Each summer I see the same questions circulating around Facebook groups or popping into my email inbox and they all revolve around where to get started with setting up a classroom. First-year teachers are asking this question, as well as veteran teachers who are wanting to improve their organization for the year. It’s a daunting task but one that can be accomplished by following a few simple steps.
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In this post, I am going to share with you the six-step process you should follow for setting up a classroom at the start of the new year. This is great for a teacher who is beginning his or her very first year in the classroom. But also, any teacher can use this method for setting up their classroom.
The goal here is to set up your room in the most productive way so that you can take advantage of the time you have, instead of feeling like it is working against you.
Steps for Setting Up a Classroom
My favorite phrase is “make the plan, work the plan.” That’s because when you take time to create a plan ahead of time, you save yourself so much time when you are in the classroom.
The plan tells you exactly what to do and when to do it so you aren’t spending time scratching your head figuring out what to do next.
I have put together a full outline + action steps and extra tips to help you as you set up your classroom. You can download the free guide, 6 Steps to Setting Up a Classroom– a free gift from me to you!
But for now, let’s cover each of the steps!
Step 1: Organize at Home
First, start setting up your classroom by already being organized. If you are a first-year teacher I know you have been collecting things over the summer.
Do yourself a favor and organize them BEFORE you move them. Get a few boxes and put all your desk supplies in one box, all your library books in another box, classroom materials in a different box. This will help you when you get to step number three.
Even organizing all your materials from undergrad is helpful for all the new teachers reading this! I talked about how to organize all that stuff (and get rid of some of it!) with Dr. Fecich on her podcast Edumagic.
Step 2: Clean the Classroom
Okay, I know this step is NOT fun! Posting Insta stories of cleaning cabinets and dusting shelves isn’t sure to gain much traction. But PLEASE hear me out when I say this…This part is SO important!
Just taking a quick hour to dust all shelves, wipe down all the cabinets is going to set you up for so much success! This is a great task to give to a friend or family member who lovingly came to help you get your classroom set up.
It’s important you do this step before you bring any materials in your classroom!!! So, on the day you get your keys, bring some cleaning supplies, pop on a good podcast episode (here’s a rec I can give you ;)), and get to cleaning.
Step 3: Layout the Classroom
We are already in step three, but still haven’t brought anything into the classroom yet!!! Before you even start bringing boxes into your room- lay it out.
When setting up your classroom, you want to consider the physical flow of your students and create areas within your classroom.
Make sure to start with the big areas in your classroom like your student desks*, whole group teaching area, your classroom library, and small group area, and your teacher desk area.
(More tips on how to do that down below. For now, you are just figuring out the areas for all of these parts of your classroom)
*I encourage you to set them up in groups of 4 for cooperative learning. Don’t know what cooperative learning is?!? Then head to this podcast episode with Dr. Kagan who shares all about it! I also chat with my friend Sarah who is a Kagan trainer. We talk a bit about Cooperative Learning in this episode!
(Please forgive me. I know the picture quality of these photos is quite terrible. But in all fairness, I took these with my iPhone 4 in 2012 when I had no idea I would ever be writing a blog that people actually read…)
Step 4: Organize Your Cabinets
NOW we are at the step when you can start bringing stuff into the classroom!
This is when you will bring all those boxes from home that are organized and unpack them into cabinets that will be organized by like things (here is how I organized by like things in my classroom).
I know that you will be tempted to skip the organizing step in favor of getting your room all cutesy-fied. I promise you we will get there, but do this first!!!!
You can organize your cabinets using these 5 tips that I put in video form just for you.
It is tempting to come straight into a new room and put every Pinterest pin into action and make your room look and feel at home (it’s important that you do that!).
But then, you spend so much time with that and all a sudden it’s 3 hours till Meet the Teacher Night and you have seven boxes of stuff that you have to shove in your cabinets so no one sees them.
Once the school year starts I promise you, you will not have time to organize them so then it just becomes a jumbled mess that gets more and more disorganized as the year goes on.
Avoid that chaos and do this step first, and I promise it will help you in the long run!
Step 5: Set Up the Classroom
Okay, but Kelly…haven’t I been setting up the classroom this whole time???
Well, kind of.
This specific step is more about putting things on shelves, setting up your stations, and putting all the STUFF into the different areas you laid out in Step 3.
Here are some posts to help you organize different areas of your classroom:
- Tips for Organizing Your Classroom Library
- Organization Tips for Stations
- How to Organize Your Small Group Teaching Area
- 10 Tips for Keeping Your Centers Organized
- 10 Tips for Setting Up Your Classroom
Step 6: Decorate the Classroom
YAY! Now to the fun part!!! Get your Pinterest board pulled up, start working on all those projects and make your classroom feel like home!
You need and your kids need it. I would go so far as to say that your kids’ parents need it to.
If you want a classroom that starts out organized (and will stay organized throughout the year) then you must follow a plan.
Remember to start by organizing at home. Then move on to a quick clean of the classroom before you bring items in. Once your classroom is clean, you can layout the big areas in your classroom.
Now it’s really starting to look like a classroom! Finish it off by unpacking those boxes and, finally, decorate!
I shared A LOT of links in this post. Here is a quick recap of them all!
- Download the free checklist- 6 Steps to Setting Up a Classroom
- How to Organize a Classroom Library
- Tips for Organizing all the Materials from Student Teaching
- Station Organization Strategies
- Organization for Small Group Teaching
- Theme your Cabinets by Like Things (video!)
- 7 Meet the Teacher Night Activities
- Simply Teach Podcast– practical organization and management tips for teachers
Want even more help getting your classroom all set up, organized, and prepped for the first day? Then join me on my free 3-day challenge- Prep for the First Day.
Three days. Three essential steps. A great guide for first year teachers (and hey, even veteran teachers!) to create a plan for the first day of school!
Until next time,
If you found this helpful, make sure to Pin it to your favorite teaching boards to reference later!