I remember being in college and wanting ALL. THE. THINGS. for my classroom. I wanted a theme, cutesy chairs, posters, and everything to be ready for day one.
Then I stumbled across a tip that suggested leaving your bulletin boards blank and build them with your class.
That was the best advice I could have followed for setting up the classroom. And now I’m suggesting it for several reasons.
1. It allows you to spend more time preparing for your students.
The time I saved making sure my walls were ready was spent looking at the students who would show up on day one. I saw names, health tips, notes from previous teachers, IEPs, etc. I got to spend time learning about the kids that I would be teaching for 9 months. That was invaluable. I felt like I was prepared for whatever might be thrown at me even on the first day.
2. It allows you to build your community together.
I thought a little more about what message it would send for me to explain to the class that we would fill our walls together. WE choose where our class agreements go. WE choose which bulletin board would be best for writing anchor charts. WE are a community from day one.
3. It can be less overwhelming for students.
Being in a new grade, with a new teacher, with new students, and sometimes a new school can be a lot for kids. What if they walked in to a room that was ready for just them? One that has their name around the room, where they can focus on where their spaces are. Once they’ve grown accustomed to where the main spaces are in the classroom, then I wonder if they’d be able to digest where a class resource can be found if you hang it there in front of them. Or they help choose where that resource goes.
I don’t want you to think that I leave the classroom BARE for students to walk into for the first time. I think that might look a little sad. Here’s what I do to get things ready for day 1.
- Pick out borders and covers for bulletin boards.
- Label areas where center supplies will go (I also add these as I teach lessons and introduce expectations for classroom materials).
- Take out classroom library books.
- Set up computer / technology area.
- Arrange desks.
- Assign seats and carpet spots based on information gathered from records and previous teachers.
- Put nameplates on each student’s desk.
- Place coloring page (1st grade) or other easy academic worksheet on each desk or table space.
- Set up blank chart paper on the easel (to create classroom agreements with students).
- Decorate door with every student’s name.
- Set up my desk and small groups area to my liking.