Friday, June 8, 2018

My Car Speaks

I know I was meant for greater things than this. I mean I was born on an assembly line in Detroit, or maybe it was Korea, or Japan, or…but I digress. I rolled off the assembly line looking sharp and fine—a beautiful lime green 1972 Dodge Dart.

I thought I’d be leading the pole at the Indie 500, or escorting beautiful young ladies and their dates to Senior Proms, or at least driving a semi-normal person somewhere.

Instead what I got was a whole family full of insane teenagers, mostly boys, who took turns driving me into the dirt. If it wasn’t one thing—backing into the high school Poli-Sci teacher in the school parking lot—it was another thing—leaving me unlocked in front of the high school with the key inside so that anyone from anywhere could just hop in and take me for a ride.

The crowning insult was when my speedometer, gas meter, and pretty much else stopped working. Instead of giving me my well deserved rest, they just kept driving me. Everywhere. And, most embarrassing, if I ran out of gas, they just left me on the side of the road. It happened often enough that people began to laugh about the Decker Green Machine, out of gas again.

I finally gained revenge. One day as I was driving down to Show Low for the big football game, my driver made the mistake of attempting to go over 40 miles per hour in me. In protest, I broke my fan belt and propelled my fan blade 20 feet in the air, right out of the green hood, leaving a lovely little hood scoop where a fan had once been. It was a noisy protest, but it finally got results.

They never drove me again.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


by Denée Tyler

My mother passed on many traits to her children. Some of us have her jaw, strong and square; some of us have her skin, pale and freckled; and some of us have her hair, dark and curly. Other siblings have inherited her aversion to messiness and her anxiety about heights. I have had the misfortune of inheriting one of her less desirable attributes – her telephoning phobia. To speak plainly, making a simple phone call is more terrifying than donning a string bikini and swimming through a raging river filled with piranhas and crocodiles while being shot at with deadly blow darts.

Phone neurosis continues to be a hardship throughout my adult life. I put off calling until the last possible moment, and sometimes I even resort to (Gasp!) little white lies to cover up my weakness. I refer to a recent calling incident. My school has one of those really cool antique popcorn-popping machines. As teachers, we are allowed to use it for family and neighborhood functions IF WE ASK. A few months ago I made the monumental mistake of bringing the popcorn machine to a neighborhood movie night. Everyone was intrigued and envious:

“Where did you get that? Do you think we could use it for our next (den meeting, family reunion, formal dinner party)?”

Here is where I really messed up because, in the pressure of the moment, I said, “YES.”

Now people occasionally call and say, “Do you think we could borrow the popcorn machine next week?”

The problem is that this necessitates a phone call to my school to ask if the popcorn machine is available. Notice that I say phone call. Email does not work for this particular task. So, I add the phone call to my list of things to do: sort my spices, dig up the backyard, translate The Iliad. These are all obviously top priorities and need to get done before the phone call. Day after day important things come up, and the phone call gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Suddenly it is the day of the event, and I realize I still haven’t called to ask about the popcorn popper. What am I going to tell the neighbors?

I resort to those aforementioned little white lies.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I’ve been down with hand, foot, and mouth disease and haven’t been able to talk for a week, so I couldn’t call and reserve it.” (Unfortunately, I can only use this excuse once, so I save it for a real emergency.)

“I’ve been meaning to tell you that UDOT dug up the whole street outside my school; the phone lines have been down all week, and I couldn’t call and reserve it.” (This excuse is usually good at least once or twice a year.)

Or, my personal favorite, “I called and left a message, but Mrs. Fitzgerald never got back to me.”

I really do feel guilty about shifting the blame for my personal inadequacies onto poor Mrs. Fitzgerald, but I don’t feel guilty enough to actually make the call.

They say that karma never fails to get you in the end, and that’s what’s happening to me now. My 23-year-old daughter Alison inherited my love of literature, my dislike of cats, and my phobias about telephoning. The other day she actually paid my teenage daughter Megan ten dollars to pretend she was Alison and call BYU to ask some questions about an upcoming senior seminar. If you ask me, I think Alison got off pretty cheap.

I wonder how much I would need to pay Megan to act as my personal secretary for the rest of my life . . .

The phobia is oh so real. The rest of the details may or may not be true – you decide.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Anthology Work

I've been busily working on my reading endorsement. Here is the piece I submitted for the student anthology for my writing class:

By Denée Tyler

This is just to say
I'm sorry I unfriended you on Facebook.
I know it's never nice to get that notification.
Forgive me, but I just couldn't tolerate your posts about 
divine intervention, 
manifest destiny,
and Trump.

I am from the stenographer, the sailor, the teacher, the rancher, the leader of the band, the child bride, and the short order cook.
I am from lemons seasoned with salt, sweet corn slathered with butter, and old fashioned popcorn oil-popped in a pan, all served with a side of stories, Rook games, folk songs, and harmonica.
I am from wind that never ceases and red dust that seems everywhere at once, the stench of pig on one side and the miasma of wood pulp on the other, all smelling of money.
I am from the west coast and the east coast and even the Gulf of Mexico, relocating again and again and leaving behind friends, memories, and a newborn infant in a lonely grave.
I am from terrible secrets kept and revealed, changing paths and changing lives, but never changing my love and hope.

I am a phoenix.
Changing my life mid cycle,
Taking on a new world view,
Opening my mind to new perspectives and people,
Shedding old beliefs and dogmas,
Rising from the ashes of my former life,
A different but glorious being.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Can an Eighth Grader Make an Impact?

I see my students constantly composing: texts, notes to each other in class, silly sentences for grammar practice, lists of all varieties. I overhear the amusing and detailed things they tell each other, and I'm excited by their proficiency with words. But when they are asked to write for school, the work they turn in is generally less than stellar. There is a marked difference between their witty repartee in speaking and the dry delivery of their writing. Why is assigned student writing so often insipid, disinterested, and uninspired? In an article in the English Journal titled "Real-World Writing: Making Purpose and Audience Matter," Grant Wiggins says:
The point of writing is to have something to say and to make a difference in saying it. Rarely, however, is impact [emphasis added] the focus in writing instruction in English class. Rather, typical rubrics stress organization and mechanics; typical prompts are academic exercises of no genuine consequence; instruction typically makes the “process” formulaic rather than purposeful.
Thinking about some of the writing assignments I’ve given in the past, I recognize that my students felt that their writing didn’t exist outside of my classroom. They couldn’t understand any impact or genuine consequences that their writing might have. Could this dearth of imagination be the spark that student writing is missing? What could I do to ensure that impact – genuine consequence – exists in my classroom, writing workshops, and assessments?

Naming Audience

In an ideal world, every student piece would be published in a magazine or sent as a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. In the school world, this isn't always practical. It is still possible, however, to teach students to consider an audience as an integral part of every piece of writing. Students can’t really impact anyone with their writing if they don’t even know what audience they are writing for.

In her article "A Cure for Writer's Block: Writing for Real Audiences" from NWP's The Quarterly, Anne Rodier relates how she encourages her students to think about who might be the audience for the kind of writing they are doing. Who would care about what they have to say? As an example, in the classroom, students might write their memoir to share with a family member or a best friend. An argument might be directed to a parent or an organization. In the beginning, students often need help figuring out whom they could be writing to, but once they have someone or a group in mind, it often automatically determines the genre, form, and tone of what they are trying to write.

One additional thing that Rodier emphasizes is that even with genuine audiences, writers are still "employing craft," or in other words, writers are performing, or acting through writing, using a specifically chosen and crafted voice or persona to "tell the right story to the right person in the right way." When students are consciously considering how to reach not just any audience, but a specific audience, they are going to be more motivated to fine-tune their writing.

Informative pieces especially benefit from audience consideration. A student of mine who was writing an piece on violins remarked, “I am writing this for my cousin. She knows all about how to play a violin, but she doesn’t know how a violin is made. So, I am focusing on that.” It was interesting to see how naming an audience directed her research and her focus and made the paper come to life. She looked for something that her reader didn’t already know, a way to impact the reader, and because she did, she wrote a better paper.

Giving Choices

In my adult world, I generally choose what I want to write about. I’m often motivated to write about things I want to remember or change. When I compose a letter to my senator, it is because I have an issue to discuss that I feel strongly about. When I write in my journal, it is because I've had an experience that has touched or profoundly affected me in some way. I have a very defined purpose, so I feel (hope) that my writing will make an impact on the reader.

Students aren't always so lucky. Few of them would choose to write an argument or essay on their own. However, we can give back the power of impactful writing when we give them choice about what to write about. On, Ruth Arseneault says that:

So, how do we give students choice? I think it has to go beyond a list of topics they can choose from. Students need to realize that they have choices when it comes to the way they write things as well. I have found that mentor text studies are very helpful for showing students that they can branch out beyond the five-paragraph essay and still write a powerful paper. Writers such as Rick Reilly, Leonard Pitts, and even athletes from The Players Tribune show my students that arguments don't have to follow a set structure. The claim can come at the end, or they can begin their arguments with a personal story -- and it can still work.

When we wrote memoirs earlier this year, we studied three strong mentor texts, "Chalk Face" by A. J. Jacobs, "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan, and "My Grandmother's Hair" by Cynthia Rylant. Each one described a single core memory (thanks, Disney!), but each had a very different style and approach.

After the students submitted their own work, I asked them about the choices they made. One student said, “I didn’t realize that a memoir could be about an object. I chose to write about my blanket that I’ve had since I was a baby. Writing about it was actually fun, because it brought back so many memories. I chose to organize it [chronologically], but I could have done it by place, too.”

Another student said, “I hadn’t thought about how short a core memory could be. I thought I had to choose something really amazing or life changing. Reading "Chalk Face" helped me see that I could choose something kind of everyday and quick to write about that was just important to me. So, I chose to write about when my brother and I slid down our stairs on a big piece of cardboard. The whole story took about five minutes, but it’s something I will never forget.” These student reflections demonstrate that the choice of how to write was just as vital as the choice of what to write when it came to engagement.

Performing Writing

In the past year, I read an essay in front of a packed crowd, presented at UCTE, gave talks, taught lessons, and led discussions. All of these involved writing that eventually had a live audience of real people. When we make time for students to present their writing, we allow them to experience the genuine consequences of writing. Some of the many things I've tried in my classes are writing circles, debates, Socratic seminars, poetry slams, occasional papers, pecha kuchas, and even just the everyday sharing of quick writes with the rest of the class. Students had to present writing in some fashion in each of these -- from formal to informal -- and that expectation made all the difference.

An example of this  happened last year when our grade level team worked together to have our students write job descriptions, resumes and applications for jobs as Santa’s elves. Some students were employers and others were the prospective employees. Tension and stakes were high for both parties, and students were highly motivated to write a great resume or detailed and concise job description because 1) other students were going to hear them read it and evaluate it (and them), and 2) they wanted the best elf job/worker (everyone wanted to make candy canes, no one wanted to clean up after the reindeer).

Part of this exercise included a job interview. Both interviewers and interviewees had an authentic experience as they wrestled with what questions to ask and what answers to give. Although no one was really getting a job at the North Pole, having a continual audience for everything they did made the assignment matter to the students. One student said, “This was one of my favorite things from last year. I worked hard on it because I knew that people in my class were going to see what I did. I don’t care as much when it’s just for the teacher. I guess I should, but I don’t.”

I also had my students debate each other as part of our argument unit. Watch below to see what two students had to say about the experience. Obviously, the opportunity to hear others and be heard themselves made them feel like they were making an impact with what they had to say.

Reaching Conclusions

In "Real Voices for Real Audiences" from The Quarterly, Joan Kernan Cone writes that student writers will always "play it safe" -- writing as little as possible, with as little voice as possible, and "writing not for an interested reader but for a mistake finder" until they have a reason not to.

I’ve found that giving students choice, finding an audience, and offering performance opportunities allows student writing to have impact – the impetus that students need to open their writing hearts and minds to us. If we don’t want to keep reading student writing that we know isn’t the best that our students can do, it is our imperative to help students find the impact their voices, thoughts, and stories could have on the world.

Authentic and Audience Friendly Writing Assessment Resources
Great examples of authentic, performance based writing assessments from nine different teachers from kindergarten to AP literature
An exhaustive list of writing activities, mini-lessons, and assessments that promote authentic, audience-based classroom experiences

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Double Steal

My friend Joe at Joe Average Writer stole this from Laura Robb. I'm stealing it from him.

Ten Ways Students Can Expand Their Vocabularies

1.      Become a nonstop reader: Read e-books, print books, blogs, and online articles. The more you read, the greater your background knowledge and the more your vocabulary will grow. Through reading, you’ll meet words in diverse contexts and come to know their multiple meanings.

2.      Use new words or lose them: Include words in your conversations, text messages, IMs, and writing. Without use, new words you’ve learned just fade away into the land of forgetting.

3.      Develop curiosity about multiple meanings: When you meet a new word in one situation, take a few moments to consider its multiple meanings. Use an online dictionary or thesaurus to explore multiple meanings. Text a friend to see what he or she knows about the word.

4.      Bond with a dictionary: If you come across an unfamiliar word, jot it on scrap paper, and when you have a free moment, read about it on an online dictionary.

5.      Play vocabulary games: It’s easy to find word games online through Google. Play games with friends, siblings, parents, and on your own. While you’re having fun, you’ll learn new words and revisit old friends.

6.      Broaden your interests: Try to branch out and read beyond your interests and hobbies. Read online newspapers, take a virtual tour of a museum, castle, or city. Listen to music you love; then listen to other kinds of music. When you learn about a range of topics, you can enlarge your vocabulary.

7.      Ask questions: If someone uses a word or expression you don’t understand, ask that person to tell you about it.

8.      Talk: Talk to friends and family; use a video chat program such as iChat to talk online; have conversations with yourself. Make talk an important part of your day, and you’ll meet and learn new words that you will use as you communicate with others.

9.      Listen: Listen during a conversation, lesson, speech, sermon, newscast, play, movie, video; listen to the words others use to convey meaning and communicate ideas. Mull over ideas and words you’ve heard—new words, familiar words—and discover what listening has helped you learn.

10. Visualize words: You can picture, see on the screen of your mind, what you understand. Once you can use meaning and situations to picture new words, you’ll be able to use them when thinking, speaking, reading, and writing.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Growing the Growth Mindset

A colleague posted this on a site I frequent. I think it's a great idea to introduce the idea of "productive struggle" in class.

I think I'll use this with my students during the first week of school, after we do our getting to know you activities.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Starting Afresh

Last year was CRAZY busy for me, what with teaching full time for the first time. This summer has been a much needed break to retrieve sanity.

I have two things that I'm currently looking into:


The first site is a treasure trove of ELA ideas, and the second site is one that purports to help teachers keep their work to a 40 hour week. We shall see!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Edutopia Poetry Post

This edutopia link on poetry has some real gems that I was previously unaware of. I can't wait to try some of these with my students:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More Blast From the Past

When I taught at UCAS I used to do writing circles where we picked a topic and then wrote on it. I picked a different group to work with each time. When I was finally down to organizing the last of my filing, I found several of these pieces that I apparently never saved in a digital form -- here is one of them.

Gifting from the Comfort of Your Home

There are two things in life that I truly hate: calling people on the phone and shopping in the mall at Christmas time. Some people find it exhilarating and exciting to shop at malls when they are wall-to-wall people--I am not one them. I don't like being jostled, I don't like noise, and I most definitely don't like waiting in lines.

Because of this, I have become a dedicated internet shopper. There is something intrinsically exciting about getting packages in the mail. Someone has to do something to keep the postal service in business, right? 

Of course there are a few downsides to internet shopping--the shipping can be expensive, the clothes occasionally don't fit, and you have to do something with all those boxes. Speaking of boxes, I like to break mine down and get them into the recycle bin before anyone notices that I just got another eleven boxes in the mail. Heck, internet shopping is the reason I HAVE a recycle bin.

However, once you have destroyed the evidence, you are still faced with the dilemma of where to store the contents of said eleven boxes. If you follow my concept of complete anti-surprise, you will just leave the contents out on the counter, and the recipients have to pretend to be surprised when the items show up in their birthday/Christmas package a week later.

The real problem surfaces when the items you just ordered from the internet don't fit, or even worse but occasionally true, are rejected out of hand by the giftees. You are then faced with two choices: stand in a long line at the post office to mail them back, usually on your dime, or take them back to the mall/store where you will have to deal with crowds, lines, and noise.

Really, when it comes to shopping for gifts, it's a lose-lose world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ekphrastic Human Rights Poetry

According to Google, an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

We just started a unit on Chris Crowe's nonfiction book, Getting Away With Murder. I passed around iconic visuals from the 1950s and 60s pertaining to civil rights and had the students create ekphrastic poetry about them. The students had some really good ones. Here are two I created for them -- not my best work as it was on the fly -- but okay.

They look like anyone's child --
clean cut, well dressed.

But the smiles on their faces
belie the words on their signs
and the hateful look in their eyes.

Strike. Won't. Don't.


Hate is even worse when it
masquerades as morality and
moonlights as tradition.

I knew music and color went together –

soulful blues, breezy greens, melodic mauves,
red hot notes and moody purples
mixing and mingling in harmony.

Now they tell me music only comes in
black or white –

but I still hear

the rainbow.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blue Haired Lady

With today being a new term, I had the students scribble on the question: What does my ____________ reveal about me? This is what I wrote.
One thing that people often notice about me is my hair. I’ve had a blue streak in my hair for about three years. All I’m going to say about it is this: My hair is more of a decoy than a clue to my personality. Most of my students this year assumed that I was a different person than I really am just because of the blue streak – for example, they assumed I wasn’t a member of the dominant religion. Having blue hair makes you seem like a rebel – but at the end of the day, I’m pretty laid back. I would definitely NOT call myself a conservative though – I’m pretty liberal these days – liberal in my love for my fellowman, to quote my husband’s mother. As for my hairstyle, it’s more a function of ease of care than anything else. For the past 15 or so years, I’ve had my hair pretty short – as a matter of fact, for the past few years it’s continued to get shorter and shorter all the time. This is entirely a matter of ease of care rather than fashion. My hair is fine and curly, and it tends to look better if it’s short – when it is long it just starts to go crazy. Literally.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Candy and Me

This is some writing I did at at Kimberly Hill Campbell's CUWP Saturday Workshop. It was based on two chapters we read from this sweet book.

Never for me the siren call of chocolate or licorice or gumdrops. Sweetness is not my friend. Give me sour, really sour, and please make it lasting. I despise candies that tease you with a sour burst before betraying it with a middle of unsatisfying bland sweetness. I prefer a sourness that lasts all the way through.

As a child, I satisfied this lust with Jolly Roger sticks, purchased for ten cents at the movie theater. One stick carefully peeled would last for an entire movie. As you licked and licked, the stick would slowly bend until you had a lovely curl just before it became so thin you could see through it and then it broke off in your mouth, giving you a quick burst of overwhelming sourness.

As I grew, I skipped the candy altogether and went right to the mother ship. I began eating lemons, not with sugar but with a little salt on them. Oh those were heavenly days, tucked up in a corner of our ranch house, curled up with a good book and lemons with salt. I still have some of my favorite books from my childhood, and all of them have yellow stains on the pages from errant drips of lemony-salty goodness.

As an adult, I am facing some of the ravages of a sugar coated and lemon juice filled childhood. I have had more than my share of large cavities, root canals, and caps on my teeth. Sometimes I even have nightmares that all my teeth are falling out. I've had to give up all candy binges, and my teeth are far too sensitive to indulge in lemons. Luckily I'll always have the honeyed memories of a sweet childhood full of blissful sourness.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mixing it up with Romeo and Juliet.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on my Narrative Unit, Term 1

I focused this unit on memoir. I posted these thoughts about it:

"Memoir is a window into life."                                                                   William Zinsser

"In writing memoir we select moments that reveal our own experiences of our lives."
Lucy McCormick Calkins

"Memoir is how writers look at the past and make sense of it."                      Nancie Atwell

"Memoir recognizes and explores moments on the way to growing up and becoming oneself, the good moments and the bad ones."                                             Nancie Atwell

To brainstorm I had the student make list of "Aha" moments in their lives. 
Some of them struggled with this, so I had a little helper list for them: 

  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • What is the most important thing that has ever happened to you?
  • What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
  • What is something you will never forget?
  • What is the moment where you were 100% happy?
  • What was a time when you felt brokenhearted?
  • What memory shows something important about your family or your friends?
  • What was a time when you’ve laughed harder than you’ve ever laughed before?
  • Who was the biggest influence (positive or negative) on your life?
  • What have you done that you never thought you would do?
  • What was the greatest challenge of your life so far?
  • What do you wish you had done differently in your life?
  • Who do you wish you could see again?
Then I read and then they read several examples of short memoirs from this excellent book: The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure. 

The one I picked to share was called "Chalk Face."

After we did that, I had the students pick a memory from their list that was 1. a slice of their life (a moment), 2. something they could remember enough of to describe adequately, and 3. a moment where they either learned something or their life changed course.

I didn't give a written assignment for this, but I think next year I should. It was more off the cuff because this year is made up as I go along, as it's my first year doing this.

After they picked the moment, we went into the writing lab and created a barf draft. I had them just get the story down as well as they could without worrying about how it sounded.

Next we focused on several things. I had them rewrite the beginning using several focused hook ideas. 

This was hard work, but all of them agreed that it made their writing better.

Next we focused on adding description, dialogue, strong verbs, and generally making better sentences. I used several resources that I found online. 

I didn't do this, but some great mentor texts to share at this time (with a document camera, which I don't have but which is a must have for next year, I think), would have started with Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. Picture books are always great tools for teaching good sentences, as well written picture books have very carefully crafted and chosen sentences.

I would show the above version to students and then read aloud the version from the book (see version below). Then I would ask my students what they noticed about the differences between the two versions. Did they like the book's version better? Why?
Working together as a class, we would use the Adding Voice suggestions to see if the author used any of the techniques.
Then I would read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills, and Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles to work through adding strong verbs, sentence variety, and figurative language.
Finally, we worked on making sure that we had a good reflection at the end. This is one thing I don't think I spent enough time on. I did have some examples for them, but I would go over this more next time.

At this point I did a peer review. I think the next time I do it, I'll have the peer reviewer take highlighters and mark dialogue with blue, thought and feelings with yellow, description with green, and to be verbs and has/have/had (weak verbs) with pink. Then I'll have them ask two questions and give one compliment and two suggestions for improvement. I didn't do a very formal assessment of the peer review, but I should have.

After the peer review they turned it in and I graded them. I had them submit on google docs, which does save you the pain of carrying around all those papers.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Learning is a Journey -- A Tour of My New Classroom

Each room in the building has a value outside of it. I'm loving the one I randomly ended up with.
I picked this Dr. Seuss quote because it so perfectly matched the "Learning is a Journey" theme I was going for. I printed this on the DD's CriCut, but I had to put it up one line at a time. Then I noticed I had one line out of order. Arghhh. I had to completely remove and replace two whole lines. This took forever, but I love how it came out. This is the inside of my door going out into the hallway.
As you come in and look to the left, you'll see a bookshelf and pictures. This is actually the tail end of my books.
I love this picture which says "A book sitting on a shelf in a room is like having completely different worlds at the ready waiting to be explored."
This is one of the two whiteboards that I wrote grants for while I was at Lakeridge. It was a lot of work, and I was one of the main donors. So...I took it with me to my new school. I'm enjoying having it at the back of the room as a place for magnetic poetry and to display my quotes of the month.
This shelf is where I keep my short story collections (yellow stickers) and my nonfiction books (purple stickers). I do love the covered boxes I made up on the top using modge podge and maps.
This is where I keep my picture books, encyclopedias, and other texts that we use regularly in the classroom. Notice all my great travel posters!! This is also where the DD's Day of the Dead souvenir man from Cancun ended up -- he looks so cute in here.
This corner is oddly shaped, but ended up perfect for putting my radio (great reception here by the window)
and my poetry collection.
A closeup of my little poet's corner.
This was the perfect spot for some of those worthless, er, wonderful doodads that you tend to get as a teacher.

This welcome banner turned out rather well and is just clipped to the ceiling with binder clips, so it was so easy to put up. The large poster pictures are another story. They are put up with copious amounts of hot glue and were a real pain in the neck to get straight and level. I have to give a big shout out to the ever loving and patient BHW for helping me to put them up and moving all the whiteboards and bulletin boards for me.

I got these cute box labels from the website of an overachieving elementary teacher. A little tweaking, and each of my seven classes has an inbox (and a continent)!

I'd seen this above the cupboard display at a library, and I just copied it here The suitcases are extreme Savers buys (one of them smells so bad of smoke that I filled it with kitty litter because it would kill me to have it in class otherwise). I repainted them with spray paint and added travel stickers and an atlas. Huge green cabinets were made less imposing by covering them with travel posters.
My genre example box and theme notebooks, along with class supplies like hole punch, stapler, tissues, and tape, are ready for students to use them. Below I have mini white boards made of DVD cases, and more supply boxes made with modge podge.

This bulletin board was in the back of the room where the whiteboard is now. I'm using it as a catch all for various things -- right now it holds my graphic for Romeo and Juliet that helps the students keep the characters straight. You can sort of see how tall I am by where the pictures just stop happening -- this bulletin board is behind a cabinet, and this is as high as I can reach. I had to stand on the cabinet to put up the lettering -- which I had to do twice to get the spacing right. Being a perfectionist can be a bad thing. This was where I put the last of my travel posters.

This corner, also oddly shaped, is another favorite. The BHW and I worked together to create this signpost of places both real and literary. It looks awesome in the classroom. I added a little mini-display of postcards and paraphernalia from around the world, and a fun travel poster. The coup de'etat is the red rocking chair which was decaying not so gracefully on our porch and which I painted red and gave a new life. The curtains were added by the old teacher, and they are a fun, homey addition to the windows. 
I am a big fan of Carol Dweck's Mindset: The Psychology of Success, so when I saw this bulletin board online, I needed to have one of my own. I refer to it all the time while I am working with students. I've since added my Notice and Note signpost posters under this bulletin board where the kids can easily see them.
I've got a sixteen foot whiteboard in the front of the room, which is so nice. I have just a few rules and consequences here along with the infamous pull-down screen which fell on my head the first time I used it in class.

I'm using a table as my main desk, mainly to give me more space on top. I added some stickers to containers from the container store to serve as underdesk drawers for my makeshift desk. I like having a full six feet of desk space. We imitated the Straight Out of Compton picture for our faculty photo.
My containers with stickers. This was another buy at Lakeridge that traveled with me.
My chair is actually a little scary. One arm was unfixable-ly broken, so I removed them both (this lets me slide it under the table, as well). I added a super nice chair cushion, but I really hardly ever use it.
The actual desk that was in the room is quite small. I shoved it right up against the wall and am using it as a storage cabinet only. I really like the Home Depot office supply organizer I made.
I hung my certificates and bulletin boards in a grid pattern that makes them look pretty awesome all together. The small pictures of maps are mini dry erase boards -- I don't use them much but they look cool. The pink Japanese lantern was the DD's, but she had never really wanted it. It works great to warm up the area over my desk. This area had a large TV hanging over it when I moved in, but the TV didn't really have a function anymore, so the janitor took it out for me. I also had to buy the receiver and wire in the the speakers so they would work myself. So. Much. Work.
This printer cart was another DI find. I repainted it green and black because I added a shelf -- I think it turned out pretty good all things considering. I added some fun travel magnets to dress up the metallic side of the desk. This area has a neat poster of the Great Wall of China that says that "The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step."
These bookshelves originally from the back of the room were a perfect fit under this bulletin board, I dressed up the long, rather worn top by adding some antique suitcase boxes, bottles and doodads, and a globe. This bulletin board is supposed to be an ongoing project for the whole class. The banner on the top was painstaking created by me in PhotoShop -- I added the whole path of the airplane to it one little rectangle at a time.

Another view.

These four filing cabinets are useful but boring. I dressed them up with liberal application of travel stickers. The little suitcase/trunk (another awesome DI find) on the side holds bags to protect books and lots and LOTS of bookmarks.
I printed the file labels on maps -- it just made it so fun. They are laminated for protection.

I was worried about the life of my cute stickers, so they are covered with modge podge. This makes it impossible for students to mess with them -- yes, I knew they couldn't resist.

Finally, I added some appropriate hall passes with hall pass, office, library, and bathroom printed in several languages. They are permanently affixed to the clipboards and work well.