Setting Up Your Classroom

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It’s time to set up shop!!! Again. My district reports back in three weeks. This year I moved rooms. So I’m starting over with a BLANK as blank can be canvas. It’s daunting and exciting all at the same time. I also thought, it’s the perfect time to do a mini blog series on classroom set up. For those of you who are setting up a classroom for the first time, or like me an constantly looking for new arrangements, this one’s for you! So grab the hall pass and come on over!! I’d like to welcome you into the beginning of my new digs for the school year.

 The above picture is a panoramic view I took of my room from the one corner that kinda lets you see the whole thing at once. PANORAMIC people-!! As in I had to slowly guide the phone from left to right following the straight line my phone gave me in order to fit this view into one picture. So if it looks extra huge here, that’s why. That said, I am blessed to have good sized classroom. I know this because my first three years teaching, the school I was in had much smaller sized classrooms. But I can assure you that today’s post has little to do with the size of your space. It is all about the purpose of your arrangement and being very intentional with your set up in the space that you have. You want to create a space that will promote learning and engagement!

 {Sharing these pics feels a lot like having guests over when your house is messy. #eek}

This is how my room looked after we moved all of my stuff into it from my old room AND after I spent a good hour moving most of the loose tubs of books, center, supplies, and every other random thing you could imagine off to the sides. The closets and cabinets are also stuffed to the brim too. {Notice those cabinet doors that can’t even be closed right now, ha!} I will spend way too much time finding a home for each of those items later.  😉 But for now, they’re at least out of the way so I can focus on creating the arrangement.

It’s easy to get distracted thinking about how you’re going to decorate your room. What posters you want to hang on the wall, what borders you’ll buy. These are the parts I get most excited about too!! But before you dive into all that, you’ll want to arrange the space, and that means  you have to think about your instruction. Will you want to work with small groups? Do you want your students to collaborate with their peers? If so, what will those spaces look like? Do you run centers in your room? Then you are going to have to carve out a places for students to collect materials that are easily accessible to them. So before you even begin to push around the heavy stuff, jot down a few spaces you know you’re going to need. Your non-negotiables, regardless of space or class size. Draw out some potential arrangements using the things you know you have. That way when you do step in your classroom, you have a few tentative game plans to try. 

Once all of the smaller items were out of the way, it was time to temporarily remove any larger items that didn’t  need to have a permanent spot. Also remove any items that you’re thinking of {gulp-!!} letting go of. Here are a few of my storage drawers, a fan, a pocket chart stand, and a huge partially broken wooden organizer. Some of those will find a spot later on. Some will go in the closet and only come out when they’re needed. The broken organizer is probably going away. Sticking these items in the hall freed me up to “see the big picture” when I was moving things around.

Some things you can control and others you can’t. For example, I have tables, which I happen to really like. But even if I didn’t like them, desks aren’t available to me right now. So one way or another, I have to make these work. While it’s nice to try and carve out a large gathering space or library, {two spaces we’ll visit a little later.} I would settle for making those areas smaller in the name of traffic flow!! I want students to be able to move around easily from one spot of the room to another. There are clear paths for students to reach the drinking fountain, the library, the front door, the gathering space, etc.

My kidney table is where I will work with students in small groups during guided reading, guided math, and writers workshop. It’s one of my favorite spots in the room!!  From my chair I can see my whole room with one swooping glance. It’s where I was standing when I took the first panoramic picture from the start of this post. There are not blind spots. That’s important because I need to see what my crew is up too even when I’m not directly working with them. You want them to know that you can see them from here too! 😉 This year my table is located very close to the drinking fountain. No water fountain shenanigans will be getting by this teacher. #sorrynotsorrykids  Behind my table is going to be my teacher work space. It’s still a work in progress right now. I think I’m going to swap that table for small desk from Ikea that I have my sights on, but I’m not sure yet. The size of my teacher work space has evolved greatly over the years. I started with a big traditional teacher desk, moved onto an even bigger crafting desk that helped me get organized, but ultimately downgraded to a small table. I prefer to free up the space to create better traffic flow and more available space for the students to work aside from their seats. {That’s the next topic we will visit here.} I’m only ever really at my desk when the class is out of the room. And if we’re honest, it ends up becoming more of a place for me to collect papers throughout the week. #realtalk #teacherproblems Still, I like having a small space that’s just mine.

 {Ikea table pictured above, here}

Another thing I always have in the back of my mind, regardless of desks or tables is, do I have spaces where the students can work independently? They don’t have to be large spaces. They don’t even have to involve furniture. I always map out a few floor spaces that are designated for students to sit and work. One space is always underneath my two main white boards. I can usually sit 3 students under each board with enough space for them to spread out and not sit right next to each other. Another floor space I use in the same way is right in front of the closets. Students can lean against the closest while they write with a clipboard, play a math game, or read a book. I won’t push furniture against the closest, so it would otherwise be wasted space. These same floor spots can become partner spots too. So if I have six floor spots between the closest and under the white boards, and a pair of students are sitting in each spot…that’s 12 kids that can work somewhere other than the tables! This can prevent tables or clusters of desks from being too crowded and noisy. Clip boards, small lap desks, and even that $20 table from Ikea are thrifty and practical solutions that work well in small floor spaces. I have a bucket of clipboards my students can grab when they need to work somewhere other than their table spot.

 Above, you can see that I push my writing center right up against the library. They’re both quiet work spaces. But note, the library can also be a spot where individual students and partners go to work. So can the gathering space. If you have any small tables or extra desks, these are great for a designated center or just another space students can feel free to pick up their work and move to throughout the day.

 A whole group gathering space is just as important to me as the small group instruction space. I’ve listed just some of the times you will want a gathering space throughout the day. Much of my whole group instruction happens here. I love this carpet that I received last year from Mohawk Homes. It helps define this space.  But not everyone had a carpet and the good news is, you really don’t need one!! Corners naturally define a gathering space. I once observed a first grade teacher who had 33 first graders in his very small classroom. {Bless.} When you walked into his room there were three obvious spaces. His small group instruction table, all the student desks {yes, all 33 of them – eek!!} in the center, and his gathering space in the only available corner! If you don’t have an open corner or space, carve out an area that can be split between students on the floor and students in their seats. You can allow the kids to take turns when it comes to who sits where.

This was how the room looked when I last left it. I still have oodles of hours of work to do before it’s the finished space I want it to be. Also, you never know when inspiration strikes and I decide to move things around again. But now that the foundation it set, I can start moving onto things like decorating, organizing, and my next project…

…mapping out the wall space!!! But that’s a whole different post for a whole different day. 🙂
{I’m making a mental note to come back to this wall space topic though.}
If you found these set up tips helpful, please feel free to PIN so you can come back to them!
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Stephanie Stewart

Stephanie Stewart

Hi, I' Stephanie! I’m always looking for new ways to put a creative twist on the standards and I love helping primary teachers do the same in their classroom. Think of me as your virtual teaching partner right down the hall. I can’t wait to share new lesson ideas, teaching tips, and engaging K-2 resources with you!

8 Responses

  1. Awesome post! I teach 3rd grade but I'm a new follower! I always set up the area for my classroom library, small group, and whole group meeting area first and then fill in the rest. Question: What's that in your shopping cart?

  2. I love that you took a panorama of your room! I'm also moving into a new room this year. I took several before pictures at the beginning of the week. My goal is to be finished by Friday. I think I will do a panorama of the finished product. Your room is looking great!

    Lunch, Snacks, and Recess

  3. Construction is happening in my room this summer. I don't know what I'll find when I go back in a couple weeks. I know it will be like starting over. I'm looking forward to following you as you set up your room "from scratch".

  4. Enjoy your Blog!
    I am looking for some ideas: I recently moved my Kidney table from the entry way, now I have this big empty spot, it's in front of the closet/supply/cubbies, so I need to be careful what to put there. I know if I don't do something purposeful there will be too much horseplay. Any suggestions?

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Hi, I’ Stephanie! I’m always looking for new ways to put a creative twist on the standards and I love helping primary teachers do the same in their classroom. Think of me as your virtual teaching partner right down the hall. I can’t wait to share new lesson ideas, teaching tips, and engaging K-2 resources with you!



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