How was your back-to-school week? I bet it was as interesting as you thought it would be. And although school has begun, I’m sure you still do a lot of finishing touches in your classroom.
If you are an elementary teacher just like me, I know you spend a lot of time and money in getting your classroom ready for back to school. On the first day that you report back to work, you walk into your classroom – whether it be a new one or the same room assigned to you last year – that sure needs a lot of TLC and with furnitures to move here and there. But isn’t this what we all do once we get back to school? You take a quick scan of the room, and all ideas come flooding in about what new stuff is needed to design it, how the student desks will be arranged, where to put your most precious teacher’s desk, which will define the kind of workspace and privacy you will set as a teacher, and most especially, how you want your classroom to look like. Then an overwhelming feeling sets in. You look at your agenda for the first week, and you realize that with all the scheduled workshops and training on Common Core, new initiatives and what-not, there will never be enough time to just organize your classroom.
If that is the case, do not fret. Just like you, I tend to get overwhelmed by the daunting task of having to organize my classroom because I usually have very specific tastes in terms of what colors to use and how the learning space will look like. Over the years of teaching, however, I have learned some ways to make classroom organization less tedious, less daunting, and a bit more fun instead. So, I’m sharing with you some practical tips on how to make classroom organization easy.:
1. Make advanced preparations by doing some research on the web about classroom themes and designs. You will find tons of creative ideas on Word Wall and Bulletin Board designs, classroom set-up, learning centers and just about anything on Pinterest and on various teachers’ blogs. If possible, decide on your theme and colors before the back to work week so that you’ll know what things to buy for your room. For the month of August, I decided to use the “Minions” theme to go along with my back-to-school set of picture books. This theme was inspired by We Are Teachers’ post on buzzfeed.com. Click this link for more back-to-school bulletin board ideas. I will change my bulletin board’s theme depending on the season and on my focus lessons.
2. Check out the various stores’ online sites for good deals on the classroom materials you think you might need and that you know your school does not provide such as dry-erase markers, mini-whiteboards, storage bins for your classroom library and students’ supplies, sticky notes, etc., and make a list of what to buy and where to buy them. Then, embark on a one-day shopping at these stores with a set budget. I found my green and red storage bins for my classroom library and red tiny buckets to store pencils and crayons and colored markers at the Dollar Tree store. You will also find a lot of good deals at Ikea, Five Below, Staples, and Target.
3. Once you know what your room assignment is, decide where to place your desk and your shelves (if you have movable ones), and where your different centers will be. Then, decide on the order by which you will organize them. I find it easy to design all my boards first, followed by the classroom library and the Reading corner before anything else. As I do this, I do a lot of moving around the desks and chairs just so I could reach the top of the classroom walls, which is why it doesn’t make sense for me to set up my students’ working space just yet. When I am done cleaning my shelf, I start unpacking the boxes that contain all the books for my library. and that were already previously grouped by genres and lexiles. Believe me, when all your boards are ready and your classroom library is set, everything else comes easy.
4. Arrange your working space, the rest of your centers, e.g. Vocabulary and Phonics Center, Computer Center, Writing Center, etc., and the students’ working space. Envision how your students will move around the classroom at different centers, and how you will also move around when you are teaching. You will find that as you do this, you get a feeling of a sense of accomplishment that the hardest part was already done and you are now making sure that there is adequate space for teacher-student interaction.
5. Last but not least, treat the maintenance personnel and the office secretaries nicely and respectfully. They will be your best friends, and in fact, your most needed friends just before school starts, and when school ends and whenever you need something. Anything. And I do not have to explain why.
Happy First Week of September!