Time to think about what you want your classroom to look like this year. Every year setting up my classroom was one of my favorite times, and I had it down to quite the science too. Setting up your classroom can be fun and exciting if you plan a bit before you start, otherwise it can turn into a stressful mess. Here is my general plan for a smooth classroom setup that will make a difference all year long.
On that note... it is never too late to reorganize your classroom. If you are mid-year, two weeks in, or a month form the end of school and something isn't working, change it!
After your classroom has sat empty for the summer, or there were people using your classroom, it is going to need a good scrub down. I usually spent the first morning in my classroom just cleaning. Clorox wipes were by best friend on this day. I would sometimes don a mask, because the dust can get a little out of hand and the cleaning process was really slowed down by all the sneezing. I always started at the top of the cabinets and worked my way down pushing all the dust and grime onto the floor and sanitizing all the things. When I finish wiping down every last surface I give the floor a good sweeping. For this, I usually try to find one of the janitorial dust mops, because those things rock, and can cover the classroom quite quickly. After this, I sit and marvel at my clean and sanitized classroom for a moment, knowing that it won't ever be this clean or germ free again for the school year.
**A note on dusting mops. Seriously, they rock. I have one at home, and even gave one to my friend as a wedding gift. If you have pretty much anything other than carpet for flooring at home or school they can be your best friend. I have a long haired dog, and it works miracles my friend, miracles I tell you. This is the one I have and have given as a gift but I have never met one I didn't like.
This is the task that always takes me the longest, because I truly believe it is the most important. I want my students to feel at home in the classroom and know that it is their space, not just mine. After moving things around a million times, of course lifting them as to not scratch the new floor wax, I usually settled with table groups and a few alternative seating options scattered around the room. If you would like to read more about how what your student seating arrangement is telling your students check out this post.
It is during this time that I also set up "special areas" around the classroom. These areas include our classroom library, carpet for whole group learning, a reading nook, a writing table, and countless other little areas for working. This is where my alternative seating options come into play.
I choose to use many, many rugs to differentiate these areas around the classroom. I have found that the best rugs come from IKEA. They are inexpensive and hold up to the test of time. I have also purchased a few rugs from Target when they are on clearance with all the dorm items after the school year starts. Either way I do two thing to help the longevity of the carpet.
1. I buy a can of ScotchGard and go to town. This stuff is easy to apply and makes it so much easier to clean up those little oopses that are bound to happen.
2. I duct tape the edges of the carpet to the tile floor. This serves two purposes. The first is to keep anyone from tripping. The second is to keep the rug from curling up or moving. I match the color of the duct tape to the carpet and call it a day.
For alternative seating I use basically anything I can find. I have a collection of about fifteen pillows that I bought at Goodwill and made new covers for that matched our decor. I also have some outdoor furniture cushions to sit on along with a couple of different chairs and a bean bag. I purchased some stools from IKEA at the same time as the rugs that are great for tucking under tables. I also lowered a few tables so that it is easier to sit on the floor or a cushion and reach.
In my dream world I would have these Hokki Stools available, but they are a bit pricey. Instead I opt for balance balls. I kept about five of them in the classroom and they would rotate through the students. To keep them from rolling around I used dollar store frisbees turned upside down. They were truly lifesavers, otherwise I may have gone nuts watching them roll off every time a student got up.
The first question I wan to ask is, "Do you need a desk?" For many years I did not use a traditional teacher desk, but instead used our large blue kidney table instead. For storage I used a bookcase and a couple of these storage containers. The reason for this was that teacher desks are big, and they take away valuable space that could be used for students IMHO.
The last couple of years our school was crowded and we had no where to put the teacher desks, so we had to have one. I chose to take advantage of the space actually on and below the desk to make the most of it. In addition to the computer, I placed a small bookcase on top of it and rolling storage below it. I shoved it in a corner basically. My students used the desk as much as I did and it came to be used as just another workspace for all of us.
All the Stuff
After you have set up spaces for your students and your space, this is when it comes time for all the stuff. I never opened a single box until all the spaces were identified. This was my least favorite part of setting up my room. I don't know how in the world I acquired so much stuff, but I did. Fortunately everything had a place, it was just a matter of getting it there.
On this note, don't be afraid to purge. I never was. Honestly I get rid of things with reckless abandon, because I have this fear of becoming a hoarder. It is deep seeded and dark.
All the stuff has to go somewhere doesn't it? I have a small obsession with containers of all sorts, as many teachers do. Most of my containers come from the Target Dollar Spot, IKEA, and Dollar Tree. Occasionally, if I find something just right, I will splurge elsewhere. I have found that Hobby Lobby has amazing storage containers for scrapbooking that fit many classroom needs. I bought these containers one at a time using my trusty smart phone 40% off coupon. It was a little painful, but I made it through.
I am a hug fan of my "teacher toolbox" that I created a few years ago. I used Avery labels and this set of drawers to create it. There are lots of super cute tutorials out there for the inserts, but the labels and washi tape was much for my style.
I have the firm belief that when it comes to decor in the classroom less is more. I always had a racing theme, but that basically meant that I had black and white checkered fabric with splashes of red, yellow, and green. I never took it further than just the color scheme.
To me, the classroom is a place to show off student work, not a designer's dream palette. With that being said, I have seen impeccably decorated classrooms that are completely functional, and maybe I am just jealous of those teachers' design asthetic.
Basically, form should follow function when it comes to a classroom. Your decor should not take away from learning or take the spotlight off of your students. I will get off my soap box now...
The absolute most important part of setting up your classroom is to not get stuck in how it looks, and remember that the vital part is how it performs. How will your setup help students to achieve their goals this year. What systems have you set in place to make them all successful?
Plan time to really dive into your standards and curriculum. Push yourself to find something that will hook your students and drive engagement from the very beginning! You are a teacher, a magician, and a performer. You are awesome!
Want to Know More?
These are some of my favorite books for classroom inspiration. These links, as well as others in this post, are Amazon affiliate links which means that if you click and buy something Amazon pays me a little bit for the referral, however your cost does not change.