Here it is August and many teachers begin to consider what things they need to do prior to the beginning of school. Since most school systems begin during the month of August, teachers will reach the point of rushing to get ready for that first day. After teaching for 25+ years and supervising pre-service teachers for the last seven years, there are a few things I think should be considered when setting up a classroom for the school year. Although this list could be endless, I have narrowed it down to 10 things I think are essential.
1. Begin as soon as possible to set up personal relationships with your students. Ideas could include meeting prior to school with parents/children, sending a postcard to the child, having a back to school night before the first day, etc.
2. Arrange the classroom so it is comfortable and convenient for the CHILDREN. Negative behaviors can often be avoided when the setting is comfortable and convenient.
3. Post all teaching materials at eye level or below. Researchers often point out that materials on the wall become supportive to learning when they are posted at the children’s eye level or below. Materials posted higher become mainly decorations.
4. Provide a personal place for each child to store materials. I provided a tote tray for each child’s personal materials. I honored it as their personal place as I requested that they honor my personal spaces, like my materials closet. This makes the child feel important and gives them a feeling of trust.
5. Keep classroom rules short and simple. Rules can be extended or have ‘sub-rules’ at times, but the basic rules should be short, easy to understand, and only a few in number. Place the rules where they can be discussed easily when necessary.
6. Avoid extra clutter in the classroom. Although clutter doesn't negatively affect everyone, extra-active children are often stimulated by a chaotic environment. Children thrive in a neat and organized classroom. Have the children help maintain the order.
7. Set up the classroom so that children can be as independent as possible. Try to have paper, crayons, books and other classroom supplies in easy-to-reach places so that children can independently get materials.
8. Post an encouraging quote to help stay on track. Post a saying, such as, “Remember the developmental level of your children,” in a place where you see it often. A little reminder can help bring your purpose back in focus when daily stress gets to you.
9. Set up a classroom that encourages collaboration. Providing opportunities for children to share responsibilities creates a feeling of community. I always had community crayons, pencils, and partner activities to create the scenario of collaboration. This helps children want to support each other.
10. Have fun! Begin the year with a positive attitude that you WANT to be there! Children can read you quickly and know if you are happy to be their teacher. Children respond when they feel nurtured by a friend.
What do you find essential when you set up your classroom for the school year? Share in the comments!