Thursday, July 16, 2015

Back 2 School Week 1: 5 Tips to a Successful Classroom Set Up

The fireworks of July 4th are an alarm for many teachers that the new school year is quickly approaching.  The desire to get into your room and start working is halted by floors that still need waxing or hallways that are blocked off.  What do you do?

Here are some tips to help start classroom set up before you can get those keys and a few to help speed up the process once you can get into your room.

1. Know Your Perimeter - One of the first things I do is plan out my walls.  I take a picture or draw each wall from memory.  I will plan what will go in each spot.  If I can, I will print these out and put them in folders so all I have to do it laminate them the first chance I get.  Many times I can get to the laminator quicker than my classroom so I will laminate them, cut them out at home, and then they are all set to go on the walls.  I also like to decide on a color theme for the school year.  I will buy fabric to cover my boards.  The fabric doesn't fade throughout the school year and is easy to hang if you are working alone. When selecting your color scheme remember your boys.  Will they feel relaxed and represented too in the classroom?

Things to think about:
- Do you have all subject areas covered on the walls?
- Do you have your rules/expectations posted?
- Do you have an area for student work?
- Do you have white space so students aren't overloaded?
- Do you have a color scheme?

2. Plan Your Area - Once the walls are taken care of, I take care of the floor plan.  There are tons of great pictures of desk arrangements on Pinterest these days.  So many that I usually change up the design once a quarter. This makes readjusting seating charts easier and helps those students like me who need a little change.  But, to start the year I will pick a seating arrangement that allows for group work.  I also like to have a small bookshelf or table that will house supplies students will need each day.  I keep reference materials like dictionaries and thesaurus on the shelf.  A cup with extra pencils and erasers is there as well.  This area gives me the opportunity to set out materials before class starts for the day and helps to save time.

I also like to think of my "movers."  How can I create a positive atmosphere for those students who just can't sit still.  In the old days the teacher stayed at the front of the room, but with technologies these days I can do my teaching from all over the room. I typically place my area to work with small groups and individuals in the back of the classroom.  As a result I will place my students who spend most of the day standing in the back of the room. This way, they are always close (in whole group and when I am doing small groups) and they can stand all day without interfering with students seeing important information on the board.

You want to think about the placement of high traffic areas (trash can, pencil sharpener, turning in work places).  Do you have enough space for students to access these areas?

Having a gathering area away from desks in important.  Sometimes students need just a small relocation within the classroom to get refocused.  My whole group gathering area is a comfortable area where the entire class can gather on the floor.  This area is also a great spot to allow students to work away from their desk throughout the school day.

Things to think about:
- Where will you place your "movers?"
- How do you want your desks arranged?
- What materials will students have access too and did you plan for the high traffic in these areas?
- Where will you have a whole group gathering area?

3. Storage of Materials - This is key to keeping student desks clutter free.  On the first day of school I will spend a good portion of the day organizing student stuff.  I have students write their name on any pencils and paper, collect these place them in a cabinet.  This way students can access the materials as needed but it isn't taking up their entire desk and cubby.  I also store any textbooks that aren't used on a daily basis.  If I am going to use these, I will pass them out the day before after students have left.

Things to think about:
- Where will you put student materials (paper, pencils, hand sanitizer, tissues)?
- Where will you place textbooks?
- Where will you have colored pencils, markers, etc?
- Where will you store all of you teachers supplies?
- Are there areas where students will be able to access?

4. Learning Stations - Where will students work in learning stations or centers?  You want to strategically place each subjects station.  Will it stay in one place or is it moveable (in a tub, or crate)?  These stations should be easy to change out with new standards and topics.

Things to think about:
- Do I have a learning station for every subject?
- Are the stations in one spot in the room or can they be moved throughout the classroom?

5. Plan a Bulletin Board - Having a quick, easy bulletin board ready to go on the first day is the key to quickly posting student work.  I like to do transformations of certain picture books.  One of my favorites is My Garden by Kevin Henkes.  I will read the book on the first day and then have students write 10 things they might find in their own garden.  This will give me an idea of where students are in their writing and teach me a little about each personality.

Things to think about:
- Where will you post this bulletin board?
- What materials are required to be posted (essential questions, standards, title)?
- Can students complete the task quickly? (Remember this is designed to be something to quickly get student work posted)

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post!  Click on over to Snazzy in Second to sign up for a chance to win $50 on TPT!

For more ideas, check out Teaching Tips and Time Savers: Procedures and Policies by Jessica Zannini and Erin Shurbutt.


  1. Great ideas Jessica!
    I really liked how you think about different types of learners (boys and girls, movers, etc.). It is sometimes hard to balance all the needs (including the teacher's).
    I just discovered the "My Garden" book with my daughter. I don't like to garden so the described garden sounded pretty great!
    I'm linking up with you-- hope you will come visit!

    My Bright Blue House

  2. Thanks! I found it to be way easier to try to think about the different students before I started, otherwise I was monitoring and adjusting all the first week. Thanks so much for linking up with us! I am heading your way now.

  3. Such great information. thanks for sharing this nice information with us.
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