Sunday, August 19, 2012

getting your classroom ready

Many of you are headed back to school tomorrow (if you haven't started back already). Some of you are starting your very first year of teaching. CONGRATULATIONS! There is nothing that beats being able to realize a professional dream. You have likely envisioned your classroom hundreds of times. And now that you're faced will organizing a classroom on your own, you may be a little anxious. Or, maybe you've been teaching a while, but had to switch classrooms or grade levels. Or schools or districts even. Even if you're in the same classroom you've been teaching in for a dozen years, you are still faced with bare walls and bulletin boards, desks piled in the corner, and decisions about where to begin.

Last August, I tackled some ideas about setting up a classroom in a post you can revisit for some ideas about layout, bulletin boards, and supplies. When organizing a classroom, consider function first and then aesthetics. Your classroom is your and your students' work environment, and though you want it to look appealing, it primarily needs to help you all accomplish your work.

I usually begin by considering the whole group work area and the desk arrangement, since this is the main use of classroom space. If you're lucky enough to have some major technology resources like a smartboard in your classroom, this might dictate a lot of how your classroom is arranged. The way you arrange your desks is a personal preference, but be sure that all students will be able to comfortably be able to see the board and/or where you are likely to teach and give instructions for work.

And in thinking about this, consider what is most important for students to be looking at all day. Your students are likely going to spend a lot of time looking at the front of the room (or wherever the board is), so what else do you want them to look at while they are looking at the front of the room? Use the wall and bulletin board space in the front of the room wisely to support the good instruction that you'll be doing in your classroom.

If you're an elementary or ELA teacher, you likely have a classroom library. Don't worry if yours is a little small to start - it will definitely grow as you teach! Decide on a way to organize your library and a method for checking out books. I struggled with this, and tried a different method every year. Even now teaching college, I am experimenting! But this year, I am going to try the Classroom Organizer app, which is super slick if you have an iPad that you can use at school. It can scan the ISBN and you can check out the book almost as easily as if you had a hand scanner and computer program. I'll let you know how it goes!

One of the major things to consider is where/how students will hand in work and where is a place to turn in late work (and to keep extra copies of assignment sheets in case students lose and need to replace them). Teachers can drown in papers, so deciding a system for paper turn in and late work is essential.

One last thing (for now)... don't be afraid to let your personality shine through your classroom. If you love sports, choose a sports-themed bulletin board for keeping track of assignments. If you're a cat-lover, pick a cute cat poster for the room you can look at throughout the day. If you love bright colors and can sew, add a decorative window valance to brighten the room. Personal touches can make your room more inviting for students and parents, and make you more excited to be in there every day.

Best of luck as you work the next couple weeks on organizing your classroom, reviewing curriculum, and learning the ropes!

What other classroom set-up suggestions or questions do you have?


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