As teachers begin planning for back to school, I see an abundance of creative classrooms filling my Instagram and Pinterest feeds. I love seeing how other teachers organize their classroom spaces because it gives me inspiration on the best way to structure my to make it an inviting and engaging space for learning.
Having setup multiple classrooms across elementary and middle school, my mind is always going a million miles an hour this time of year. I despise clutter, I love organization, and I want my students to have a part in the decor and design of the classroom.
Here are a few of the thoughts that wake me up in the middle of the night, even as I head into year 23…
- What tweaks can I make to our classroom setup to make it ideal for my middle school readers and writers?
- How can I highlight our learning, ie. student writing, book recommendations, student projects, so that they are on display and visible around the classroom?
- What read-alouds will I add to enhance my reading instruction and student enthusiasm for reading?
- How can I better organize our classroom library to encourage student readers?
- How can I organize the classroom space to allow for flexible reading and writing spaces?
Even after 20+ years, my teaching and classroom structure is still a work in progress. That being said, each iteration always features a couple of tried-and-true favorites.
Here are a few of the essentials for my space…
#1: ELA Word Wall
One tool that is essential in my classroom is my ELA Word Wall. I have a wall of cabinets that are amazing for storage, and are at a perfect level for students to access when they are in need of remembering a concept. Because there are so many different terms my students are expected to know when responding to a writing prompt or answering a text-based question, I created this word wall. If a student has forgotten a term, this space can be used as a resource.
#2: Classroom Expectations
Within the district that I teach, we are focusing on a strategy called “The R Factor.” In a nutshell, the premise is “an event plus our reaction equals the outcome.” I have created these classroom expectations to mirror the work that we are doing as a district, so that my students have consistent reminders of expected behaviors. I want them to understand that while they can’t always control the events that take place around them, they can control their response which directly impacts the outcome. These classroom expectations are an ideal tool to display to encourage students to be thoughtful human beings.
#3: Pictures of my Students
My bulletin board is currently unfinished because my students have yet to arrive. I have created this “#CurrentlyReading…” bulletin board so that I can capture my students reading on our very first days together and throughout the entire year. The purpose behind this idea is three-fold.
First, my middle schoolers love seeing pictures of themselves and each other. This display allows for us to see all of the students that generate our classroom community. Second, my students get to see what their peers are reading. I find that my students tend to make the best recommendations of books for one another. By seeing the books that are in their peers’ hands, students have the opportunity to inquire about books with one another to decide if it is interesting and worth reading. Finally, as students read various books, they will generate a “photo book” of all of the books they have read throughout the year.
On the last day of the year, this “photo book” can be hole-punched and bound with a book ring, so that students can see the variety of books they have read during the course of the school year. This is my creative strategy for a reading log.
#4: Flexible Seating Spaces
Did you know that middle schoolers love to curl up and read? A carpeted space, pillows, and some comfy chairs make reading even better. Don’t go spending a bazillion dollars because there is no need. Check out these Amazon classroom essentials, Facebook marketplace, and garage sales to find cheap items that work with your classroom setup.
#5: Classroom Library
Half-Price Books has been one of the best places to stock my classroom library on a budget. As an ELA teacher, I want to have a classroom library that encourages my students to consistently want to be reading. My work is to put books in my students hands that they want to read cover to cover. Having a classroom library with diverse books is an essential.
#6: Blank Wall Space
In the coming weeks, I will have anchor charts and student work samples to display. I purposely leave blank walls so these charts and work samples have a designated space and are easy to access.
While I have a few weeks before my students walk through the doors, meetings and professional development begin this week. I know I will have some restless nights in anticipation of the amazing year to come. What I know for sure is that no matter how I decide to organize my classroom space to begin the year, it is likely I will make tweaks as I get to know my students and incorporate their work into our space. In the end, it isn’t how I setup my classroom, but the relationships I develop with my students.
If you’re interested in trying some of these ideas in your classroom, I created an inexpensive bundle (featured below) that will save you a ton of time curating your own teacher toolbox!
This $10 classroom setup bundle includes the following…
- ELA Word Wall
- Syllabus Design Template
- Classroom Expectations Display and Discuss
- Back to School Stations Activity
- Classroom Jobs Resource
As you are gearing up for your year, best of luck! You’ve got this!