Part IV: Setting Up Your (Elementary) Classroom- Just the basics!

So we have spent some time getting paperwork and planbooks ready, but the truth is you can’t be ready without setting up your room! If you are lucky like me (not trying to brag, just being thankful), you don’t have pack everything up every year. I have moved my room a few times, but I haven’t had to pack everything up in a while. So, this year has seriously been my easiest yet.

This post and my pictures will assure that your room doesn’t have to look like those posted on Pinterest. Matching rooms with lots of decorative features are beautiful, but functionality is key! I add a little decorative touch each year (if it’s in my budget), but mostly it’s the kids having fun and learning that make it inviting.

So this post helps you to think about what to consider and will hopefully give you some ideas! (lots of pictures to help the visual learners):

What worked or didn’t work last year?
If this is your first room, think about classrooms you were in and what you hope to carryover into your room. I always have one thing I HAVE to move to make it better! My iPads were too close to my reading table and it drove me crazy!
What space and furniture do I have available?
This is always the time to go scavenging for furniture! Watch for people that are cleaning out, check your school storage area, and head to garage sales!
What kid spaces do I want?
Kid spaces should always be your first plan. I am a table person for the Elementary classroom. I always put the tables where I want and put all the chairs around (pulled out a bit) and then I make sure I can walk around. Don’t jam them in little spaces. Kids can move supplies to these tables, so I don’t put in extra tables for centers and such unless you have the room, I prefer more space for movement and play! Computers and coat hooks DO need their own space, but I always try to figure out how to make these take up the least amount of space possible. Most importantly, where will they read? You need a meeting area and lots of space to enjoy all those wonderful books you can place on display!

Our meeting area centers on the Smart Board! I purchase a new carpet most years because those nice ones are soooo expensive!


Cozy spot for students in my library!


Once I get my dream flat monitors, I will have less space needed for these! On the wall above is where my writing anchor charts are hung with the clothespins!

What spaces do I need?
You do need an organized space for your things. I try to keep this as out of the way as possible and let students know it is off limits (otherwise I lose things). I also have a table for small group work and some storage for reading groups back there too. I try to limit my spaces as I spend most of my time in the spaces where kids are working!

I decorate with pictures of my babies but leave room for some picture gifts throughout the year! I LOVE the important paper organizer right within my reach! The shelves next to my computer hold all my copies for the week (organized by day)!

Where will all that stuff go?
This is probably what I need to do the most work on each year. I try to keep similar materials together. I am lucky enough to have a closet (that I share with the classroom next to me) and I try to use that mostly for supplies and overflow books. I have cabinets for math materials and snacks. My reading materials are mostly by my reading table on shelves. Think about what you do and do NOT want students to be able to easily access. Be clear about what is and is not off limits from day one. Keeping things together helps you stay organized so you can find that thing when you need it! One thing I love is that I organized my math materials by module (topics that we study in NYS).

These are math manipulatives and extra supplies! I label them with photographs or clipart images and the word!


I label each cubby with the matching picture so everything ends up in the right place!


All my math materials for Modules (units) 1 and 2. Next up, labels so other people can find things as easily as I can!

How will I manage some routines and procedures?
I will be addressing some of those in the next post of this series, but you need to figure out how much can be managed by your space. I keep mailboxes by the door and a folder basket on top because students hand folders in each morning and I pack them each afternoon. I am trying new name plates this year that will not be stuck to the table (or we shall see after the first few weeks), but I will have assigned tables. I label lunch card pockets and coat racks just for organizational purposes. Think about managing materials as well! I have shared supplies and keep some on the table. This has worked well for me and then everyone always has access to what they need! I purchase the folders and such for centers so they all match and I know what they are for.

These are my cubbies (clip labels are easy to change) and my folder basket on top! This is directly in the room when you walk in the door!

Center Cards

Center materials are clearly labeled around the room with pictures that match their center board! This is one of our most important routines for a smooth reading time!

What do I want visible?
Those walls need some decorating too! Check out bulletin board ideas or come up with some of your own. If you have lots of wall space, I recommend covering at least half with things you don’t have to change all year! I have colors, shapes, and numbers posted all year round. I also have a couple that are easy to update. We do monthly words and lots of anchor charts for our Lucy Calkins Units of Study. I HIGHLY recommend hot gluing clothespins to the wall to easily change them throughout the year. Then leave some areas to post student work. I have a bulletin board in the hallway which I try to update as regularly as possible (but I mostly hate doing it). At the beginning of the year I try to choose one where the students can make something to add to it at kindergarten orientation. Displaying a schedule is so important, so get it ready now! Make it visual or you will be reading it all year long for kinders! Also make sure it works for you and is easy to update each day (They will let you know when you forget!)!

Colors are always posted and I don’t have to replace them each year. I purchased these from Really Good Stuff a few years ago!


My Word Wall hangs across the room (idea from Pinterest). I created all my sight words on index cards double-sided. I attach the words as we learn them to each other.

Remember that nothing is permanent!
You can change things whenever you want, and you know you will! Change it right away (like I should have with those iPads)! Once students get in there they seem to find a way to poke holes in your best ideas, but that challenges you to just get better each year.
Check out Pinterest, but be wary.
The first year I really got into Pinterest (because I didn’t have it the first half of my teaching career) I went for it. I wanted everything to be cute and there were lots of ideas to do so without breaking the budget. However I spent more than needed and although it looked cute, those crate stools were an epic disaster for me (Let’s just say everyone sank way in when trying to take a seat…). So pin away, but be selective. Don’t be overwhelmed and add the things most useful first! However, cute and colorful can be warm and inviting in a space you will be spending LOTS of time!

My hanging book covers are my favorite (and successful) decorative pinterest idea! I have them all laying around, so why not! Tip: Tell students NOT to jump up and smack them, they will fall…

Check out the whole series to get yourself ready!

Part I

Part II

Part III

Stay tuned Part V: Being Prepared: Routines and Procedures


One thought on “Part IV: Setting Up Your (Elementary) Classroom- Just the basics!

  1. Pingback: Back to School Part III: Are you seriously still writing all your plans by hand? |

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