Tips for Setting Up Your Elementary Classroom

Ah, the last week of August. While to many this means one last vacation before summer ends, trips to the beach, and evenings at the local ice cream place, it usually means only one thing for teachers: time to go set up the classroom!

As a second grade teacher, it can be a bit of a daunting task: go to my classroom that has been packed into it’s drab, “summer” mode, and transform it back to a colorful, warm, and welcoming place. Since this September 1st also signals the arrival of 21 seven and eight-year-olds, it also means organization and structure are key. My students thrive on routine, so it’s important to establish my expectations early to avoid chaos. (Well, as little chaos as is possible with a room full of second graders!)

Here are some steps I take to ensure my students (as well as myself!) stay organized.

  1. Have a “Mission Control”, or central location your students can easily access.  

When my students first arrive in the morning, they are expected to do several things on their own. This includes handing in homework, making a lunch choice (which at the elementary level, can be a BIG DEAL), reading the Morning Message, taking a chair to his/her desk, and beginning Morning Work. While this sounds like a lot, it is definitely possible! This year, I dedicated an entire bulletin board for homework and lunch to avoid any confusion. That way, it is simple for my students to put their homework in the correct bin, use the lunch menu to figure out what they will eat, and put the “bug” in the correct box. Our daily schedule is also located on this board, making it easy for my students to reference throughout the day.

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  1.  Keep those “bees” busy – embrace classroom jobs.

So yes, I am one of those teachers that does a classroom theme, and my theme is bugs. As a result, my students can check their “bee” to see what job they have! Teachers can vary on how they like to establish classroom jobs – you will have to pick the way that works best for you! I prefer to give all my students a classroom job, and I purposely pick ones that can help make my own day easier. This year I am also trying something new by having my students “apply” for the job they want, which is why my bees are not on the board yet. (If you are interested in doing this yourself, you can access my classroom job application here).

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By assigning some of the smaller classroom tasks to my students, I can focus on what’s most important – TEACHING! Some of the jobs I have are: “Paper Passers” (to hand out assignments), “Postmasters” (who put corrected papers and notices into the students’ mailboxes), “Librarians”, “Floor Inspectors” and “Chair Stackers”, just to name a few! The favorite of most of my students is “Operator”. That student gets to answer the classroom phone when it rings if I am too busy to answer it myself!

  1. Label…EVERYTHING!

As teachers, we know buying classroom supplies usually comes out of our own pockets, and it can get expensive quickly. However, the one purchase I allow myself to make each year is to buy mailing labels. I print an entire sheet for one student, and use them throughout the year to label whatever needs to be labeled! This includes student mailboxes, subject folders, notebooks, pencil cases, our handwriting book, and a lot more items I am probably forgetting! Nothing wastes class time more than having the teacher hold up an item and say, “Whose is this?!?!”

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  1. Take time to establish routine and expectations…as much as you need!

Now that the classroom itself is organized and ready, it’s time to start thinking about getting my students ready as well! I take at least the first 3-4 days of school just to establish classroom routines and expectations. I need to teach my students how to make a lunch choice using that board, how to hand in homework in the correct bins, how to carry a chair safely, how to fill out a homework log, how to do each classroom job. This takes a LOT of time, and repetition is crucial. If there is ever a point my students forget or fail to follow a certain routine, we will spend some time practicing again! Once the students pick up the basics, it becomes easy for us as a class community to transition into academic learning.

Those hot and humid days I spent sweating in the classroom will no doubt pay off once the school year begins. Each new year begins with excitement, and I’m looking forward to seeing the smiling faces of my students soon! Now that I’m all organized and ready to go…who wants ice cream?!?


Post written by New Member Committee member Jessica Rosenthal

You can follow Jessica on Twitter: @JessMorningstar

Follow MTA New Members on Twitter: @MTANewMembers and find us on Facebook!


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