Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the Box

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Focus on Environment & Culture

I grabbed this piece of the Indiana's DOE's Walkthrough Checklist, and while they use their own RISE evaluation tool and Florida uses the Marzano system, the verbiage has showed up in the evidence section of my observation results, so I'm certain that portions overlap.

The first week is so important for setting expectations, practicing classroom routines, modifying behavior, preparing for all the uncomfortable growth the brain will do throughout the year.  And for some reason, my first thought every year is, DECORATE!  Not organized, neat & uncluttered, but full on Pinterest-ed!

Rather than taking the time to set up the bins and boxes, I quickly Clorox-ed the cabinets and surfaces and began my room beautification process.  I spent days, at least two full ones, hot gluing posters to my walls, making makeshift bulletin boards from cork squares and plastic tablecloths.  I posted all of my Learning Goals, Marzano Scales, Essential Questions, Vocabulary, and even made a place to celebrate success as evidence of my deliberate practice.  I went to multiple stores to stock up on new hot glue sticks, double sided tape, borders, fabric scraps, and cute pushpins.  As I looked at Pinterest Biology classrooms, I felt less than average, Let me tell you, when I got to the end of the day on Thursday, I felt ready to move on to updating my syllabi and photocopying my first three days work of handouts.

Feeling good on Friday, I left knowing I wouldn't have to wait in line for the copier.  I could tackle a new lesson planning software that promises to make my life easier, as soon as I manage to figure it out (without training).

And then Monday morning arrived.  Two full days before students reported, half of the artifacts I had dutifully displayed were dangling, a quarter were already on the floor.  Ugh!  Really?  Phew!  At least the Learning Goals, Marzano Scales, Essential Questions, Vocabulary, and Celebrations of Success had weathered the humidity and soaring temperatures of a weekend without AC.

By the time students were waking up on Wednesday, the dangling had begun drooping and dropping.  My masterpiece, the All-in-One Display, had lost its battle, oh how the mighty had fallen.  (And I didn't even get to take a picture to use on my TpT store!!! GRRR!)  The hours of work staring up at me from the dusty, cockroach trodden floor.  I pulled down the last of the hangers-on and tidied up.  I. WAS. ANNOYED, but optimistic.  Maybe I'll have my kids re-glue them to the walls when we are ready to display their first set of content review bulletin boards.  It can be part of their project, design the display space...

I didn't spend the time organizing my supply closet, (read: I threw everything in and closed the door.  The tornado may have touched down less than a quarter mile from school during orientation, but it wrecked havoc on my supply closet!) or setting up all of the interactive notebook supply bins.  I wasted my time decorating and it was all for naught.

So.  Lesson learned.  Pinterest has beautiful rooms with banners and borders and alternative seating options... but I need to use this year as an eye-opener.  The check boxes don't ask for color schemes or coordinating frog themes, they ask for organization, neatness and lack of clutter.  I can get points for an orderly environment.  I have already displayed the Learning goals/data on the panes of the cabinets where plenty of clear tape will hold them in place.

Next year, I'll set a reminder on my phone to read this post and start with CLEANING and ORGANIZING, not decorating.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

$10 Dry Erase Tables

Let me start off with this.  THIS WAS NOT MY IDEA, I found a post by Sprout Classrooms from 2014 and pretty much followed her directions to a T.


Tables in Use

"Important Things"

Everyone's Engaged

Dry Erase Table Transformation



Total Time = 5 days
Primer ~ 3 hrs + overnight
Dry-Erase ~ 2 hrs + 3 DAYS cure


My total cost was ~$120 for 12 tables
$10 per table!


  • Acetone 
  • Lint-Free Rags
  • Latex Primer (indoor)
  • Paint Roller & Pads (2 x smooth finish)
  • Paint Stir Stick (...which I forgot, so an old ruler...)
  • Paint Can Opener
  • Disposable Paint Tray (2)
  • Rust-Oleum Dry Erase Paint (1 kit for 3-4 tables)
  • Tarps or Sheets (to make your custodians happy)



Clean & Prime

  1. Use acetone on a lint-free rag to clean the table tops.  DO NOT USE SOAP (per the directions on the primer can).
  2. Shake the primer vigorously.  Open, stir completely, pour into paint tray.
  3. Roll primer on to table tops and sides, using a somewhat thick coating.  (I did NOT sand the table tops, once I cleaned them, I went straight to primer and had no issues.)  
  4. DO AT LEAST 3 COATS.  Per the directions on the primer can, allow 1 hour between coats.  The dry erase paint does not have much of a white background, so you want complete coverage with the primer.
  5. Allow to set overnight.
Save any leftover primer for next summer - the original post suggests reapplying before each school year. (I did 12 tables and used 2/3 of the gallon of primer.)


Dry Erase Paint

  1. Shake the dry-erase coating and base paint cans vigorously.  Open each, pour A into B and stir completely.  Pour into paint tray.
  2. Roll dry-erase paint on to table tops and sides, using a thin coating.  (This is a VERY thin paint, be careful with splashing.)  The roller will make it look texturized as you apply, but it does dry to become a slick surface.
  3. DO AT LEAST 3 COATS.  Per the directions on the box, allow 30 minutes between coats. 
  4. Allow to cure for 3 days.
I used 3 boxes of dry-erase paint for 12 tables.  I have a back up box, just in case, but after testing, I didn't seem to need an extra coat, even though I have some "dull" spots.


In an inconspicuous location, like the side of the table, test your markers.

Test Your Markers!

EXPO - Bold Colors
EXPO - Multi Pack
CRA-Z-ART Dry erase
some residue
all clear
significant residue
  1. Let the marker dry on the surface for about 15 minutes.
  2. Erase.
  3. Use white board cleaner (or water) to clean completely.

My Notes & Opinions:

Overall, I'm amped to try these out with the kids on the first day of school! I think they are really going to enjoy working problems and brainstorming on these tables, rather than in their notebooks.  I can see a lot of jig-sawing and collaboration in their future.

EVERY.  SINGLE.  TEACHER. who stopped by to say hello during pre-planning exclaimed, "WOW!  How did YOU get new tables?!?"  When I told them about the dry erase surface, their envy grew.  Even the custodians, who were justifiably concerned about their newly waxed floors, were pumped.  The white certainly brightens up my window-less lab.

I read that the PINK EXPO markers leave a stain, and although my test pink did not, I am going to pull the pink markers and not use them.  I am disappointed that the Cra-Z-Art markers I found on clearance left such a residue.  I'm not going to be using these with kids.  I'll see how they do on my normal teacher whiteboard, and if they stain there, I'll give them away.  Wah. Wah.

From the blog post by Sprout Classroom, I calculated 4 boxes of Rust Oleum Dry Erase Paint for 12 tables (that are approximately 3' x 6').  I only ended up using 3 of the kits, even with 3 coats.  We will be using the tables regularly and I'll see if we need to add a coating of dry-erase over the Labor Day long weekend.  If not, maybe Christmas break will see a reapply, or maybe right before the end of the school year. (I didn't like using my back to school planning time for this project).

Last, but certainly not least, I tend to be an "ask for forgiveness" person.  However, in this case, I definitely asked for permission.  My principal had to get the go ahead from the county level to "alter school property" so I'm glad I didn't just wing it.  If you'd like a copy of the email, I used Genius Hour Projects as my driving factor, please request it in the comments.

What do you think?  Is this something you will try?