Updated: Sep 14, 2021
It may be your first or fifth time setting up a classroom for your students but guaranteed you’ve taken a seat and looked around the room wondering ‘How am I going to fill this space?’
There are so many options and considerations depending on what year level you’ll be teaching. All teachers want is to create an inviting space for their students, so they feel welcomed and comfortable. As well, it is a space you are going to occupy for most of the day, so you want it to be a space that brings you joy too.
Here are 3 things we think you should/must have in the classroom, 2 things to consider, and 1 thing you don’t need to stress about.
3 Shoulds (based on our experience)
A reading corner
We feel all classrooms should have space for children to access books and settle in for a comfy read. This could be a bookshelf against a wall with a few bean bags or tubs of books where students can access cushions. Some students don’t even need a cushion and will happily bunker down for a good read under a desk or lying on the floor.
If you have put off reading spaces because of the upkeep with organising the books, we highly recommend taking @thehomeedit’s advice and organising your books by the colour of the book spine. This will create such an easy system where students know where to return the book.
An organised space for your papers
Teachers have this innate ability to collect copious amounts of papers. We highly recommend taking the time to plan out how you will organise your papers. You will need to consider how to store weekly worksheets, assessment data, planners, notes on students etc. You could use trays, magazine holders or anything that works for you.
Setting up a bulletin board (hopefully you have one near your desk) with regularly accessed paper helps, such as your class list, class timetable, ability groups, duty rosters, term calendar, medical info is helpful. We even create a space for copies of student’s passwords to digital platforms.
A door display
All teachers aim to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for the students in their class. A door display is a great way to let students know they belong somewhere even before they step into the room. There are so many great and creative displays available out there. We often find ourselves mixing it up each year, and some teachers like even to change it up each term or semester. Do what brings you joy!
2 Coulds (after personal trial and error)
The next two ideas are considerations. We have tried these ideas, but don’t do them every year, and we will tell you why!
These have become increasingly popular over the years. A wow wall is space for every student in the class to share their amazing learning. Often they are set up with clipboards, or coloured paper with pegs or clips.
Depending on what year you teach, you may want to make your wow wall A3 or A4 size. We found from Year 3 onwards A4 worked well to offer opportunities for students to showcase any learning they were proud of. More often than not, A3 art pieces would be strung up or pinned around the classroom rather than on the wow boards.
We found where you place your wow board is going to depend on how frequently it is used. We suggest placing it at a level that is accessible to all students. Otherwise, you will be the one changing up the boards, and really, teachers already have a lot of things on their to-do lists. Keeping this in mind, it may not be an option depending on the layout of your classroom. That being said, wow walls are a great way for students to have autonomy over their learning by reflecting and voicing their achievements on work they choose to showcase. And, the other upside is you always have a colourful wall display.
Developing our students’ vocabulary is high on our teaching list. Having a rich vocabulary can lead to having learners who are deeper thinkers, express themselves better and read more. Setting up an A-Z word wall can take up a lot of real estate in a classroom and can become a dead space if it isn’t used regularly by the teacher. The upkeep can become demanding if you have the word wall in a space that isn’t accessible, particularly during mat time when we find a lot of rich vocabulary is spoken.
There are some alternatives to a word wall. Such as:
Set up a smaller word wall near your mat area or on your whiteboard that is topic-specific.
Have small cards with regularly misspelled sight words if that is your focus for students to access from a central location.
Give students small word dictionaries to store in their trays or cubbies to practise their spelling and use for recording new words.
There are many ways to encourage students to develop their vocabulary, that doesn’t have to be a huge A-Z word wall display.
1 DON'T (AKA: What to ditch!)
Lastly, we wanted to share with you something you don’t need to stress about, and that is having every display board in your classroom looking colourful and decorated to the nines.
If you want to do that, absolutely, we salute you! But we have found over the years the best displays are filled with students learning and displays the students have created with us!
One final thing on displays, don’t think you need to laminate all your posters and headings. Trust us when we say they look just as good pinned up on your board, not laminated. More often than not, we have wanted to mix things up the following year and haven’t been inclined to use the same laminated heading year after year. There are some you will, but more often than not, we found our displays changed depending on the year we were teaching and the context in which we were delivering our teaching.
We hope this has been helpful in getting your head around where to start and what you don’t need to worry about when setting up your classroom.
Need more help? Our Classroom Setup Guide has been collated to help you have all the information you need about setting up your classroom. It includes strategies for planning your classroom environment, handy checklists, information about seating arrangements, teacher hacks and more!
Before you go, are you a new teacher?
Come over and join us in our New Teacher Facebook Group. It is a community to share and learn together. We have also created printable labels and letters to display in your classroom that match this article that you can grab in the group. Join us here.