The time you spend setting up your classroom at the beginning of the year is important. For not only are you preparing for the arrival of your students, you are also preparing yourself for an entire year of teaching. You need to begin with an organized classroom which has set routines—a classroom that will be run in an educational, enjoyable, yet orderly fashion.
Setting Up Your Classroom
Your classroom must be set up so that it is functional, organized, and a pleasant learning environment for the students (see previous post, “Tips for Classroom Organization,” for the benefits of a well-organized classroom).
The space, materials, furniture, manipulatives, resources, games, and number of students found in a classroom will vary from one classroom to the next. However, the following hints will make your classroom conducive to effective organization. These ideas will help keep your classroom in order, save you time, and allow you to become the most effective teacher possible.
Before you place the teacher’s desk in your room, you need to determine how you will be using it during the school year; it can be a working area for helping students, correcting papers, and working on lesson plans or simply a place to store materials. If your desk is primarily a place to store supplies, put it in a corner out of the way, far from students and movement. If possible, remove it from your room altogether. There are more effective storage bins that take up less space than desks.
If your desk is to become a working area, it must be placed where it is readily accessible to you and your students; in other words, don’t have it hidden behind bookshelves or within a maze of resource materials. Your desk must be set so that you can see the entire room and all of the students just by glancing up. You should also have a view of the emergency exit door. Placing the desk diagonally along an outside wall allows you to view the entire classroom while simultaneously providing space behind it for your chair and filing cabinets.
Students’ desks should be arranged in accordance to the grade level as well as your teaching philosophy. Younger grade levels allow the desks to be set closer together, while older grade levels need more space. Teaching with cooperative groups permits you to cluster the desks in sets of three or four. Depending upon your teaching style, you might prefer setting your desks in straight rows or groups of two. Keep in mind that students must be able to see you and any visuals if you plan on using a chalkboard, flannelboard, or eraser board. No desks should be hidden from view in any way. Also, if your school requires students to place their chairs on top of their desks at the end of the day, make sure that you allow enough room between desks to be able to put the chairs up easily. When setting up the desks, imagine that students are sitting in their chairs. Make sure there is enough room for the students to sit comfortably. Think about the size of the student in relation to the size of his or her desk, as well as the sizes of the desks you place next to each other. A very short desk next to a very tall desk may result in one banging into the other when they are opened. Avoiding small annoyances like these eliminates undue stress and allows for a more orderly classroom.
For more tips on setting up your classroom, check out How to Organize Your Classroom.