Yes, it’s true, you could spend two weeks or more to set up your classroom. But do you want to take that much time?
If you’re a first year teacher, congratulations! You may be surprised by what I just said. If you’re a veteran teacher, you know what I’m talking about, right?
It’s so fun to look at the super cute classroom pictures and videos on social media. They make it look so easy, and it can be…if you have a system. In this blog post, you’ll learn a system that will get your classroom set up fast. You really can get it done in three days or less.
(This post was updated on June 29, 2023.)
▶? You can listen to this blog post on the TeacherWriter Talks podcast, available wherever you listen to your podcasts. ◀
I’m going to talk about all the things that might distract you when you’re trying to create the perfect, welcoming classroom environment. But stay with me here. After we’ve talked about distractors, then I’ll share with you the FAST three-day plan.
I used this plan for years. In fact, after doing it a few times, I was able to get set up in two days! You can grab a checklist to help you keep track of your set-up plan right here. It’s in the Member Vault protected area. Just click on the image to get your free checklist.
If you don’t have a password yet, no worries!
Did you forget the password? Again, no worries!
Just click on the image and instead of signing into the Member Vault, just request the password. I’ve been adding some new things so it’s well worth it!
Do you know what it means when you can set up your classroom in 3 days? It means that you have more time on your summer break! That break is invaluable!
Distractors That Prevent You From Setting Up Your Classroom
- Should I do this or that?
- That classroom on Instagram is really cute! I could do that!
- Oh, but this classroom on TikTok is even cuter!
- Ooh, I like that idea from a blogger about a pencil system. I think I’ll go set it up right now.
- But wait! I need to cut out all the cute bulletin board parts.
- Where are my scissors? Oh, look! They’re right next to the latest teacher store catalog. I should look through it and see if I can get some more ideas.
Don’t be an information gatherer. If it’s your first year teaching, naturally, you’re going to be scrolling and reading to get ideas. But remember this:
There is no end to ideas.
As long as you’re scrolling or reading, you’re not getting your classroom set up. Sorry, but that’s the hard truth, my friend.
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How You Can Set Up Your Classroom Fast
Here’s a quick system with an acronym to help you remember it. Each day has a group of tasks to complete. Along with the plan, I’ll give you some tips to keep in mind to get your perfect classroom ready.
F – Focus on the plan. Consider your priorities, procedures, and processes.
A – Activate all of the tech.
S – Set up the student supplies and files. Set up systems for students.
T – Teacher desk and supplies set up. Cover the walls and bulletin boards with the colors you’ve chosen for your theme.
Focus on the Plan for Your Classroom
This doesn’t mean the cute stuff, although that’s definitely important. What I’m referring to here are the priorities, procedures, and processes for your classroom. Think about traffic flow.
You’re going to be in a small classroom with possibly thirty or more young people. Traffic flow is a serious consideration. Setting up your classroom traffic flow is like planning for traffic in a small city.
For example, ask yourself these questions:
- Where, when, and how will students turn in work?
- If a student breaks a pencil, what do they do?
- What if a water bottle gets dropped and water spills all over?
- How do you get your students to clean up at the end of the day?
- Where will you keep the student devices?
- How will students access the devices? (Think traffic jams here.)
Focus on creating a plan that will work for you, your students, and your school. You’ll need room in your classroom for a student with mobility differences to move about and access supplies. Think about where you’ll store student technology. You’ll need the devices set up in an area that won’t jam up with students pushing and shoving to put them away before running out to recess. You’ll need to actually sit in the student seats to ensure that every student can see every part of the room, including your whiteboard.
Day 1: Activate All of Your Tech
If you’re in school like many, you’re going to walk into a classroom that has a jumble of cords and devices thrown on top of a table, or even stashed in a closet.
Fun times, right?
Decide the best place for your technology. Set everything on the tables or desks you’ve decided to use. Do you have a charging cart for student devices? Decide on a location for the cart that’s out of the way, but still convenient.
Begin with the teacher’s computer or laptop. Connect it to any projectors or other devices, and make sure they all are communicating. If you get started in the morning, and you run into problems, you’ll have time to contact your tech department and get the parts or help you need.
Next, charge up all the student devices and make sure they have the programs and apps loaded that students will be using.
Now that things are working, you can get your digital classroom set up, your parent communication app set up, and organize your digital files.
It’s a huge timesaver to get your digital files organized right now. You can choose whatever system you like. If you’re looking for ideas, here’s what works for me.
Colors. I use Google apps, and they give the option of changing the color of folders. The colors are red for math, blue for ELA, green for science, orange for social studies. I buy paper folders for the students in the same colors. It’s a win win.
Day 2: Set Up Student Supplies and Systems
Even if you don’t have your student books yet, you can still set up the students’ supplies. You have a plan for student access to supplies, right? If not, go back to the Focus section of this blog post, and consider those questions.
On this day, set up student desks in an arrangement that allows for easy traffic flow.
Put student supplies in an easily accessible location. I’m a strong believer in student autonomy. Therefore, markers, scissors, extra pencils, paper, glue sticks and more live in a location where students can get what they need, and then quickly and easily put it away.
Having student supplies and manipulatives in a location where they can easily put it away is critical. At the end of each day, you can have students pick up stray items and put them away. You definitely do NOT want to spend your own time after class picking up and cleaning up.
Also, if students are able to put things away, it makes it easier for your custodian to clean your room. Believe me, the custodians appreciate this! Tip #1 in this blog post Teacher Tips From The Experts You Never Learned in School talks about how important it is to value and befriend your custodian, and why. Believe me, your custodians and IT people are the most important and most underappreciated people in your school. Your future teacher self will thank you.
How to Handle Student Personal Supplies
If you’re giving students personal supplies, put their name or number on each item. You can do this with markers or with labels. Just remember that students will peel the labels off, so cover the labels with clear packaging tape. If you can laminate it, do it.
These types of supplies include folders, pencil pouches, earbuds for computers, and of course, nameplates.
For earbuds, I purchased magnetic spice cans at the local dollar store. You can also buy a box of them online from dollar stores. I put the student label on the lid and on the inside. Since it’s magnetic, they can store it on a metal desk, a magnetic whiteboard, or another convenient location.
Day 3: Teacher Desk, Shelves, and Bulletin Boards
On this final day, you’ll be getting your own environment organized. Remember that bulletin boards are not critical to your students learning on the first day of school. So if you run out of time, don’t sweat it.
Your teacher desk can be an oasis. Give it a few personal touches. Perhaps a small plant or a soft light will make it more welcoming for you. When you have it organized, you’ll get so much more done during your planning times.
Set up your teacher desk with any supplies you want to keep at hand. If you have a locking file cabinet, great! That’s where you can keep items that you don’t want your students to get into. (I always locked my purse in the cabinet.)
If you have shelves close to the teacher desk, this is where you can store your teaching materials. Teacher editions of textbooks, if you have them, your own manipulatives, items you use on a regular basis in your teaching should be convenient. There’s no time to dig through a cabinet or boxes when your class is waiting.
Simple Tips About Bulletin Boards
I love colorful and cute bulletin boards. They can make your classroom cheery, comfortable, and are a fabulous way to display student work.
Begin by choosing the core colors you want in your classroom. Do you want primary colors? Boho chic colors? Something vibrant, or something more classic? Choose three or four colors.
Once you decide on the colors, it’s possible to buy fabric to cover your bulletin boards. This is great because you don’t need to replace it more than once a year or even every two years if you’re in the same room. You can also buy special types of bulletin board paper that is no-fade and long lasting.
I mention this because bulletin boards are very time consuming. If you can have a background that you don’t need to change during the year, it will be so quick to change out a board with a new theme.
Always keep at least one large board for displaying student work. One super fast trick for this is to put a clear plastic sleeve up on the bulletin board for each student. (Remember to label it with their name!) You can slip their papers into the sleeve in a second.
If the student work is bigger than the plastic sleeve, just pin the item over the sleeve. Also, if you keep all the student work in the sleeve, you have several pages to share during parent conferences or other meetings.
Save the Little Things for Last
So there you have it. The FAST system for setting up your classroom in three days. The key is planning in advance. Before you begin, remember to plan your priorities, procedures, and processes. Then you’ll know what you need and want to do.
Focus on the things with the most impact first…technology is for the first day.
Set up student supplies next. Make sure you’re taking traffic flow into consideration.
Last, set up your teacher desk and supplies. Bulletin boards and cute classroom decorations are absolutely last.
I hope you’ve found some takeaways from this post.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell me in the comments what tricks you use to get your classroom set up each year. I love hearing what other people do. Every teacher has their own ideas and preferences and sharing them is fun!
Enjoy your year!