Friday, June 1, 2012

How to Set Up Your Classroom

Ok- so first of all, I have to apologize for the quality of the photos below- I took these really quickly one day and never took any more!  But at least you will get the idea.  :)  Also, this is a lengthy post, however, for new teachers, I feel like this may be helpful!  And seasoned teachers, just check out my photos for some ideas! :)

The pictures below show the way that I arranged my 4th Grade classroom.  You may like some or all of the ideas.   Pick and choose which ideas you like and use them for your classroom! :)

One other note:  My students ALWAYS commented on how they LOVED my classroom because it was so colorful and I had a lot of decorations.  I always loved my classroom because of these reasons too... remember that your students (and you) will be spending more time in your classroom than they spend at home each day.  Make it warm and inviting, make it somewhat homey, make it a place they WANT to be, and a place YOU want to be in.  :)

If you look at the first photo below, the photo tour will take you from the SMARTboard area in a clock-wise rotation around my classroom.

A View of My Classroom

I've had my room arranged in so many different ways over the years- try something out... you can always change it up any time you want! :)

The first photo below is of my 4th grade classroom.  I normally had the student's desks in cooperative groups of 4-5.  We were doing state testing at this time, so we had the desks moved all around the room.  However, this photo kind of gives you an idea of where I had my desk, the student mailboxes, etc.  My Student Supply Center and Classroom Library are to the right of this photo.  The Reading Areas are to the left of the photo and my file cabinets and Group Work Table are to the left of the Reading Areas.

In the photo below, taken of my middle school classroom, I was able to have tables instead of desks.  I LOVED my tables.  I would take tables over desks any day!! It is so much easier for cooperative grouping and gives the students more work space.  The only problem you face with this as a classroom teacher is finding other places to put student supplies.  

As you can see from both photos, I love color, and additional lighting so I don't have to use the flourescent lights all of the time.  In the photo above, notice the table in the back right of the photo.  I needed extra storage under that table.  So instead of letting it look junky with storage, I hot-glued some fabric underneath the table to hide my junk! (I think it took about 2-3 yards... measure your table and remember that 3 feet= 1 yard of fabric :).

The Front of the Classroom

We were very fortunate to have SMARTboards in our classrooms!  Here is what the front of my classroom looked like.  I posted my Expectations (rules) and Consequences on pieces of paper around my SMARTboard so that my students would always see them! :)  I am also a fan of rugs and comfy seating areas.  The US Map rug worked great when I was doing lessons on the SMARTboard and I wanted my students right up by me and engaged in the lesson.   It also doubled as a Reading Area during our Reader's Workshop time.

Student Supply Area 

I believe in creating a classroom where any materials and information students use is organized and easily accessible to them.  My Student Supply Area contained everything they needed that they didn't already keep in their desks.  This included things like, our classroom pencil sharpener, individual whiteboards and markers, colored pencils, markers, crayons, glue, rulers, scissors, etc.  This way their desks didn't get too cluttered and they could share with each other.

I labeled EVERYTHING; drawers, cabinets, etc.  Even though students knew where everything was, it was still helpful to have everything labeled in case we had a substitute, a new student or other students from other classrooms in our class.  I kept it labeled all year long.

My Classroom Library

I LOVE organization!  One of my best friends is the Dollar Tree.  I sincerely love that store for all of the dollar goodness there!  I organized my classroom library books into individual baskets.  These baskets are each labeled either with a Genre, Favorite Author, Topic or Series.  The books are then put into the baskets and stay there throughout the year.  The blue, red, and green baskets are labeled with genres.  The gray baskets are  books in a series or by a specific author.  The books on the bottom two shelves in the blue, green, black and white larger baskets are picture books, which I labeled by topic, author or series.  I put all of the books at an easy level for all students to reach, and also put our class dictionaries on the bottom shelf so that they would be easily accessible to students.

On the 4th shelf from the bottom on the right-hand side, I put all of my mentor texts.  These are books I don't allow students to read.  Sometimes I may need a "cold text" for a mini-lesson.  I also want them to be books that students are excited for me to read to them since they likely haven't heard them or read them before.  Above these books, I kept all of my book club chapter books.  They are kind of messy because I didn't have a whole lot of bookshelf space for them!

If you are interested in what genres I used, or how I created and ran my classroom library, I will be writing a post coming up soon with more Classroom Library details! :)

Computer Cart

My school was also fortunate enough to have a laptop for every student in our school to use.  We stored them in the computer carts given to us by the school.  As you can see the printer stayed on the top.  And notice my cool art. :)  I believe in exposing my students to as much art as I can! :) 

Comfy Reading Areas

In continuing clockwise around the room, you will see my 2 comfy reading areas.

The first one, in the photo below, my husband helped me put up the "canopy."  All we did is take some ceiling hooks (found at any teacher store), fishing line, and two $3 twin sheets from Wal-Mart and strung the fishing line on the hooks. Then we draped the sheets over the fishing line.  It took a little finagling...but we finally got it to work!  All of the spiral things hanging down from the line are from the $1 Shop.  

You also see one of my End Tables that I got at a garage sale for $4.  With some orange and blue spray paint, it turned into a different and way more fun reading table! :)  I also LOVE photography and photos.  Any time I could, I would take photos of my students (doing a special project, on their birthday, or just hanging around the classroom or at recess) with my digital camera.  I would get them printed and then I would hang them on the bulletin board that you see in the photo.  My kids loved seeing themselves and their friends on the wall! I think it also gives the class a sense of family and classroom unity.

In the second Reading Area, shown in the photo below, you will see my favorite "mushroom" or satellite chairs,  purchased from Wal-Mart for around $20 each.  The kids LOVED these chairs! :) You will also see another one of my $4 garage sale End Tables.  This one my husband spray painted the bottom black, and I used National Geographic magazines and Mod-Podged unique pictures to the top of the table.  Simple and unique!  Underneath the table, I had my students store our body pillows.  They were allowed to use these during Reader's Workshop, or if we worked in different areas around the classroom, sometimes I would allow them to be used then.  The lamp on the table was a thrift-store find for a few dollars.  My husband spray-painted it a metallic purple, and I bought a cheap new lamp shade and the dangling sequin "tape."  I hot-glued the sequin tape to the edge of the lamp, and voila!  It was super cute!  Whenever I did anything crafty to my classroom (like the lamp), my students would say that I Shelangoski'd it (Shelangoski was my maiden name)!

Information Bulletin Board

Ok... so I know that this bulletin board is TOTALLY LAME.  I admit it!  But it did have our lunch menu information (which I changed each month) and I also posted my student's birthdays here.  Whenever they had their birthday, they would wear the "birthday sombrero" for the day and I would take their photo and put it up on the birthday board.  I really don't like how I did this bulletin board or how I displayed student's birthdays, however, it was good to have all of this info up for students to see.  Pintrest has some great ideas for birthday bulletin boards! 

Book Club Books

I got this nifty little book display from a teacher who left our district.  It is simply a cardboard display that you find at Wal-Mart during the back-to-school time.  Whenever you find empty cardboard display items or cardboard folder containers, etc.  I always grab them up- they are so useful in helping you organize your classroom!  The outside of this cardboard display has fabric hot-glued to it, to make it cooler :).  

I keep all of my different book club books here.  The display is right by my group meeting table.  This way I don't have to search for my copy of the book each club is discussing.  I can go right back to the group table and grab the appropriate book.  I will explain more about my book clubs in a future post.

Personal Stuff

I always like to put a few personal photos in some frames and a few things that I've collected or that are special to me for some reason (however, I do not put anything in my classroom that I care if it gets broken or not!).  In the picture below, you will see some photos of me and my husband an our dog, Charlie.  You will also see the Coconut Bank I got on a trip to Florida to see my grandparents, a nursery rhymes book I got on my visit to Hawaii to see my best friend, my Teacher of the Month Award from a local radio station,  and a monkey that I got on another trip to Florida with two of my best friends.  I like to put personal stuff in my classroom that is unique and that might spark a personal conversation with my students or their parents.

Classroom Mailbox System

I don't think I could live as a classroom teacher without one of these babies.  You can purchase them a lot of places online or at teacher stores.  I would suggest NOT getting a cardboard one... you definitely get what you pay for.  This one was a few years old and a hand-me-down, but it worked great!  If you can't afford one, have your husband, boyfriend, dad, trusted friend good with tools, go to Lowes and buy some wood and make you one... that way it would be WAY sturdier and last a lot longer! 

I assigned all of my students numbers in my classroom.  This way when turning in papers, etc.  It was easy to see who turned stuff in and who didn't.  There were a lot of other great benefits from using classroom numbers.  I will describe that more in depth in a later post.  It also worked AWESOME for our classroom mailbox system.  Instead of re-labeling the mailboxes every year with student's names, I just labeled them with our classroom numbers, and never had to change them if a new student moved in, or a student moved out, etc.

I used the top of the mailbox for my grade book, lesson plan book, and other teacher texts.  The tray system beside my teaching books was where I put already graded papers to go into the mailboxes.  

I wanted the mailboxes to be lifted up off of the ground, so that I wouldn't be bending over so far to put stuff in their mailboxes.  So I took 2 crates, turned them upside down and covered them with fabric.  Then I set the mailbox system on top of the crates.  This worked wonderfully! :) And it didn't sit the mailboxes up too high, so students were still able to help me fill the mailboxes.

Welp, that's not EVERYTHING in my classroom, however, it is most of the big stuff... hope this has been helpful to you in some way! :) Good luck and have FUN decorating and organizing your classroom!

Remember that the more time you spend organizing BEFORE school starts, the easier your classroom procedures will be to set up and maintain with your students.  

p.s.  Clutter Free Classroom has some more wonderful ideas on how to organize your classroom!  Check out Classroom Set Up and Design and Organization Tips.  Mrs. Terhune's website also has some really great organizational ideas that I will be using in my future classroom as well! :)