Setting up and organizing your classroom at the start of the year can come with some mixed emotions. From excitement to absolute overwhelm. I’ve been teaching for over ten years, and I’ve never taught in the same classroom for more than a year. (Yeah, it’s just as miserable as it sounds.). It was a struggle to set up my classroom from scratch every year. I used to freeze and get nothing done. Looking at boxes and boxes of teaching material, decor, etc. (IYKYK) just left me with no idea where to even start.
For years, my husband would come with me and help me out. He would get me started by asking me what I wanted him to do first. He’d tell me to start area by area and that really made a difference. Now 10 years later, I’ve gotten really good at creating systems to help me set up my classroom, and I want to share those classroom setup ideas with you!
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Step 1: Come Up with a Floor Plan
Before you start unpacking and setting up your classroom, decide where you want your furniture to be. Where do you want your desk? What about student desks? How will you configure them? Where will you put bookshelves and storage? This is the most important step to organizing your classroom. It’s easier to move things around before everything is unpacked and in the way. You can always make tweaks later, but it’s easier to move the big bulky items when they aren’t heavy and packed with supplies.
Step 2: Set Up Your Bulletin Boards and Whiteboard
I like to set up my bulletin boards and whiteboards next (or in my case, an old-fashioned blackboard) because it’s easy to do and makes me feel accomplished.
I don’t put much on my bulletin board because I want them to be purposeful, not just decorative. I share my board with the English teacher, so I use magnetic borders to designate my space from hers. You can also use them to create sections, like an agenda or for writing student absences.
Step 3: Set Up your Desk
Next in organizing your classroom is getting your teacher desk ready. This is where you store personal items, things to grade, copies for the upcoming week, and more. You want this space to be practical, functional, and easy to navigate.
I like to have a hanging file on or near my desk to store photocopies I need for the week. Then, I keep my teacher toolbox nearby with supplies I need, like pens and staples. Of course, I also load my drawers with essentials like snacks, sticky notes, and that emergency stick of deodorant!
Step 4: Organize Teaching Resources
Now, it’s time to tackle and organize your teaching supplies! Luckily, I have some classroom setup ideas for that too.
If you have cupboards or any type of storage, start putting away items that you don’t need frequent access to in those places. Then, sort out the items that students will need to access daily and place them in open areas – like a bookshelf or on a table.
Next, set up your class library. You can organize them by genre, author, or theme on the bookshelves.
Step 5: Set Up Communal Bins
At this point, your classroom should be pretty much ready to go! Last on the list for organizing your classroom is creating a place where students can grab needed supplies.
Put together any supplies students will need, like pencils, gluesticks, etc. Put nametags on students’ desks and cubbies. Print out any welcome information or supplies you plan to send home.
You can even start to think ahead to the routines, parent communication, and first day of school activities. To make things simple, I created this Back to School Guide for French Immersion Teachers. It has games, activities, attention-getters, guides, and more to make preparing for back to school a breeze.
Don’t worry about having the picture-perfect classroom or having everything perfect for the first day. As you get to know your students and settle into the school year, you will naturally shift and move things around to suit your students better. And don’t forget – kids don’t care what the room looks like as much as they care about who their teacher is and how safe they feel in their classroom.