It is the start of the school year and you have so much to do. You might be a brand new teacher, have changed year levels and classrooms or be looking to arrange your classroom in a different year to last year. You walk into your empty shell of a classroom, the cleaners have been through and piled everything in the corner and you might be wondering just what to do! Don’t be overwhelmed – this is when the fun starts!
Personally, I have either changed schools, grade levels or classrooms every year but one, so after doing this a few times, I finally have a system down pat, that works for me every year! Following this system means I am not spending all day, everyday at school towards the end of the summer vacation and ensures I have a smooth start to every school year.
Step 1. Cleaning
If you are moving classrooms, or staying in the same classroom as last year, it doesn’t hurt to open every cupboard up and see where everything is. You may rearrange the coloured paper to suit your needs, separate the maths and literacy resources (I like to have different areas) or maybe just give the cupboards a quick tidy. It is during this step, I like to look at the bulletin boards and remove any remnant staples or thumb tacks. This is the day I always get dirty from so much cleaning!
Step 2. Bringing In Your Resources
Bring in your bigger resources from the car or the storeroom. Do you have shelves, cushions or other bigger furniture that you need to place in the classroom. Look at the sizes of furniture.
Step 3. Where Is Your Desk?
How are you going to use the desk in your classroom? Where does you desk need to be placed? Do you need to connect to an IWB or Smartboard? Will you sit at it during the day (so does it need to face the students) or can you have it against the wall?
Step 4. Creating Spaces
Think about what spaces you want to create in your classroom. Do you want a reading corner? An independent writing space? Classroom Library? Morning Maths space? Computer/ICT space? Some of these you will be confined to. During this step, sort out where your floor sitting area/s will be. I like to have two, one in front of the IWB or Smartboard and one in front of the Morning Maths board. Roughly create your spaces, not setting up areas until Step 5 is complete.
Step 5. Tables
Place your tables out in the classroom. How do you want your children to be seated? In table groups or in rows? Think about the direction the children will be sitting at each location, what their view is, can they see the board easily and is there enough space around each table. Once you are happy with your arrangement, check your other spaces in the room to make sure you have enough room for the extra furniture.
Step 6. Unpack Resources
Unpack your bigger resources, setting up your classroom library, organising your maths resources onto shelves etc. Don’t worry about student resources (books, pencils, crayons etc.) at this stage.
Step 7. Bulletin Boards
Now I have my spaces organised in the classroom I like to put up my bulletin board fabrics. I have found simple poplin the easiest to use. It doesn’t fade and can be taken down at the end of the year, washed and rehung the next year. You do need to cut it to size though. Fabrics and borders go up and I start to see how the colours are going to look in the room. I put some posters up (like Alphabet cards and number cards) but like to add things as I go with the children – eg. Anchor charts, student work etc.
Step 8. Student Tubs and Book Boxes
Usually by this stage I know what my classroom theme is and have been working on posters etc. at home. I will have my class list and make up name labels for individual tubs (including teacher resources if required), book boxes and bag boxes. I use clear contact for my tubs and bag boxes (easy to peel off at the end of the year and stay looking neat all year) and laminate my book box labels.
Step 9. Stationery Supplies
If children have individual pencils cases then you can skip this step. Alternatively, decide if you are going to have a writing implement station for children to collect pencils, markers, crayons, glue sticks and scissors from, or will you store the supplies on the tables in tubs? I like having cups with resources and put them on tables each day.
Step 10. Lesson Planning
The whole classroom set up usually takes me a couple of days by the time I change my mind and move things around. I am also very particular about ensuring there is enough space everywhere (including group sitting and sitting in a circle). Depending on when I have been allowed into my classroom, sometimes my lesson planning is done at home before I can get into school, or I do it once my room is ready. By then I am in the school swing of things and am not in vacation mode.