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How-To: Get Started

Setting Up Your Intermediate Classroom Julie Dermody

A classroom reflects your style, both personally and professionally, and since you and your students will be spending a lot of time in it, you want your classroom to be as inviting and organized as possible. But, before you go out and buy plants and design seating arrangements, reflect on what will make you the most comfortable and best represent your style. Analyze what’s in the room already – you may have "inherited" items that you will need to work with (or around). For example, some classrooms have tables of various shapes in them instead of individual student desks and some newer schools have the luxury of teacher offices instead of teacher’s desks. Are the computers at a fixed location in the classroom and where do the students hang their coats and backpacks? Are bookshelves for reference materials and textbooks permanently placed in the room?

Once you analyze what you have to work with, you can start to make "big picture" decisions: for example, what will you consider the front of the class and do you want an open area for students to sit around for oral reading time after you arrange the desks (or tables.)? I like to start out with the students desks arranged in a circle and later move into small group configurations. I also like to place my desk at the back of the room.

The school may have policies regarding some items that will affect your classroom set-up. Do the students need passes to go to the bathroom or do they need to sign out on a sheet? Do you need passes for students to go to the office or the library? Are pets allowed?

Check list to consider in setting up your classroom:

_____ Enough desks/chairs for each student (or table space) and cubicle space for backpacks and lunches. It is helpful to label the cubicles with individual student’s names. I place student names on the back of the chairs and find it is easier to change seating arrangements by moving chairs. If you have desks, you might prefer to put their names on their desks.

_____Location of maps and overhead screen should be within sight of all students (I had my overhead screen mounted across a corner of my room next to my front board.)

_____ Fixed location to post lunch menu, assignments, daily agenda, calendar (these do not have to be in the same area, but it is helpful if they are in a predictable place throughout the year.)

_____ Location of student mailboxes (I’ve seen these created out of cereal boxes as well as shoe boxes but personally, I used money provided for classroom teachers by our PTA to purchase mail boxes at a discount store for $30.)

_____ Location of where students are expected to turn in their homework (9 x 12 plastic rectangular baskets work well.)

_____ My students have daily jobs and these are posted and changed weekly on a job chart. This job chart is posted in the front of the room. (Please see IMPACT II’s the New Teacher’s Handbook for more information.)

______ Bathroom passes (if desired) hung by the door (boy and girl). I let my students go to the bathroom if a pass is there, otherwise, they wait for the same sex student with the pass to return.

______ Place to return library books (I use a plastic cart next to the door. The class librarian for the week is in charge of taking the books back to the library each day.

______ Bins to store materials. Some teachers use plastic shoeboxes to place enough markers, glue, etc, for each small group area to share (i.e. one box for four students to share.) Some teachers keep these bins in the center of the group of desks at all times. I place my bins on a back counter and place them around the room as needed or let the students get them when needed (same goes for rulers that are kept in a large plastic cup.) I found it helpful to have materials in an accessible place so that students could get what they need themselves – e.g.. pencil sharpener, colored paper, scotch tape, stapler, whiteout, and clipboards.

______ If you have the luxury of an extra long table, use that for a general "work station" – to place specialized materials needed for projects.

______ If you will have classroom animals, plan on the location for them. (First check on school policy as well as possible student allergies.)

______ Extra money or energy? Bring in plants, hang curtains, purchase seasonal fabric to use to cover the background of your bulletin boards, and by all means, go out and purchase some posters to decorate the room. Posters don’t all have to be curriculum oriented…express yourself as well (e.g. if you love wolves, hang a poster of wolves for your students to enjoy as well.) Your school’s PTA may be able to help you with funds for your classroom.

I know one teacher who stenciled her classroom with leaves and flower designs. I choose to use student artwork and creativity to help give my room, windows (and my ceiling) a special look.

 

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