I wholeheartedly believe we should be creating classrooms that are welcoming, safe, and yes, even cute for our kiddos (Hello! I did a whole episode on creating a hygge classroom!). But before we even step foot into our classroom, we have to have a plan on how to create an organized elementary classroom. That is KEY to having a classroom that is organized and well-run throughout the school year.
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A question I often get asked is “how do I plan for the new year.” There is so much to do that it can feel a bit paralyzing to know where to start.
You don’t just show up and start putting up bulletin boards and printing off welcome packets, you need a plan! One of my favorite sayings is “make the plan, work the plan.”
That’s what teaching is all about; making plans and working them.
Well Teacher Friend…that’s what this post is about today, the plan you need for setting up an organized elementary classroom.
Could this work for high school teachers? Probably so. I would argue these components are important no matter what setting you are teaching in- elementary, high school, virtual, homeschooling…it all matters!
First, though, let’s start with what the definition of an organized classroom is.
This definition comes straight from the slides inside the Master Your Classroom training that you can sign up for right here.
You can see that it is more than just being a classroom that looks great. No matter how many pictures of beautiful (read: unattainable) classrooms we see on Insta floating under the #classroomorganization hashtag.
There is so much more to creating a classroom that allows you to be an effective teacher than meets the eye.
The Components of an Organized Elementary Classroom
There are four components when it comes to creating an organized classroom. I want you to think of these components as a wedding or tiered cake- you have the plate that it sits on, then the layers going up.
I specifically structure the components, and the framework course, this way because I believe you need the things on the base to support the things on the top.
The Organized Teacher Framework™ lays out the “cake method” in great detail as well as walks you through how to set up each of the “cake layers”
- First, you have time management and self-care, that is your plate or surface that your whole cake sits on.
- Next, you need your classroom management plan,
- Third is classroom organization,
- and then lastly is your decorating.
When it comes to making your plan for your upcoming year, I want you to do it in this order.
I know it might seem backwards…”wait, shouldn’t I get my classroom set up first?”
But, as my mom likes to say, there’s a method to my madness!
Tier 1: Self-Care and Time Management
I specifically encourage you to do this first because if you don’t create a plan now, in the summer, when life is “easy” and you don’t have all the demands of school on you…you never will.
So think of things like:
- late days and early days,
- assigning themes to your days and your conference periods,
- journaling or at home care you want to do to continue pouring into yourself,
- what boundaries you are going to put in place to protect yourself and your family.
- how and when you will lesson plan
- creating documents like a year at a glance to help you when it does come time to planning
- how you will hold your students accountable to the time you have with them, like finishing work in a certain amount of time instead of constantly saying “oh, 5 more minutes”
I talk about this in the course but I am going to say it here because I think it is so important. If any of these adjectives describe you, I want you to listen in closely: young, single, married with no kids, hard time saying no….
LISTEN TO ME! You CAN and SHOULD say no! As a first year teacher with no husband (or boyfriend even) and no kids, I felt like I was always expected to be the person on the team that volunteered to stay late or run the errand for the team.
That is not true and not fair.
Establish what your boundaries will be now so that you don’t have to try to figure them out as you are in the middle of it.
Also another boundary, something I didn’t know until I got into my school, was the unspoken expectation to pitch in money for every baby shower, wedding shower, meal train, and even PTO. It adds up fast.
Of course, you hope that all the money you pitch in will be returned to you when it’s your turn to get married or have a baby.
But y’all…that’s a lot of money! So create a plan now for how much you are willing to spend and tell your team that. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Okay, off my soapbox.
Tier 2: Create a Classroom Management Plan
Classroom Management is not just behavior management, that’s a piece of it but classroom management is so much more.
The definition from the book “Setting Classroom Limits” is this:
“Classroom Management refers to the full range of things teachers do to organize people, materials, space, and time for the purpose of teaching and learning.”-Setting limits in the classroom
This means classroom management is your:
- discipline plan,
- your routines,
- student procedures,
- your engagement strategies and classroom community building strategies.
^^^ All of these things go into creating your classroom management plans.
It’s a lot, I know! That’s why I have a whole module with 7 lessons about this in The Organized Teacher Framework™ Here is what we cover in the framework in more depth and what you want to make sure you have a plan for:
- Behavior Management Plans (there are 4 you need and you want a plan for all of them even if you don’t use them all)
- You need a plan for how you will manage students and their routines
- Cooperative Learning and Community Building are sooo important to creating that organized elementary classroom so come up with a plan for that now!
- You also need a plan for handling consequences and discipline
- Attention Getters (these are SO critical!)
- How to differentiate your instruction
- And lastly, if you are a high school teacher, there is a lesson in the course geared specifically to your grade levels needs
Tier 3: Classroom Organization
Step three is classroom organization. That means there are two other really critical things you need to do before you even start setting up your classroom.
Even though we think of classroom organization being just the look of the classroom, you can see now that it’s so much more.
That is why I created and teach the framework in the way that I do- you NEED this framework for creating the organized classroom you want.
If you are a First-Year Teacher and trying to figure out “What do I work on right now?” Those two things (time management and classroom management) are what you need to prioritize first.
Then you can worry about organization and how you want to set up your classroom.
Things like how to organize your materials, your students materials, stations, desks, papers… all that stuff falls under this category and are the things we talk about in the inside The Organized Teacher Framework™.
Also, in general if you are wondering what to focus on right now then I’d suggest listening to episode #49: 10 Things You can do Right Now to Prepare for the New School Year.
Tier 4: Decorating and Engagement
Step four, which I know will pain many of you, is to decorate.
When we get into our classroom we want to jump to the decorating and making it look great which I get. I made that mistake my first few years too, but again, it’s a mistake.
We make lots of mistakes when setting up a classroom (here’s a list of the most common). But this is one of them…jumping to decorating before getting the other key pieces in place.
If you don’t create an organized elementary classroom at the beginning of the year, while you have a little more time, you won’t be able to the rest of the year unless you commit to spending time outside of your working hours in the classroom organizing it.
Which, I don’t really recommend…(See step 1 for time management and boundaries!)
Take the time over the summer to create your plans so when you do get into your classroom, you have an action list of what you need to do and you don’t waste so much time.
Then, once the school year actually starts, you aren’t having to spend so much time organizing things and can focus on what really matters which is educating your kiddos.
Listen in to the podcast to get all the details on each of the layers! Or, join The Organized Teacher Framework™ and get started on creating your classroom organization plan.
Connect with Kelly
When you are creating and organized elementary classroom, you need to ensure you have a plan for these four components before you ever start thinking about how cute or cozy you will decorate your classroom:
- Time Management and Self-Care
- Classroom Management
- Classroom Organization
- Decorating the classroom and/or engaging your students
I break all of this down inside The Organized Teacher Framework™, a course for teachers to help them set up and organize their classrooms in a way that lasts throughout the year.
Here is a recap of all the links I shared in this post (cause it’s a lot, y’all!)
- Master Your Classroom Training (free training)
- 7 Time Saving Tips for Teachers to Boost Productivity (blog)
- How to Implement your Classroom Management Procedures (blog)
- 5 Ways to Stay Organized as a Teacher (blog and podcast)
- My Lesson Planning Workflow (blog and podcast)
- How to Create a Year at a Glance (blog, video, and podcast!)
- Managing Finances as a Teacher (blog and podcast)
Until next time,