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.
Ooh – that feeling when you notice the Back To School Aisle is on display in stores.
Does it make you giddy with excitement? Worried? Shocked?
Whichever feeling you get, you still need to be ready and have a plan.
I L-O-V-E being settled into my classroom early.
It feels good to get the room set up and organized, then go back home to enjoy more summer break.
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 get your hands on your own FREE No Stress Back-to-School Checklist!
If you’re ready to jump in, so am I! So here we go with the plan.
1. Sketch out a quick diagram.
Focus on all teacher and student workspaces, such as desks, small groups, libraries, etc. Include all the big furniture pieces and shelves. Also, include large items, like carts, that need a planned spot. I keep carts and smaller shelves between workspaces, so they’re handy when I 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 do the dreaded cleaning. It will save you time in the long run.
3. Decide on a lesson plan system
I’ve always loved using a teacher binder. I just can’t give up my brightly-colored gel pens and markers!
Plus, I can carry my binder with me to meetings and have what I need right at my fingertips. It’s efficient for me, and it’s easy to stay organized because everything is located in one convenient binder. I can grab it as I head out to meetings and feel confident that what I need is inside.
If you’re looking for a teacher binder system, you’ll want to read this article – Teacher Binder Organization Step-By-Step. Also, be sure to check on Teachers Pay Teachers for other options by very talented teacher-sellers.
If you aren’t a paper-pencil kind of person, there are plenty of online lesson plan options.
4. Start arranging the BIG furniture pieces.
After wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, blowing dust, I move the oversized furniture items around the room.
Of course, don’t hurt yourself trying to move filing cabinets, etc.
Ask others for help and know your limits.
My teacher’s desk, filing cabinets, shelves, small group table, and student desks are the first to be arranged.
I decide where my teacher’s desk goes, and the rest of the room falls into place from there. At my school, the teacher’s desk must go where the power cords and wires are. Once my desk is in place, it’s easier to arrange everything else.
Organize those 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. If the bookshelves are movable, the books have to be packed in boxes for the summer, so it takes me a little longer to unpack those, but it’s pretty simple.
Once I get the tables and bookcases arranged, the room looks pretty good. My goal is to create cozy corners where students will want to read.
Carts. In my opinion, the more colorful, the better. Teachers can use carts in so many ways. I inherited this cart with the missing drawer a couple of years ago. I use it for small group supplies and possibly Monday – Friday master planning. My only trouble is running out of floor space for all of my rolly carts and shelves.
This one is big enough that it needs a special place in the room. I plan to keep it between my teacher’s desk and my small group table for easy accessibility for both workspaces.
5. Bulletin Boards
I generally keep up the same bulletin boards all year (don’t judge me). I used to change hallway bulletin boards with the holidays or seasons. They’re great for displaying student work. But the bulletin boards in my room are considered Prime Real Estate!
I want everything hanging up on my wall to be a helpful reference poster, anchor chart, or serve some other functional purpose.
In the past, I made the mistake of putting reference posters, such as my CUBES/CUBED Math strategy posters, below the whiteboard on the front wall.
Unfortunately, I soon realized that students in the back couldn’t see them. So I moved them above the whiteboard, where they’ve remained every year since then.
Even if you don’t have a plan for your bulletin boards yet, get the background paper or fabric and borders up. You can decide on decorations or posters later, but you’ll feel better when the bulletin boards are ready.
If you teach ELA in the upper grades, you’ll love this plot diagram – story mountain – bulletin board display. The Cards are editable and come in two sizes. I used to hang mine up across the back wall of my classroom. We referred to it often during class discussions, and students always mention it even after “graduating” from my classroom.
You’ll want to click the image or CLICK HERE to check it out at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
6. The Teacher Desk. Ugh.
I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress until I’ve set up my teacher’s desk. I’ve usually already had to tear through the desk drawers searching for my stapler – that I needed to hang the bulletin boards – and for tape – that I needed for who-knows-what?
Here’s what I found when I pulled out my middle desk drawer (after removing a gigantic pile of papers that I shoved in on the last day).
Everything from old Christmas candy, penguin and cannon-shaped pencil sharpeners, seashells?? Whaaaa . . . . ??
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!
7. Class Library Love.
Now’s the time to arrange books and other knick-knacks around the room. You saw my library shelving area above, and these are book bins. I arrange mine by reading level. New labels can wait for another day.
8. 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 – here’s my math drawer. Messy, but is WWWAAAAYYYY more organized than ever.
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!
Finally – my favorite part of classroom set-up – decorating!
I like filling the empty areas and making the room look cozy and the place I want to be.
I’ve read that students perform better when they feel comfortable in the classroom.
That’s kind of how I operate. I want to feel like my classroom is my home-away-from-home, and I want my students to feel that way as well!
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
A quick Pinterest search will turn up gobs of comfy and efficient classrooms.
You’ve seen other blogs with little lamps and cute reading areas. If my room were big enough, I’d absolutely add those touches. Do what you can. We all know how some of our students live – they benefit from those loving touches.
Grab the “No Stress” Back to School Checklist –
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About the checklist ~
The checklist is updated with ideas for starting this school year now that COVID has changed our lives.
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.
Check out MORE Back to School Tips for Organizing Your Classroom: