Hard to believe that us educators will be back in the classroom in just 3 weeks. Summer sure did fly by, didn’t it? In any case, the first things that will be on any teacher’s mind is setting up the classroom. For those veteran teachers, it may comprise of just a few tweaks here or there or maybe a complete overhaul. For the newbies out there, I am sure you are itching to get in and see what your space looks like and how you can make it the ultimate learning environment. Whichever category you may be in, one will always benefit from a few new ideas on how to set up their classroom. I know over the years I have and quite frankly I am constantly looking for fresh ideas.
However, it is important to adhere to a few elements. Here are five key components you want to keep in mind when setting up your classroom (or even revamping it).
Tip #1: Layout- How you arrange the classroom is essential. Strategic positioning of furniture (large as well as small pieces) determines flow and ease of access to materials. Moreover, it can diminish running in the room. You want to always keep a clear path to emergency exits. Certain areas should go near each other to maximize cross learning (i.e. computer and writing areas).
Tip #2: Organize-Make sure you organize the environment. Nothing is worse than clutter, especially when it comes to children. They need to be able to access materials readily and in order for them to do that as well as put them away appropriately, the environment has to be organized. Additionally, label clearly and consistently. For preschoolers, always label with print and picture. Having labels on shelves or containers makes it easier for young children to replace materials where they belong.
Tip #3: Decorate and Make it homey. We all like to decorate our classrooms and make it look attractive to children and others. However, it is detrimental to have too much. I’ve walked into classrooms where every available nook and cranny was covered. You don’t have to cover every inch of space. It becomes over-stimulating and with more and more children entering classrooms with special needs this can increase negative behavior. So tone it down. Coordinate how you arrange materials on your walls. If you must hang something from the ceiling, keep it minimal. Just a few pieces strategically placed will effortlessly brighten up a place. Furthermore, try to incorporate some low lighting (i.e. lamps) if natural lighting is not an option. Create some cozy spaces. A few throw pillows [reuse old bed pillows placed in bright pillowcases] in your reading or quiet corner can achieve this. In addition, if possible hang up curtains. They can dramatically transform a space.
Tip #4: Inform-Some of the decorations can be used to inform students and parents alike. Random store bought decorations are nice (i.e. pictures/posters) but you can also use children’s work as decoration and information. Include a short description of how that activity was executed and what the children learned from it. Visiting parents and administrators can get a first hand glimpse of the learning occurring in your classroom. Also, use it for daily information. For example, you could decorate your classroom door in a way that allows you to take attendance.
Tip #5: Purge periodically! This is critical. To keep an optimal learning space, you would need to control the clutter. So always reassess your classroom. Get rid of what you don’t need. You never know, maybe someone could use something you’re looking to part with.
Lastly, remember to incorporate music. Sometimes some quiet meditation music or jazz can stimulate the brain waves for learning or even calm an active child. Just as much as children need to be active, they also need to learn to relax and release. Who doesn’t need that? During the year, you may find you’d benefit from some soothing also.