10 Steps for Setting up my Classroom in the New School Year

As the time for planning creeps closer and closer (who am I kidding? It’s already here), I would rather procrastinate by thinking about what I could do differently in my classroom set-up and design. My first year, I spend hundreds of dollars at teacher supply stores and on fancy posters with graphics and Shakespeare images or cartoons of famous authors. However, I realized how infrequently I used those and how infrequently my students look at them. Moreover, it didn’t feel like me. Once I got myself a bit more settled into my classroom management and curriculum plans over the years, I felt like four years in (last year), I was ready to re-examine my room set-up. I overhauled my classroom and made it me. This year, I will tweak a few things but leave much of it the same. Below, I’ll share a list of what I have done or will do, in order to set up my room for the new year.

1. Floor and table lamps – no fluorescent lights! My students always notice at the start of the year that the room seems “dim” the first few days but they adapt quickly and all of the sudden fluorescent lights are horrifyingly bright in my room, on days when subs come in and the overhead lights go on. I suffer from debilitating and frequent (three days + a week) migraines, so light is a big no-no for me. Plus, I’ve heard fluorescent lights can be bad for young mind over long periods of time (although I don’t know if I believe that…). Regardless, I have table and floor lamps with warm lights to keep the room lit but calm. 

2. Sheer drapes in a blue-green color – thankfully I have a great view out of my window to the courtyard, but sometimes my students can be distracted. So not only do the drapes help just a tiny bit to keep their attention inside, but they further add to the home-y feel of the room with the lamps.

3. Book corner – this will be a new thing this year. I have quiet a few book shelves lining the back of my room which can make the back feel cluttered. I will be moving one or two of them to the front corner of the room, where there’s some space thanks to the removal of some unnecessary equipment. With this, there will be a bit of a book corner created by the book shelves. I thought about even adding an area rug there on the floor, but I’ve heard if it doesn’t cover the whole floor, it’s a magnet for dirt and dust. So I’m still mulling that part around. But there will definitely be a book corner.

4. Classroom library – I came from an inner city school that did not have a library in the high school. So myself and another English teacher spent our time collecting books for huge classroom libraries, so our students always had books to read and books that were high-interest. Over the years, since I’ve moved to schools with libraries of their own (my city school closed 😦 ), I have added many more book high-interest books and classics to the collection, as well as resource books for me and the students. This means fewer students leaving my classroom to go to the library for a book! They can skim the shelves, but they “leave it at home.” 

5. Printed and laminated quotation posters – Posters are EXPENSIVE! This was the biggest surprise when I first started decorating my classroom. I couldn’t believe it! And they never felt right for me. Last summer, I started printing out some of the internet memes and license free pieces from the internet, on high-quality settings on my home printer (in color), and then I bought a CHEAP mini-laminator to protect those. They are small posters – only 8 1/2 x 11 inches at most, but it means that I am saving a lot of money on posters I don’t much like and instead can have a lot of interesting and more purposeful posters on my wall. 

6. Printed and laminated Common Core posters – Our school recently made the move back from Standards-Based grading to traditional grading, but during SBG, we were required to post the learning targets we would hit every day on the board. Instead of rewriting them every day, I had a poster made on VistaPrint ($15) and laminated it at school, and then I bought red arrow magnets from Amazon, so I would just move the magnets every day to the new targets, depending on the lesson I was teaching. Even though we won’t have SBG this year, I’m sure we will still have to post the standards we’re covering in the day’s lesson and it helps the students know the purpose behind the lesson, so I will definitely keep these up and used all year long. I printed two posters, one in blue and one in green, for the two different grade levels, so I could distinguish between who was doing which targets each day. They came in handy, without question!

7. Accommodating ADHD students – I read about something on Pinterest regarding how to set up for your room for ADHD students. One of the things that really stuck with me was keeping the front of your room, where your students are facing, free from clutter or too many things to look at. So I will be trying to keep it simple at the front of the room, just with the targets and the homework. Any extraneous or distracting posters will be moved to the sides or the back, so students can look at them before class starts or after it ends, without being distracted during the day’s lesson. 

8. Student Info/Supply Station – At the entrance to my classroom, I have a bulletin board and the tops of some bookshelves. I have yet to put something worthwhile on those bulletin boards. This year, I’m going to use this as an info station for students, a place for me to put laminated copies of the school map, the laminated emergency evacuation route, a smaller white board for each of the homework notes, and a section for the announcements for the day or week, from the principal. On top of the bookshelves, I will have an area for student supplies like extra paper, pencils, markers, tape, a hole-puncher, rulers, tissues, hand sanitizer and moisturizer (a big thing with my high school boys now… who would have thought?), and my book sign-out binder. When students borrow a classroom library book and want to take it out of the room, this is where they go to sign it out and sign it back in. It’s also where I can go to check who has what, when I know I have something and cannot find my copy of it. I also check it at the end of each marking period and remind students to bring things back, if they’ve had them for awhile. The best part about this station is it means students have their own area to go for things that doesn’t keep them crowding around my desk!

9. Power Strips – With a one-to-one school and a nearly paperless classroom, my students use their computers also every single day in the classroom. That means most of the time, at least 5-10 of them need to charge their computers for one reason or another. The four accessible plugs I have just won’t cut it, so I have three different power strips around the room, one in the back and one on each side, so anyone who needs it can charge their computer without going very far or crowding around a single corner. It allows for less disruption and means kids can get to charging without requiring my assistance, figuring out which plugs work and which don’t. This way, they just plug-in and continue!

10. Pictures of them – I saw an Instagram wall on Pinterest that I loved, and I want to adapt this for my students! I have another bulletin board on the back wall that I want to find a better use for. I had some samples of student work on it, but I find those are only helpful during that assignment. Otherwrise, they just sit there. However, at least in the first part of the year, I think having pictures of the students in the room can really help to build a community. So I’m thinking of combining two activities I saw on Pinterest into one – having a student stand at the white board and their classmates write compliments ONLY around his/her head and then my taking a picture of that student and printing it out, to post on the back board like a classroom Instagram feed. Perhaps then I will add to it or change it as the year goes on, with other pictures of things they’re doing and activities they’ve done, since they’re such a visual generation and at the age where they like taking pictures of everything they’re doing, no matter how simple! 

Let me know below what things you will be keeping up in your room this year, what you will be changing out, and what you will be moving around! I’m definitely interested in hearing about any and all set-ups people have, especially for the high school level!