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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: color coding!



I have always been a huge fan of rainbows. Exhibit A:


Yep. That's my 7-year-old self in all my glory. That shirt was my favorite. Later on my favorite shirt was a rainbow tie-dye shirt. I had that thing from middle school all the way through college. So when it comes to organizing and decorating my room, nobody should be surprised that I love my rainbows!

For my first-ever Teacher Tuesday post I'm sharing a work in progress. I just started at my current job last school year, so there was a bit of flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants going on while I adjusted to new students, new classroom, new schedule etc. But I have had a wish list of projects that I have been saving for summer (when I have some time) and this is at the top of my list!

If you have seen my seating chart on TeachersPayTeachers (free download here), you know that I have had my students in 3 rows of 8, with an aisle down the middle. I am keeping the same arrangement but assigning each group of  chairs a color. I bought brightly-colored duct tape and I am using it on everything! I am hoping to use this color coding system in a lot of different ways to streamline procedures in my class, but here are a few that I have started on already:

#1: Seating

Obviously the first application is with the seats themselves. I think this will make it a lot easier to call students to move to another part of the room or get instruments. Instead of saying, "everybody in the back row on the window side", I can say, "blue group"!! I call students in small groups all the time so that there isn't a mad dash when I want them to go pick an instrument (they are stored on the opposite side of the room) or go to another part of the room for a movement or small group activity. And besides, don't those colors look so happy and wonderful? If the chairs get moved around a lot during class, I also use the lines to help the students (or I) move them back quickly for the next class coming in. 

#2: Circle Spots


When I came into this position last year, I inherited one of those wonderful oval rugs with numbers and letters of the alphabet around the edges. I like to have my kindergartners sit primarily on the floor in a circle, and we use circles in movement activities and games in the upper grades, so I had the rug out on the open side of the room for that purpose. The problem was that it was too small. We were always having to start out squished around the rug and then scoot back- which kindof defeats the purpose of having the rug. Would've been faster to just have them make a circle on their own. And of course there was always the discussion of wanting to sit at the letter with which their name starts. Or picking at threads on the edge of the rug. Sigh. So this year I knew I wanted to put tape down on the floor instead. AND they have the same colors that they have in their chair groups! My plan is to tell students from each color group to pick a spot with their color. That way they have some choice but because it is limited it won't take as long and there will be fewer arguments. And it's guaranteed to mix them up from who they are next to in their chairs! For kindergarten, I am currently thinking I will assign each student to a color but let them choose their spot, as long as it's the right color so that, again, they have limited options. I can't wait to try it out with my students!

#3: Supplies


Obviously this is still a work in progress, but this gives you an idea of where I'm headed. I am sorting all the supplies we use most often- clipboards, dry erase staff boards, pencils, erasers, crayons, and pens- into colors to match their groups. Not only will this system make it easier to hand out and collect supplies each time, but it will also help with another problem I had last year: the Case of the Disappearing Pencils. It was amazing how many discussions I had with students about whether the pencil they were trying to stuff in their pockets at the end of class was mine or theirs. And even with all of that, I STILL managed to keep losing track of pencils, erasers, and crayons. It was amazing. I have seen several examples on Pinterest of putting tape on pencils like this one from Kristen Dembroski (side note: Isn't that rainbow tape awesome? Don't worry, I have some of that too and I have a special plan for it already.):

 Pencil Flags (c) Kristen Dembroski

It occurred to me that I could take this idea and also coordinate it with my color groups. Multiple birds, one stone! I am contemplating the possibility of writing numbers on those tags- 1-4 for each color- and writing the same numbers on the chair tape so that I can keep track of exactly which student hasn't turned in their pencil etc, but I haven't gone that far yet.... :)

I have some other applications planned for my new color system, but I will save those thoughts for later when I have finished making them and can actually show them to you. Thanks for reading! Have you used color-coding systems in your classroom? How do you use them and do you like it?

14 comments :

  1. These are great ideas, Elizabeth! It's helpful for me to think about what I can do too in the near future. :D

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  2. Thanks for your comment Megumi! I think a lot of these ideas could be applied to non-music classrooms. I can't wait to see what you do in your future class!

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  3. I use rainbow color coding too and I LOVE it! I don't have room for chairs & a circle, so all my students sit in a circle. I use rubber spots in a rainbow-order circle (6 groups of 4). I also number each spot 1-4 within a color group. So a student sits on a color & a number (red 1, orange 3, etc). I have drawers in the back of my room (each color coded) with the supplies in them, dry erase, pencils, clipboards, and I send the students on seat 1 to get the supplies for your group (or which ever number). It is so nice and the kids never argue about who gets to do what. I also have my instruments color coded so when we move to instrument stations, each group knows where to go - I change them around periodically so that the groups get different instruments. I also have a group for each week that are the "assistants" and they straighten up the classroom as we line up. That rotates around the rainbow and is posted up on the board, so students know when their turn is. Color coding is the best!! I love your duct tape pencils. I tried once to buy pencils that match each groups color but that is hard to do!!

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    1. Oh my goodness our friendship is meant to be! And I am so excited about your idea to color code instruments!!! My head is spinning with all the possibilities... Hope you don't mind if I share your idea on my facebook page? You are awesome! Such great ideas!

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  4. Have you ever heard of SitSpots? They are AMAZING on carpet and don't damage when they come back up. I call them semi-permanent. Awesome shapes and colors too. http://sitspots.com/

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    1. Yes- they look awesome! Unfortunately, believe it or not, I don't have the budget for them right now. I was already going to get the duct tape for other things, so this was "free". Hopefully somewhere down the line I can get those- I know the custodians would appreciate them! Thanks for the comment :)

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  5. I love your color coding ideas! I am OBSESSED with color and coding everything! Each grade level has a color for all my plans and files, etc. :)

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    1. Me too! I have learning objectives for each grade displayed in little dollar store frames on my wall and each grade has a different color paper inside as the background. I use those same colors to code my lesson planning in my planner and the printed class schedule that I have posted in my classroom. Makes it so much easier to find things!

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  6. Here's another great way to do color-coding. Use the hook side of velcro and lay it down on the carpet (if you have carpet). It stays down just as good as tape, can be pulled up and relocated easily, and no tape residue left behind! I bought rainbow colors pretty cheap (1/2", I think). Prices range depending on size and length.

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    1. I've seen a few people do that and I think it's a great idea for many classrooms! I tried velcro first but found that, between just general foot and chair dragging traffic etc, it didn't actually stay down and I was constantly pushing the edges down or finding missing pieces on the other side of the room. My carpet is over 25 years old and does not get cleaned very often (I call and beg for someone to vacuum about once a month), so I'm sure that doesn't help with getting velcro to stick either. I have heard of many teachers using it successfully in their classrooms though, so that is a good tip to keep in mind for teachers considering options!

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  7. I love the many directions you've taken your color-coding in! I use a similar house-system in my classroom, but label them as the instrument families (woodwind, string, brass, etc.) instead of colors. How do you assign students to a color in the beginning of the year? Do you let them choose?

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I like the idea of using instrument families- I've also seen teachers use composer names :) I assign every student in the whole school to a color group, and we've ended up making this a school-wide system. The color groups are based on how I want to seat my students, but within their color row I let them choose where to sit.

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