Friday, 17 August 2018

Tips for Setting up a Classroom

When you walk into your classroom at the start of the year to see all of your furniture piled up, the task of setting up your classroom can feel very overwhelming. It doesn't need to though and following these tips for setting up a classroom will help you to break down the task and make it manageable.

Sketch it out - I'm a very visual person and need to see what something looks like before making a decision. I usually sketch out the shape of the room on some paper and draw in where I want things to be placed. This helps me to visualise what the room will look like. Once I'm happy with the sketch, it's easy to put everything in place.

Utilise Time - You need to quickly accept that your classroom isn't going to look exactly how you want it when the children arrive. Often you don't have a huge amount of time to set up your classroom so you need to prioritise the important things and ensure your classroom is presentable for students. You have a whole year to fine tune your classroom, and it is much better to involve students in this process anyway. Make a to do list and stick to it. Don't allow yourself to get distracted doing other jobs and don't waste time cutting and laminating the small things before doing the bigger things, like organising your furniture.

Create learning areas - I love to have areas within my classroom where all resources for a specific subject are placed. I usually also use a nearby display board to display work related to that subject. Once you have the learning area you want outlined, it's much easier to plan where they will go and which areas will work best for your students.

Place student desks - This is one of the key things to do early in the set up as it's important that they are placed well. Children need to be able to see the board and have enough space to work. It's always beneficial to have chairs facing forward so students don't have to crane their necks to see. When doing this you will need to consider how you want your students to be grouped. I prefer group tables of 4-6 children (usually 6 for the high and middle abilities and groups of 4 for the children who will need a lot of extra support), however, there are so many different ways to do this.

Place your teacher desk - I'm not a fan of the teacher desk, although I do accept that they are needed. I barely use mine other than to dump things on and it takes up so much space. If you're like me and don't use your desk often, place it out of the way in an area where it doesn't intrude of learning space. Keep in mind that there may be times when you have confidential information on your screen so it should be placed somewhere where passing parents or colleagues can't glance into your classroom and see the screen.

Label and template - Labels and templating are so important in ensuring everything has a clear place. If they are ready for the first day of school, it allows students to independently select resources and put them away. It will allow you to be clear from day 1 about your expectations in the classroom and will set you up well for the next year. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to have labelled and organised resources.

Child-centred displays - Don't stress about getting printed, laminated resources up on the wall. Sure, it looks pretty but it is likely to be a waste of time. How often do children look at the displays you have created before they arrive? However, if you create your classroom displays WITH children, using their work and their input, they are much more likely to refer to them to support their learning. Not creating these printed and laminated displays will save you so much time too.

Labels for children - Preparing locker labels is always helpful on the first day. The first day can be crazy, with nervous children, parents asking questions and the many other things going on. having locker labels ready means children can put their things away independently and it saves so much added stress when they arrive. I like children to create their own locker labels, so on the first day I simple put a piece of paper with their name on each locker, then children create their own labels on the first day of school. If you have carpet spots, it's also a good idea to have them placed on the carpet ready for the first day.

Organise your key resources - There are certain things you are going to need to use immediately, such as post-it notes, pins for noticeboards, pens, pencils, etc. Take some time to organise the key resources in your desk drawer to make sure you have everything to hand to make your first day of school as stress-free as possible.

And that's it! Setting up your classroom is a huge job, but following these tips will be a big help. As long as you ensure these steps are done in time for children starting, you have plenty of time to fine-tune your room and make it home.

Happy setting up your classroom!

What things do you prioritise when setting up your classroom? Let me know your top tip!
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