Top 5 Tips to Set Up Your Classroom

Summer is a great time to prepare, plan, and generate ideas for your classroom. If you are a new teacher looking for ideas or veteran teacher that is thinking about classroom set up, I think you’ll enjoy some of the tips below. While I look forward to setting up my classroom it is also a big stressor. I want this year to be better than the last, more organized, and the best for students to learn. These tips can apply to all classrooms, even though I am a science teacher. Here are my Top 5 Tips to help you begin planning your classroom set up!

Tip #1: First Set Up Your Classroom Furniture

I am always looking for ways to set up my classroom furniture. This includes tables, student desks, the teacher’s desk, book shelves and/or movable storage closets, and small group area. The best way to plan is to draw yourself a sketch of your classroom layout and see what it might look like. If you don’t know what your classroom layout is, then you can create generalized layout ideas, knowing you will have a whiteboard somewhere. But truth be told, once you are in your classroom you may realize the arrangement doesn’t work for various reasons such as movement between tables, where outlets are etc. Always start where you want student tables or desks to be set up. Once you have determined where students will sit and the direction they will face you can plan where all your other furniture needs to go, where class resources should be located and the best placement for your posters and wall hangings so students can see and access them.

Tip #2: Choose Organization Containers in Black, White or Clear

Organization is key to having a well designed and accessible classroom. I teach science and I have lots of materials I need to store and have accessible daily. Containers can include storage for scissors, rulers, student notebooks, stations bins, and much more. By choosing containers that are black and clear, white and clear or all clear you can continue to reuse them year to year. If you are like me, you will likely want to change your color scheme from time to time. It now becomes very simple because all you have to do is change the labels to match your color scheme or theme. I made the mistake and purchased all blue and green containers and they looked great the years I used them. However, this meant if one was damaged I had to find the exact color which was sometimes difficult. Additionally, a few years later, I wanted a different color and that meant replacing all or most of my containers–which let’s be honest, that is way to much money. So pick containers that are clear or with black or white, so you can change your decor easily.

Tip #3: Basic Tools To Have To Set Up

In order to hang things, set up your whiteboard, and other supply areas you will need some basic tools. I have worked in a few buildings and all of them have different rules for hanging, where things can be hung, how much can be up, etc. Some let you use nails, hang things from the ceiling, or let you staple things to the wall; but some do not. So first know your schools rules. However there are a few basic tools that I found most schools allow and having them ready prevents the dreaded, I need to run out to get _____ in order to  finish setting up my room. Here are my top favorites:

Tip #4: Plan For Student Needs

Absent Work: Each day is a different folder in color of choice!

Once you have furniture arranged there are some essential student needs you should plan for. Where will students turn in their work? Where will students get their absent work? What will students do if they do not have a writing tool? What do they need to do to leave to go to the bathroom, office, etc. Will you have them keep their notebooks and supplies in the class or will they bring them each day. Planning for these things is key. Decide the best place for these simple routines and structures. Here are some suggestions you might consider:

  • Place passes and/or Log by the door
  • Have a place to put Absent work
  • Have a place for students to borrow and return a writing tool
  • If notebooks are kept in the class, place them where they are easily accessible by subject and/or class period
  • Place student supplies (scissors, rulers, markers, etc) on an accessible shelf that makes sense do the area does not get clogged with too much traffic or that students can grab something without you knowing.

Tip #5: Don’t Hang Absolutely Everything Right Away

I know, this sounds crazy. Have a place for everything you want it to go, but don’t hang absolutely everything. Layout your essentials and hang those, but save some for students to be a part of. For example, you might have your bulletin board set up with background, borders and maybe titles; but when you introduce the Scientific Method you might hang those as you introduce and do activities to build learning about it. When done this way it becomes a resources you refer back to throughout the year and because they were a part of the process they remember it. But if it was already there, they will likely look past it as just part of the furniture. Everything should have a purpose and be for students. So as you decide what goes where and what to hang, ask yourself: “Does this look nice or is this useful.” Of course you want both, but useful is the most important piece.

While I am in my 13th year teaching, I have been at four schools and taught four different grade levels. I have had classrooms that were different sizes, furniture types, without windows, and different wall types and floor types. But, what I have learned is that if I am not ready with a plan and a well set up classroom that my year becomes a challenge for routines, structures and I spend way too much time backtracking or making changes during the year which adds unnecessary stress and also impacts your students learning. With your classroom being your second home, a little time spent up front, makes for an enjoyable and inviting place to be each day.

Use the comments box and tell me: What are some tips you have about setting up classrooms?

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