Preparing for the First Day: Organizing your classroom
Prior to the first day of school, there are many classroom organization details to consider. You want to be sure to have your classroom organized and ready for students to step through the door that first day back. An organized classroom sets the tone for the school year ahead.
Start this organization process by creating some sort of map to develop your ideal classroom set-up. There are a lot of great apps and digital resources available to grid and virtually map out your classroom. If you want a more hands-on approach, mapping out your classroom on the whiteboard also works.
Here are some things to consider when planning your classroom:
- Permanent Seating:
- Think about the day to day—how the students will be coming in and sitting down. You must keep in mind and think through walking and potential spacing hazards. If students are going to keep backpacks on the back of their chairs, the way you position the seats and the tables should be spaced accordingly. Also, you need to be able to reach and assist every student. Will they be seated in rows? In clusters? Around the room in a circle? Kidney tables? Pod-shaped tables?
- Temporary Seating:
- These are things like your centers. If you are going to have centers, where should those be located in your classroom? Is it a corner? Do you have a space against the wall? The area directly beneath the white board tends to be neglected. However, this is a great space to utilize, when students are moving around the classroom.
- Assigned Seating:
- The plan for assigned seating can vary by grade. Sometimes it works best to not have assigned seats the first day. This provides an opportunity to get a feel for who may already have friends in the class. This helps tremendously when assigning seats for the next day. Some teachers like to set the standard of structure with assigned seating from day one, though. In this case, it is important to have name cards at seats as students enter the classroom for the very first time. Regardless of your approach, you must have this decided before the first day and have a plan in place.
- It is important to distinguish which tables will be for student use and which will be for teacher use. Think through how you’re going to use the tables and how they will be accessed. Some things to think about include:
- Where will you place tables for arts and crafts materials?
- Where will your calculators, rulers, pencils, erasers, etc. going to be stored?
- It is a good idea to designate at least one table that is for teacher use only. Some things to think about include:
- How will you position and organize this table so that it is clear to students the table is for teacher use only?
- What will you have on your personal table? You might want to use this table for things like a lesson-plan binder, any of your technical tools, and materials for illustrations and/or examples that correspond to your lessons.
- Bulletin Boards:
- For many of us, this is the most exciting part of classroom planning. It is helpful to get your bulletin boards covered and ready as soon as possible. This will make the whole room start to feel like it’s coming together. Your bulletin boards don’t have to be 100% finished, with everything on them, though. You will be rotating things on and off the bulletin board throughout the year, but you will likely have those bulletin boards that are somewhat permanent. These permanent displays include things like resources and maps that you and students will constantly reference throughout the year. For the less permanent displays, you’ll have student work and school-wide announcements coming on and off the board. It is a good idea to cover these bulletin boards with fabric. Fabric is a teacher time-saver, as it will last and look nice all year. Think about the pattern you want and grab about 3 yards per bulletin board at your local fabric store or superstore.
- What do you want students to see on your walls? What posters do you want to hang? Think about where student work and/or projects will be displayed. Clothes pins and clothes lines make great displays draped across the walls. Posters on the walls can always be added throughout the year. Find yourself a multi-purpose mounting adhesive, to hang items on the wall. There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to hang posters, only to find them on the ground the next morning.
- The board at the front of the room is usually the one you will use for instructional purposes each day. A portion of this board may be designated for things that are constant, yet changing daily. For example, this section is where you may want to write the date, learning standard of the day, learning target of the day, focus questions, and homework. Colorful duct tape works well for sectioning off pieces of the board for these more constant pieces.
- Student-use containers include bins or baskets where student work is turned in and where supplies are stored (scissors, crayons, pencils, glue, etc.) These should be clearly labeled.
Hopefully, these tips and tricks are helpful. Have a productive school year!
Erica Callaway, TeacherReady®