Setting up your classroom as a first-year teacher can be overwhelming and stressful! There are so many things to consider…storage, layout, organization, to name a few. But there are some simple ways to have an effective classroom management system that runs smoothly all year. Let’s look at five ways to set up your classroom for success.
Map Out Classroom Space & Layout
Take a close look at your classroom space with regards to layout. The first step is to decide how you want your classroom to look and how it should be arranged for attention and flow. Students should face the front board, that’s a no-brainer but think about where is the best place to put your desk, classroom library, and small group stations. If you plan to do several stations or centers in your classroom you probably want them in different areas to give space and create an area that is specifically designed for that task. Common stations that are found in a lot of classrooms include an art, math, writing, computer, and reading stations. Think about where you can keep supplies close to each center and how students will move from one area of the room to another. There may be limitations on how you can arrange the space depending on where the door is located, computer hook-ups, or if there are built-in shelving. On a whiteboard or chalkboard sketch out the room. Be sure to add whiteboards, doors, windows, shelves, desks, computers, and any other built-ins. On sticky notes, write down all the different areas and centers you plan to have. Next, think about where to it’s best to place students desks, teacher’s desks, tables, books, classroom library, and supplies. Lastly, consider where to have quiet areas and not-so-quiet areas. Move the sticky notes around until you find the ideal set up. Mapping it out will help you evaluate each area of the classroom and see the best options available.
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Attractive & Purposeful Class Decor
Have you ever walked into a classroom where every inch of the wall is covered with fluorescent posters? There’s so much to look at you just don’t know where to start. There are too many loud colors or too many patterns with no rhyme or reason to the design. Some students may be able to learn in this environment but for many people, there’s just too much going on making it hard to focus. These are all things to keep in mind when planning your classroom design.
Organizational Systems are Key!
Organizing your classroom can be one of the trickiest parts of teaching (at least for me!). What methods will you put into place that will help you stay organized throughout the school year? Think about all the things that teachers have to organize this might include:
- classroom library books
- unit lessons and materials
- take home folders
- files, files, and more files
- parent information
- papers to grade
- papers to send home
- student portfolios
- lessons and materials to copy
- school supplies
- daily schedules
- activities for centers
- indoor recess stuff
- data collection and intervention resources
- professional learning development
- curriculum maps
- teaching materials
- teaching books
- PLUS 20 to 30 kids
That’s a lot of stuff to organize and keep track of. (Whew!) A classroom decor pack with daily schedule cards, a calendar set, signs for centers and areas are an excellent way to help organize your classroom. One of the main things to look for in a decor pack is it editable? An editable file gives you lots of options to add your own personal touches. Look for packs that have extra labels in different shapes and sizes too. This offers the ability to mix and match for a lot of different areas including the classroom library, supplies, books, or as needed throughout the year.
How to Use the Management Tools:
Our mega classroom decor bundles have everything you need to set up a warm and inviting one of a kind classroom. We have 15 different themes available when this was published and more on the way. Inside each bundle, you’ll find more than 400 pages of valuable resources to set up and organize your classroom including:
- Welcome Back to School Letters
- Open House/Meet the Teacher Presentation & Forms
- Classroom Rules Posters
- Daily Schedule Cards
- Build a Calendar Set
- Center Signs
- Table/Station Signs
- Supply Labels
- Name Tags/Desk Plates
- Classroom Jobs Pack
- Teacher and Student Binder Covers
- Student Agenda Pages
- Newsletter Templates
- Alphabet and Number Posters
- Growth Mindset Posters Variety Pack
- Reading Strategy Posters
- Literary Genre Posters
- Welcome Banners
- First Day Activities
- Reward Cards/Brag Tags
- Extra Labels
Send Welcome Letters to Students and Parents
Welcome back to school letters might be the first thing you print. In summer, teachers can use the template provided as a guide to write and send home a letter to her students. Another option is to send home the letters on the first day of school. Personally, I love mailing out welcome back letters a couple weeks before school starts. I send one to the students and one to the parents. I like to introduce myself to the parents and tell them a little about myself. I include information about my teaching experience, about the school, and what they can expect from the year ahead. In the letter to students, my goal is to get them excited about coming back to school. I might tell them a bit about myself but the letter is mainly about all the fun things they have to look forward to coming up this school year. I include things that might interest them such as what we will be learning about in science, social studies, and what books were going to read. I also include information about upcoming field trips or special events that we do each year. Anything that will get them excited about coming back to school is sure to be included.
Along with welcome back to school letters, there are several poster sets in our bundles. Classroom rules, reading strategy, and literary genre posters are included so that you have a variety of options for an attractive display in different sections of the classroom. I recommend printing all the posters such as the Growth Mindset, reading strategies, and classroom rules on premium heavyweight matte presentation paper. I love, love, love this paper! It makes the colors almost POP off the page! Amazon seems to have the best prices on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper. Personally, I prefer matte paper over glossy to eliminate glare.
Celebrate Student Birthdays
Celebrate Each Individual Student
Celebrating birthdays in the classroom is a great way to build classroom community. In each decor bundle, you will find editable birthday certificates to give to a student on their special day. On each student’s birthday, I decorate his or her chair with a couple of balloons. I also write happy birthday on the front board so everyone can see it all day. Another fun thing that I like to do on each students’ birthdays, is to interview him or her at some point during the day. Usually, I use the lunchtime to do this interview about their favorite things. Then at the end of the day, I call the student up to the front of the classroom and have him or her sit in the seat of honor. The seat of honor is the teacher’s chair in front of the class. Students are only allowed to sit there on special occasions and their birthday is one of these times.
Birthday Interview Questions
I use the interview questions as a guide to ask the class these 10 questions. The birthday boy or girl gets to call on classmates to give them a chance to answer the questions about them. Some of the questions are about the student’s favorite things and others are about things that even their friends may not know such as what is his or her middle name. One rule of the game is that the student must call on different students for each question so that everyone gets a chance to participate. This is a nice way to recognize each student and they get to know each other a little better. For summer birthdays, we celebrate their half birthdays during the school year or another day that they choose.
Personalize with Your Style!
Let’s face it, you have to be in your classroom for many hours each day. So you want to make sure that it is decorated to suit your style and taste. Take a look around on Pinterest or in stores you like to see what colors, styles, and special touches you can add that make your classroom feel like home (a second home). Chances are if you feel comfortable there so will your students! Some ideas that come to mind are adding a lamp in a dark corner or an area rug and bean bag chairs in to create a cozy library section. If you search on Amazon for area rugs on clearance they have some great deals. For me, having a shag rug in the front of the classroom where students sit during circle time is a good thing. It also provides padding to areas where I stand for long periods of time.
Communication is Essential
Many teachers loved to use our classroom newsletters to keep parents in tune with what’s coming up with important dates, special events, and other news about what is happening in each subject area. There are several classroom newsletter templates that are editable. Are you have to do is either print and write in important dates or information for parents to know. Or you can open them in PowerPoint to edit them. To edit them, simply click inside the text boxes and add the dates and/or information that you want to add. With cute designs and matching themes, there’s enough to make several different ones throughout the school year.
Make Open House Night Count
Open House or Meet the Teacher might be the first time you meet the parents of your new students. It’s so important to establish open lines of communication from the very first meeting that will continue throughout the year. Set up your meet the teacher or open house night with ease! Our slideshow presentations are set up to match each of the many different themes available. The presentation is editable in PowerPoint. Inside you will find slides with information that you can tailor for your needs. The information provided is intended to act only as a guide to help to get you started on what you want to present to the parents when they come in to meet you and see the classroom for the first time. Sign in forms and volunteer forms are available in the bundle.
Send Positive Notes Home
Another communication tool and a way to reward students is to send positive notes home. In this pack, I’ve included several different styles with and without clip art to send a note home to celebrate something that a student has done in the classroom. This celebration could reward an academically related or positive behavior that is being celebrated. Notes can be printed and then you add in a handwritten note to personalize it or you could open the PowerPoint version that is editable and print it that way. Sending a note home to their parents is an excellent way to reinforce positive behavior and make students feel special.
Effective Classroom Storage
There are lots of organizational components in our MEGA Classroom Decor Bundle. Teacher and student (editable) binder covers, daily schedule cards, and a calendar set. You’ll love all labels with real-life photos of supplies to label your plastic bins or containers. Some of the best containers that I have found have been at IKEA, target, or Walmart. Amazon is another great place to find a variety of plastic bins with lids in all different shapes and sizes that you can use to organize supplies and other items in your classroom. The large storage bin with wheels is my favorite for storing and organizing supplies and printables for centers, projects, and reading groups. It’s so easy to pull it over to wherever you might need it! It’s even color-coded to use with reading groups so it functions as a way to organize everything for each group. It has a nice shelf on top for your lesson plans, binders, books, or other supplies like pencils or a stapler that you might need to keep on hand.
Give Them a Warm Welcome
A fun welcome banner is included in all our decor bundles. To assemble the welcome banner, head to Hobby Lobby or Michaels to buy some wide ribbon. For mine, I used a 2 1/2 inch white ribbon from Hobby Lobby. A nice burlap ribbon would look amazing too! Then I used a small dab of hot glue to attach the W-E-L-C-O-M-E letters to the ribbon. You could also use masking tape to hang the letters directly to your classroom door or on a bulletin board. A blank banner template is included so you can design a banner for any reason such as areas in the classroom, centers, important reminders, holidays, or anything else you desire.
Be Functional And Purposeful
Have your students help you cut down on daily tasks by setting up management systems on the very first day of school. As soon as students walk into the classroom in the morning, teach them to move their clothespins, or clips, and put it on the card that shows how they are getting home from school that day. Another design that I have heard of is to use a large cookie sheet and attach the student’s names on magnets so they can move their magnet to show the way that they are getting home that day from school. This saves time for you and you’ll know at a glance how to line students up at the end of the day.
Display Posters From A to Z & More!
Students in lower elementary grades like to look up alphabet posters to help them with learning to read and write and sound out words. We’ve included alphabet posters in different sizes so that you have options depending on the space you have available to display the posters. There are 200 high-frequency words cards for the word wall included in our packs. Number posters, genre posters, reading strategy posters, and center posters come in all our decor bundles.
Classroom Jobs Teach Responsibility
All our bundles include classroom jobs card sets are included. Inside our classroom job pack, we have a mini-job application that says, “we need your help.” Its good practice to have students apply for a job. It builds responsibility and makes it feel like “real”. On the form, it asks students to pick their top three choices of jobs and to explain why they feel that they would do good at that job. Since there are 24 different jobs and only 10 months of the school year, each student is only going to have an opportunity to do 10 jobs. I recommend rotating student jobs once a month. This gives the student an opportunity to shine and become a specialist in that job. It keeps paperwork at a minimum for you! So, in setting up your classroom think about what kind of help you need to keep the classroom running smoothly. What jobs can students do that is helpful to your classroom community? As a side note, when assigning jobs to students to try to give the most active jobs to the most active students.
Reinforce Positive Behaviors
Posting the jobs on a bulletin board with the description and the title show students the opportunities available to them. During the first week of school, be sure to describe the responsibilities of each job to the students. I like to take some time to do this. Students need to know that they are an important part of the classroom community and that if we all help each other it will make our community stronger. We are better together. Make sure to complement students who are doing an amazing job. You might say something like, “Alexander, thank you so much for opening the door and reminding everyone to be quiet as we walk through the halls. That was perfect!” Positive encouragement is a great way to showcase students and reward them for their hard work and efforts.
Have Reward Systems in Place
One of the most important decisions you will make about setting up your classroom is what type of reward systems you will use. Over the years I have tried many different types of reward systems. Check out the blog to read more about a reward system that really works! I have had great success with a program I have developed over the last 15 years called STARS. It’s a student recognition and reward system where every student can be a shining STAR!
There are several reward cards that you can hand out to students to reinforce positive behaviors. I like to keep a few in my pocket to give out to students throughout the day to encourage and reward positive behaviors.
Have a Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is so important that’s why we’ve included a special variety pack of 30 growth mindset posters in all of our classroom decor bundles. They come in all different colors and designs to mix and match in any classroom while reinforcing a growth mindset in your students.
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas for what is the best way to set up your classroom. As time passes, you will be able to reflect on and figure out exactly what works bests in your classroom.