Now that summer is coming to a close, you—along with numerous other educators throughout the country—are probably doing a few things: enjoying your last summer days sleeping late, wrapping up vacations, shopping for supplies, and setting up your classroom for the new school year.
Each school year I loved changing up my classroom. I’d walk in, and all the furniture would be pushed to one side thanks to the cleaning crew—a fresh start and a clean room! As a new or novice teacher, all that open space can seem daunting at first, so I’ve come up with five tips to help you get started.
1. Take a breath and plan.
When you walk back into your classroom, set your bags down and take a minute to envision what you want your room to look like for the upcoming school year. Think about what your district requires, and think about your students. A large seating area at the carpet? Space to line up at the door? Quiet work spaces for students who need fewer distractions? Plan. It. Out. Purposeful planning will get your classroom up and running more smoothly.
2. Beautify your walls with productive, “wise” materials.
Before putting up your bulletin boards, sit in the students’ seats. Check whether you can easily see all of the boards from their seats. Make sure the boards have a purpose. Use functional materials like fabric, fadeless paper, and wrapping paper, or even frame out a board with just a border. Use materials that will last—this will save you time and money!
Take my writing bulletin board, for example. I put up blue fadeless paper with a border. Then, I hot glued pushpins to clothespins, hung up the clothespins, and, yes, avoided holes in my paper because I would clip work and anchor charts instead of stapling. That board lasted for years!
3. When organizing, ask yourself plenty of questions.
Where will you put students’ supplies? Where will their lunches go? Where is your classroom library, and is it easily accessible? Where will you work with small groups of students? Can you see the rest of the class from that workspace?
When setting up your classroom, run through the school day in your head. This helps to ensure that you’ve thought of every step. Plan out where students will turn their homework in, where math manipulatives go, and where you will put all those sweet student notes and pictures!
4. Ask yourself: Is my teacher space student-friendly?
One of my favorite classroom changes I’ve done happened just a few years ago. I traded in my teacher desk for a horseshoe (kidney-shaped) table. It changed my teaching life! It allowed multiple students to access me at once and saved so much space! I added a small four-bin container of office supplies underneath, kept my guided reading books under the table, and had my computer on a desk just to the right of the table. I could have up to six students sitting there and easily help them all at the same time.
5. Make it yours!
Last but not least, decorate your classroom with things that make you happy. Hang up pictures with family and friends around your workspace. Use your favorite color. Show your personality with posters, stuffed animals, and fun props. It will make you happy, and students love to know more about their teacher. I love the ocean and always had a small plastic pool in my reading area with a shark stuffed animal. The special student of the week got to read with the shark in the pool!
Students may not remember the exact details of your classroom, but they will remember that you made learning fun. They will remember how your classroom made them feel.
Good luck creating an inviting classroom for students to learn and have a wonderful school year!
Find more HMH tools and resources to help you plan for back-to-school season.