Determining where you place your supply of teacher’s manuals will depend on how much you rely on the manuals. If you rely on them often, then they should be placed wherever you use them the most. You might obtain two copies, keep one set where you meet with the students or where you teach from, and keep the other set on your desk to use for correcting students’ work or planning new lessons. Place tabs in the manuals so that you may quickly and easily refer to the pages where you are working. Label each with a color-coded bookmark to help you select the current resource quickly and readily.
You will need to keep the free-reading resources for your students easily accessible to them. You might use shelves up against a wall or, even better, standing out in the open so that you might use both sides. (Make sure the shelves are sturdy and won’t tip!) Alphabetize your books so that students practice library skills when searching for books as well as when replacing them. As divisions for the books, use large tag tabs with the letters clearly marked. You might also want to arrange the books by subject to help students make their selections.
Arrange an area where students can sit on the floor in a large group to meet with you. This is where you would read stories to the class, have group discussions, do experiments, etc. The area should be near the chalkboard or whiteboard with chalk or markers always available. Also have paper, pens, teacher resource materials, and student copies of materials nearby. The chapter book you are reading to the kids, mind puzzlers, seating charts, and grade books might all be resources you will find useful at this spot. It would be ideal to have this area near a window for the benefits of natural light and fresh air.
Colored Carpet Samples
Depending upon the age of the students, you may wish to use colored carpet samples in your classroom. You can place them in certain areas, depending upon where you’d like the students to sit. If they are to be reading silently, spread the samples around the room and have each student choose the one he or she would like. If they are to be sitting with partners, place the carpet samples in twos throughout the room. It is ideal to have the carpet samples set on the floor before the students come into the room. When they enter, they know they are to go directly to a carpet sample and get to the task—free reading, practicing with flashcards, going over a script, etc. This is an excellent method for starting out the class with DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). Students will quietly be getting to work while selected students are handing back papers, and you have a chance to meet with students who were absent the day before.
Divide your board according to your lesson plans. You might have an area to post the day’s schedule and date. Another area might be used to post the reading lessons. The next area might be designated for math figuring. And yet another may be for penmanship. You can divide the board with colored rubber tape (don’t use masking tape because it won’t come off very easily). Then consistently use a different color of chalk or marker in each area of the board. For example, always write the reading lessons in blue, math in yellow, etc.
Besides having a supply of white and colored chalk or markers and clean erasers, you might also want to purchase or make board cups. These are simple plastic cups with magnetic strips attached. Place these on the board and keep pens, markers, a pair of scissors, and pencils in them for use if your large group area is near the chalkboard. You can demonstrate art projects, jot down notes, and edit lesson plans from your large group teaching spot by using these materials which are stored on your chalkboard. You may want to make sure the students know that these materials are teacher materials and not to be used by students. You may use strong magnetic tape to keep a clipboard with notepaper attached to the board as well.
You may also have a portable board. This can be used as a versatile divider or a two-sided resource—board for writing on one side, bulletin board on the other. Either way, place this portable board/bulletin board where the students can see it from their seats, but where it does not block the view to the main board or to your desk.
Have bulletin boards available for seasonal projects as well as extra-credit projects and a special section called “Student Choices.” Student Choices will be an area designated for students to post any project or piece of writing of which they are particularly proud. The areas can be divided by children’s last names (for example, an area for A–L) or specific academic groups so that when students place their work on the board, they know which area to use. This ensures that everyone always has a spot to put his or her work, and, with a glance, you can keep track of the posted work.
Special Room Organization Tips
• Out and In Bins: Have one area on your desk that is for projects or assignments kids hand in, and another for those papers that have been corrected and need to be handed back. If you teach several subjects, you will need to have an in and out box for each class. You might use stackable metal or plastic baskets. Let the students know about these in and out boxes on the first day of school. The students should be taught to hand their things in when they are completed. You will take that pile at the end of the day, correct the papers, and put them into the out bin by the next morning. As soon as students arrive in class, the first student is allowed to come to the out bin and distribute those papers while the other kids are settling into their seats. Kids love this “duty.” It also saves valuable time collecting or handing out papers during the middle of class.
• Mailboxes: You may use one or two cardboard shoe dividers that you can buy in your local department store for your students’ mail. In these mailboxes, place papers to go home, special notes to kids, finished papers, and homework that students miss when they are absent. Label each cube with a child’s name, using laminated colored labels and permanent markers. When you need to reuse the labels the following year, use hair spray on them and the marker ink can be wiped off. Another suggestion is to put a small mailbox on your desk for students to reach you if they need to jot you a note or have a concern or a question.
•Coat Hangers: You may want to assign your students coat hangers in alphabetical order by their last names. This will help you at the end of the day by allowing you to take just a glance to determine who left a hat, coat, backpack, etc.
• Lunch Tickets: Instead of allowing your students to keep their tickets in their desks where they can easily be lost, create a pocket poster with the names on them for students to store their own tickets in. Place it at a height in your room easily accessible by each student. Be sure it is on a wall that is away from where the students line up so that they don’t have to push through a line to retrieve their lunch tickets.
• Pencil Sharpener: Keep this away from all students’ desks and your desk, if possible, so that the sound of grinding won’t disturb those who are working.
• Computers: Chances are that you won’t have much choice about where to place computers or tape recorders in your room; you will need to place them where the outlets are and where students won’t trip over the cords. However, give some consideration to the angle at which you place the computers. Will the students working at the computer be able to see the board that you want them to reference? Are the computers located far enough away from individual desks so as not to disturb those working at their desks? The software itself should be well labeled and located near the computers.
It is essential that you spend time and thought as to how you arrange your classroom. If placed strategically, furniture, materials, resources, student desks, even the writing on the chalk or whiteboard will enhance your teaching by providing an organized and pleasant environment.