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How-To: Get Started

Setting Up Your High School Classroom Paul Hewitt

Tables or desks? You'll likely inherit one or the other unless you're in a specialty area which has labs or chairs. The room size may dictate how the furniture fits, so you will have to concentrate on the perimeter. Where are the chalk (or dry erase) boards? Do you want the students facing them? My classroom works best with the chalkboard to the side, since I seldom use it except for posting the day's work and taping up examples of student projects.

Where is the screen for projecting overheads? This obviously needs to be in front of the students, but I had mine mounted across a corner. Where do you want your desk? If you're going to be moving about the room or standing at an overhead projector, the teacher's desk doesn't have to be centered. Will you have a computer in the room? Will this be a student work station or for your use only? The spot for a computer may be dictated by wall outlets and/or a network connection. How about storage or file cabinets?

  • Get the big furniture items placed first, and then assess what you have left to work with for display space. Actual bulletin board space may be limited, so you have to be creative in finding ways to mount additional displays.
  • Set aside one bulletin board for important on-going communication with students. This board may include your classroom rules, a calendar, an assignment log, the daily bulletin, and other such items. It should be in a place that is easy to access, preferably where students will see it every time they enter the room.
  • If you teach multiple preparations, you may wish to set aside a space for each course. If you post assignments in a certain spot every time, then students can be trained to check there when they return from an absence.
  • What are the rules in your building about mounting things on the blank areas of the walls? If it's ok, what mounting system works best for the wall type? I have two cement block walls, and have found that the small squares of velcro tape are about the only thing that will stick. (Then I mount the other half of the velcro on the backs of posters.)
  • Metal strips with an insert of cork work for me on a rough wallboard. These need to be fastened with screws, and give me an easy way to staple posters or student grade sheets as they change weekly. (The maintenance department will often install such things if you befriend them.)
  • You may be starting out without much of a collection of posters. Find a couple of prints that inspire you and have them laminated. Make the room a reflection of your personality. I know one math teacher who is a hockey fan. She decorates her room with Detroit Redwings memorabilia.
  • Early in the year, find an assignment that allows some student artwork or showcases their creativity. Then post the student work. They like to see their accomplishments on the wall and it helps to set the standard for best practices in student performance. This can be a terrific ice-breaker if you can get it in place before a fall open house for parents.
  • Try to set up a spot for students to turn in work (an in-basket) for each course. This saves a lot of paper sorting later as you grade and record their work. And set up a system of slotted trays for work to be returned.
Most importantly, drop in and visit classrooms of other teachers who seem to have their act together. Borrowing ideas from veterans is the whole point. You don't have to invent everything yourself.


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