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Organizing Your Back to School Power Plan

Organizing your classroom can be done in less time than you think. Follow this simple organizational plan for primary, elementary, middle, and high school teachers.

Have you felt the rush of emotions that wash over you when you stumble upon the Back To School Aisle in stores?

Whether it’s excitement, anxiety, or astonishment, now is the time to prepare ourselves with a solid plan.

Believe me, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of early preparation and a well-organized classroom.

Let’s get a head start and stay one step ahead of the game!

image of children heading back to school

TRUTH BOMB – I’ve been known to waste way too much time prepping, so I made a list to improve my efficiency and thought many of you might also benefit!

*Stick around to the end of this article to grab your FREE No Stress Back-to-School Checklist!

1. Sketch out a quick diagram.

When planning your workspace, it’s important to think strategically about the areas where teachers and student will be working, including desks, small group areas, libraries.

Be sure to include a spot for your big furniture pieces and shelves, as well as smaller items like carts.

Keep things organized by placing carts and smaller shelves between workspaces for easy access when you need them.

2. Clean and dust!

I know – YUCK!

It’s a drag when you want to jump in and arrange desks and furniture to make the room look like a classroom. But this is the best and easiest time to tackle the dreaded cleaning.

Ultimately, it will save you time.

3. Start arranging the BIG furniture pieces.

Start by moving the oversized furniture pieces into place around the room. Of course, don’t hurt yourself trying to move filing cabinets, etc.

Ask others for help and know your limits.

I always started with my teacher’s desk, filing cabinets, shelves, small group table, and student desks.

Once that was decided, the rest of the room fell into place from there.

At my school, the teacher’s desk needs to go where the power cords and wires are. 

Next on the agenda was tacking the classroom library. Start by organizing the classroom library books. Sigh. We all know this is the only time the books will stay organized!

My bookshelves are huge, so they’re arranged next. At my school, we had to pack the books in boxes over the summer if the shelves were movable, making the task of unpacking take a little longer.

One of my goals was to create cozy corners where students would want to read.

Carts. In my opinion, the more colorful, the better!

I inherited a cart with a missing drawer a few years back. I used it to store supplies for small group activities and possibly for Monday to Friday lesson planning. My only challenge was running out of floor space with all the rolling carts and shelves.

On the downside, big carts need a special place in the room. I usually kept it between my teacher’s desk and my small group table for easy access from both workspaces.

4. Bulletin boards

I generally kept up the same bulletin boards all year (don’t judge me). I would switch up the hallway bulletin boards to match the holidays or seasons.

They’re also a great way to display student work. However, the bulletin boards in my room were considered prime real estate!

I aimed for everything hanging on my walls to serve a purpose, whether it was an informative reference poster, an anchor chart, or another functional element.

In the past, I made the mistake of positioning reference posters, including the CUBES/CUBED Math strategy posters, below the whiteboard on the front wall. Bad idea.

I quickly realized that students in the back couldn’t see them. I ended up moving them above the whiteboard, where they remained every year since then.

Even if you haven’t yet planned your bulletin boards, start by setting up the background paper or fabric and borders. You can decide on decorations or posters later, but having the bulletin boards ready will give you a sense of accomplishment.

If you teach upper-grade ELA, you’ll love this bulletin board display featuring a plot diagram for story elements. The editable cards come in two sizes and can be arranged across the back wall of your classroom. We referred to it often during class discussions, and even after students “graduated” from my classroom, they continued to mention its impact.

You’ll want to click the image or CLICK HERE to check it out at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

5. The teacher desk. Ugh.

Preparing the room never feels complete until I’ve organized my teacher’s desk. In the past, I would find myself frantically digging through drawers to locate the supplies I needed. Like the stapler for hanging bulletin boards, or tape for who knows what.

I often scratched my head at what I uncovered in my middle desk drawer, hidden beneath a towering stack of papers. To my amazement, I’d often stumble upon unexpected treasures amidst the clutter. Forgotten Christmas candy, pencil sharpeners shaped like penguins and cannons, and even seashells!

C’mon, admit it – you have some weird stuff too, right? 😉

At this point, I know you’re thinking that you shouldn’t be taking ANY organization tips from ME! I don’t blame you – my teacher desk tips end right here!

6. Organize . . . everything.

You saw my desk – I don’t have room for actual, useful office supplies 🙄 , so I made one of those handy storage boxes. It was kinda ugly, so I won’t post a picture. But you can find some gorgeous examples on Pinterest.

And on the subject of organizing – my math drawer was more organized than my desk. Messy, but functional.

It’s amazing how the hanging files helped.

I tried to get by without them for years, but believe me, it’s worth $5 for hanging files that actually fit the filing cabinet. The organized feeling is PRICELESS!

7. Organize your lesson plan – binder system

I’ve always been enamored with using a printed teacher binder. Although I experimented with online planners, there was something about my colorful gel pens and markers that I couldn’t let go of.

Plus, I needed the ability to grab my binder for meetings and have everything at my fingertips. It’s efficient and easy to stay organized because everything is located in one convenient binder.

I kept it on the corner of my desk so I could grab it as I headed to meetings. I felt confident that whatever I needed was inside.


If you’re looking for a printable teacher binder system, check out this article – Teacher Binder Organization Step-By-Step.

8. Decorate!

Finally – my favorite part of classroom set-up – decorating!
I loved filling the empty spaces and creating a cozy look. Teachers spend so much time in the classroom, it should be a comfortable place where you want to be.

I’ve read that students perform better when they feel comfortable in the classroom. I know I feel better when I’m comfy.

That’s kind of how I operate. I wanted to feel like my classroom was my home away from home, and I wanted my students to feel that way as well!

Use RACE or RACES for your writing strategy

The image above shows the RACE or RACES writing strategy posters along with Sentence Starters Stems in the speech bubble style. If you’d like to read more about the RACE writing strategy, here’s a great article – How to Teach the RACE Writing Strategy

I’m sure you’ve seen images of classrooms with little lamps and cute reading areas. We all know how some of our students live – they benefit from those loving touches.

9. Grab the “No Stress” Back to School Checklist –

FREE when you sign up for emails!

Download this FREE No Stress Back to School Checklist from Caffeine Queen Teacher

About the checklist ~

The checklist is updated with ideas for starting the school year.

Keep in mind there are so many variables with schools and precautions, so you’ll find an editable version! You can add more details to the lists.

At the very least, this No Stress Back to School Checklist will make your back-to-school planning a bit easier. 

Pin this article for later ~

students preparing for back-to-school season and the first day of class

Check out MORE Back to School Tips for Organizing Your Classroom:

Read about MORE Back to School Tips!

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