of the wood.

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*Tip: We used spray adhesive on top of the wood before adding the foam to help it stay put better.

Step 3: Cut your fabric to fit allowing for some overlay to staple the bottom. There’s no need to cover the entire wood top and bottom since nobody will see the bottom.

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Step 4: Cover seats with the fabric and staple bottom securely. Cut and fold corners if needed.

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Step 5:  Add ribbon. I do not have a photo of stapling the ribbon. All you need to do it make your ribbon into a loop however long you want it. Staple it to the bottom of the seat where it will stick out of the crate. This allows you to easily remove the seat top from the crate at any time. You can clearly see the ribbon in the photo below.

Step 6: Admire your adorable new crate seats!

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I think these seats are some of the cutest things EVER! Seriously. I also personally tested each seat to make sure kids will not fall through them and that they are secure.

Below are what they look like in my flexible seating classroom.

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-Miss Layfield