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Setting Up My Classroom

By Brian Smith on August 25, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K

Every year it’s the same story. I'm excited to get back to my classroom, picturing all of my new students and what we will learn together. And I look forward to seeing former students and how they have grown over summer vacation. Then, when I actually open the classroom door, reality hits me like a slap to the face. There it is — the big mess that I left before summer vacation. There is no easy way to pack up a classroom at the end of the year with only hours to ready your room for the summer cleaning crew. So, I have honed some strategies to get the job done at the end of summer without cutting too much into vacation time.


At our school we have to get all of our furniture and supplies into the closet and onto the tiled part of the floor because the cleaners come to wash our carpets while we are away. Then they move all the furniture off the tile to the carpet so they can clean the tile. Even taking my time and trying to be methodical about packing up, I still end up with a hot mess to return to in the fall!

A classroom's worth of furniture piled high

1. Put it on Paper

To help me with the process of setting up a Kindergarten Wonderland, I draw my room. Because I have no art skills whatsoever, my drawing is not even close to scale, but no matter my lack of draftsmanship, when I put my ideas on paper, I can move items around without using hand-trucks.

Classroom Sketch

I start by drawing my room and the built-in cabinets in pen and that way the bones of the room don’t disappear, and I use pencil to draw and erase movable objects. I think of my classroom as a house with different rooms. This helps me to delineate how much space each area of the classroom needs. Another way to sketch out your room can be found in Kindergarten in Photographs by Jasmine Greene. She suggests that you use a piece of grid paper and Post-it Notes to move around the furniture.


2. Define Your Areas

Once I'm satisfied with myCarpets laid out to define spaces of classroom drawing, I'm ready to move to the real classroom. I begin with the placement of the rugs. Providing open spaces for the four- and five-year-olds who enter my room at the beginning of the year, is critical to the success of what follows. In order for a classroom to be a thriving learning environment, there needs to be a balance between meeting the needs of the teacher and the developmental needs of the students. Kinders require room to move, but I need the areas of my room to be defined. 


3. Move in the Furniture

My classroom vision is starting to come to life

After I place the rugs where I think I want them, I put out the bookcases and the tables. At this point, I may have to shift a couple things to the left or right, but there isn’t a whole lot of moving because I did all the "heavy lifting" on my layout.

Next, is the part where I start to really get excited about the upcoming year. My room is no longer looking scary. Instead, it is slowly beginning to match my visions of a place where my new class will experience the shock and awe of kindergarten.


4. Fill in the Blanks

Filling the centers for a new group of students.Once the major items are in place, I get to start filling the centers and the bookcases with all of my activities that worked well last year and the new things that I bought (usually from yard sales) over the summer. This year I got rid of my rocking chair. When I looked at my layout I decided the space my rocking chair was taking up could be better used for students. This was a good decision because I usually end up on my stool or the floor anyway. 



5.Make it Yours

The final touch is when I make the room mine by putting out family pictures and different memories from previous years. This is what makes it feel like a place I want to spend the better part of 10 months and also lets parents and kids know that I have a life outside of the four walls of our classroom.

Adding the final touches

Creating my classroom each year takes hours of work, but it all becomes worth it the first day when my crop of kinders come walking, running, screaming, crying, or mommy-leg-holding through my door.  

As I’ve thought about beginning my work on the Top Teaching blog for the last couple of months, I really wanted to have a tag line at the end of each post, like a personal stamp. Every night when my wife and I are putting our daughter, Ella, to bed, the last thing I say to her is, “Guess what?” and every night she says, “What?” Then, I take a pause and say, “I can’t wait to see you in the morning!” so I thought I’d end my posts with … I can’t wait to see you next week! 


Comments (14)

I can't wait to see you tomorrow! Is a wonderful ending to each kindergarten day as well!

So true!

Your room is amazing. Great tips for kindergarten..

Terrific work Brian! Congrats on your first post! I love the plan it out method! Sometimes ideas get jumbled when you try to store them all in your head!
Happy New School Year!


Great post! Those kindergarteners are so lucky to have you!

I always look forward to drawing out my room each year. If I didn't do that then my room would look the same every year and that would drive me to boredom! Thanks for the kind words everybody!

I display family photos,too- my PreK kids love looking at my family pics and hearing that my 4 kids used to be preschoolers,too! On the flip side, I have a photo of my preschoolers on my refrigerator at home, so my family gets to see the awesome group of 4 year olds I get to spend my days with! Have a great school year!

I have pictures of my family and our pets. Parents and kids love it! I love the idea of having a class picture at home.

What great ideas! I hope you have a wonderful school year!

Very nice job Brian. I bet the kinders love being your room. What a good idea to draw a blueprint of your room arrangement. I try to do that but it never looks like a classroom. Lol! I wish you a wonderful year. ~Allie

Hi Brian,

Great post! I especially enjoyed seeing how you plan your process for design by spatially laying it out on paper. I do the same thing!

Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and room set-up,

Erin Klein

We have to COMPLETELY empty our rooms; I would rather have a mess waiting at school than a dining room with all my stuff all summer! I had my 10-year-old son draw up a map of my room and help me decide where to put everything :) Great tip!

I am sold on putting it down on paper first -- yes!

Getting your room ready is exciting and overwhelming at the same time! Your room looks great! Love how you came up with your tag line. :)

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