7 Tips for Getting Your Classroom Ready for the New School Year
It doesn't matter if you're a first-year teacher or if you have been teaching for over a decade; it's always exciting to get your classroom ready for a new year!
But it can be challenging too.
New teachers often spend a ton of time decorating and then feel stressed out when they don't have enough time to prep actual lesson plans. Seasoned teachers get stuck in a rut and simply set up their room exactly like they did the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that...
It's time for some inspiration!
Here are seven of our favorite teaching tips that will help you start the school year off with less stress for both you and your students. That way, you can focus on teaching, and your students can focus on learning.
#1 - Streamline Entry and Exit Ways
Coming into the classroom in the morning and exiting the classroom at the end of the day can be messy, especially when you consider all of the activities that are happening within such a short span of time. Plan a well-thought-out entry and exit so everything goes as smoothly as possible.
If you have cubbies in your classroom, make sure each one is clearly labeled with each student's name. Make sure there are enough hooks for all of the students, with extras so there's room for things like snow pants in the winter. Items like homework trays, hand sanitizer, and hall passes should be kept by the door.
Take some time to create welcome and goodbye routines so you can teach students your expectations right away. For example, you may have them line up outside the doorway and shake your hand in the morning. In the afternoon, you may have small groups of students get ready to go and then sit back at their desks in shifts until everyone is ready to exit the classroom together.
#2 - Play With the Layout
Arranging desks is arguably the biggest job when it comes to getting your classroom ready for the new school year. There really is no right or wrong way to do it! The goal is whatever is comfortable for you, but there are some things you should keep in mind when scooting those desks around.
If you have been teaching for a while, think about all of the arrangements you have tried in the past. Think about which ones worked, which ones didn't, and ones that you've never tried before that you think you might like.
If you're a new teacher, visit some of the other teachers in the building and see what works for them. You might discover a seating arrangement you like that you haven't seen before.
Think about what's comfortable for you, which probably means making sure you can see all of your students from your desk, but think about your students too. For example, if you're teaching a grade that has students who are new to the building, consider putting them in groups so they can get to know each other. If your students have been in other classrooms with each other for a few years, and the other teachers have warned you that they can be a talkative bunch, consider arranging desks in rows.
#3 - Create a Mobile Teacher Station, Complete With a Stool
One of our favorite teacher tips for captivating the class involves sitting with your students. If you pull up a chair to help them at their desks or sit at an empty desk to correct papers while they are completing worksheets, you'll find that your close proximity will help them stay on task. Make this easier by creating a mobile teacher station with a stool.
Carts with wheels are perfect for this. You'll want to include obvious items like pencils and pens, but you'll also want to leave some blank space. For example, keep the top of the cart uncluttered so you can set up a laptop or pile up a stack of papers that need to be graded.
Find a place in the classroom where you can store your cart with a portable stool, so you can wheel it to the front of the room, take it over to your desk, or bring it with you when you're helping students at their desks.
#4 - A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place
If you set everything up in its own place on the very first day of school, your students will quickly learn where they can find things like tissues, hand sanitizer, and trash cans. That way they won't be distracted by not being able to find what they're looking for, and they won't distract others by asking for help.
You also need to make sure cabinets are well organized. The stuff tucked inside cabinets is out of sight, so it's easy to just shove supplies in there and worry about them later. The problem is, you and your students will continue to keep shoving stuff in there all willy-nilly until finding what you're looking for is nearly impossible. When everything has a place-even the stuff hidden in cabinets-you can focus on teaching, and your students can focus on learning instead of conducting a time-consuming search every time you need something.
#5 - Pick a Place For Posters
Posters can be a great resource to have in the classroom! They can also be a waste of time to hang. The difference is in where you hang them and how often you switch them out.
Pick a spot in the classroom where you plan to hang posters. Posters hung at eye level at the front of the classroom will get looked at more. They are also the easiest to refer to when you're teaching. Choose posters for these spots wisely.
Have a plan for updating posters, so students don't get so used to them that they don't even notice them anymore. That might mean having a designated spot for posters that get switched out at the start of every new unit or a spot for quotes where posters get switched out once a month.
#6 - Add Details That Help Kids Relax
Classrooms can sometimes look institutional and uninviting, whether you choose to decorate them or not. An uncomfortable space can actually be detrimental to learning. How comfortable a student is directly impacts their success in your classroom, so it's worth your time to add inviting details that help students relax a bit.
Factors that have measurable effects on learning include:
- Air quality
Some things you may not be able to do anything about, like the color of the walls. However, you can easily adjust the lighting by turning off the fluorescent lights and opening the blinds, or you could plug in a few lamps if your classroom is particularly dark. Beanbags in the reading nook, a fish tank, and lap desks can all help students feel more at ease so they can focus on learning.
Just make sure you check with the administration in your building ahead of time. You'll want to double-check that you aren't breaking any rules by bringing in a class pet or plugging in lamps.
#7 - Decorate-Or Don't
There's a lot of pressure-often internal-to make our classrooms look a certain way. Some teachers spend a lot of time hanging garlands, creating fancy backgrounds for bulletin boards, and hanging things from the ceiling. There's nothing wrong with decorating your class if you enjoy it! But if you don't, and if it's causing you more stress than it's worth, there's absolutely nothing wrong with not decorating your classroom at all.
That doesn't mean your classroom won't get decorated. When you start with a clean slate, you can ask your students to help you decorate. Projects can be hung up on the walls, and students can make decorations ahead of new units. Not only will your classroom end up being decorated perfectly without you having to do it yourself, but it also gives your students ownership over the classroom, which can enhance learning.
Because there's no one right or wrong way to set up your classroom, you shouldn't be afraid to get creative and do something different. With the ideas on this list, you can help your new students feel comfortable and ready to learn the moment they set foot in your classroom for the first time.