One of my favorite parts about back-to-school time is the chance to daydream and plan out my classroom setup. I could spend hours scrolling Pinterest for classroom inspiration ideas!
Before you get too carried away with the DIY decor and all the printables, be sure to spend some time planning your classroom around the routines and atmosphere you hope to foster.
I’ll go out on a limb here and assume you’re looking to set up your classroom as a place that promotes creativity, community, and cooperative learning. 😉 Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you plan your classroom.
How will you foster community among your students?
1. Organize your space for interaction and cooperation!
The way your classroom is physically organized is the first place to start! Make sure your seating and tables are arranged to allow students to talk to each other, access materials easily, and work together on tasks. I love using flexible seating (here’s how I managed this on a teacher budget).
2. Communicate early and often with students and parents.
The first several weeks of school will be spent getting to know each other and setting the tone for the year. I like to have a “Meet the Teacher” letter ready to go for back-to-school night so kids can start to put a face to the name and get to know me a bit in advance. Grab a free, editable copy of my letter here! Or, snag a whole back-to-school welcome packet full of helpful forms, posters, and a Powerpoint presentation (Bonus: it’s llama-themed 🦙!!)
3. Be purposeful in your first few weeks of activities.
Designing your physical space is important, but the magic that happens everyday in the classroom is what really matters. For some ideas on fostering positive relationships in the classroom, check out Five community-building activities.
What routines do you want to establish?
A few spots you can focus on to establish routines in the classroom:
- Have a central location for the day’s schedule and basic agenda. Answer the students’ #1 question “What are we doing today?”
- Use welcome slides to greet your class every day. They’ll appreciate the consistency, and the digital format means you can edit from home or on the go.
- Classroom jobs board – label all the classroom jobs and create a bulletin board where students can go to see what their job is for the week/month/term.
- Class library – designate an area where kids can go to choose their books, and have a clear process for where and how to return books to their homes.
- Display posters with procedures, rules, and reminders for each spot where learning tasks happen. I post these Anchor Charts for my Readers’ Workshop stations.
- Discipline – plan a particular spot kids can go to “cool off” or take a self-prescribed moment away from the group. Make sure this area is full of calming colors and soft, comfy seating. A bean bag with some stuffed animals and tactile items like stress balls or thinking putty works well for this.
Where and how will you store classroom materials?
The #1 rule for organizing your classroom supplies: Label, label, label!! Find a home for everything, and make sure kids can understand the labels as well. Picture labels work great for this!
Keeping a caddy of everyday supplies like pencils, scissors, markers, tissues, and hand sanitizer at each group’s table really cuts down on the traffic around the classroom. Use a three-tiered rolling cart to store guided reading materials. This makes it easy to roll over to your kidney table while you meet with your groups.
How will kids move from whole group to small group time?
The name of the game here is to minimize transitions! Because as any teacher knows, transition time can cause all sorts of problems in the classroom: inefficiency, distraction, misbehavior, and more.
Be intentional with how you set up your whole vs. small group instructional space. I like to bring my students onto the carpet at the front of the room during whole group time. They bring their clipboards and pencils and we work together around the document camera. No kid is too big to sit on the carpet! Be strategic about their spots on the floor as well: I have my students set up with AB partners. When we need to work in teams of four, I simply ask my odd-numbered rows to turn around and face the even-numbered rows. No confusing or chaotic transitions!
When small group time rolls around, students take their clipboards to centers with their group members while I work with guided reading groups at the kidney table.
What classroom theme will you choose?
Will your classroom have a theme that carries throughout the month, term, or year? Children love walking into a room that has been transformed into a scene from outside the school. Sanity saving tip? Don’t get too seasonal with it! Choose a theme with some longevity. You’ll thank yourself in November 🙂
Some fun theme ideas:
- Under the sea
- Welcome to the jungle
- Outer space
- Around the world
- Adventure is out there
- Mrs. Rivers’ neighborhood
How will you be setting up your classroom this fall? Come join us in the Facebook group to see what other teachers are up to and to ask all your questions! See you soon.