Classroom Prep Challenge

pencil1Okay, teachers! I’m putting together a list of the top ten tips for setting up a classroom at the start of the school year. And I need your help. Send me one tip, two tips, or more that will help other teachers stay cool, calm, and confident as they set up their classrooms for a new school year. Don’t worry about repeating tips that another teacher has shared. That’s okay. The more tips the better. If one or more of your tips make the top ten list, there will be a bit of cash in it for you! Yes sirree—that green stuff that buys stickers, pencils, and chocolate. Thanks in advance for sharing your tips! Be sure your tips are posted before midnight EDT, August 31.




33 thoughts on “Classroom Prep Challenge

  1. My tip: enlist the help of volunteer youth to provide much needed manpower. Check with school counselors, athletic coaches and or nearby colleges for possible volunteers. They can do everything from assembling bookshelves, moving furniture, setting up displays, etc! Provide much needed help especially for new teachers, or teachers with new job assignments!

  2. My tip is to start slowly and at the beginning of the summer. If you get things ready a little at a time, it’s less overwhelming. I start by choosing my theme for the next year. This establishes the decor for the next year. I don’t change my theme every year. I usually use a theme for multiple years. If a theme is continuing to the next year, then I start with any decor I want to change or add.

  3. I like to draw out a floor plan so that I have an idea where I can put each piece of furniture and the location of each learning station (center). Then, I start in one place (usually a corner) and work my way around the room. This way, I can stay focus and progress is easier to see.

  4. I start scoping out new ideas at the end of each year trying to see new yet different ways to organize my room, I always look at how I can arrange my room to allow more space for my students to move around.

  5. 1.Over the summer I inventory supplies and then I know exactly what I have and what I need to order. I have discovered that I can find things on sale in the store that saves supply money for other things this way.
    2. I make copies for the next year when I discover a project has worked well for the following year.
    3. Start hitting the teacher stores, Joanne, and Michaels in June for great clearance prices on teacher supplies. Don’t forget your teachers discount cards an save more.
    4. Leave everything clean beofre you leave. I have the kiddos wash the toys before we close. They love it. I place everything in small garbage bags and then pull the bags off in September and we are good to go.
    5. I make it a practice to reread The Mailbox magazine from the year prior over the summer so I can find new things and themes.
    6. Relax and enjoy it will all get done.

  6. OOPs I almost forgot.
    Before the end of the year I make copies of assessment tools, paperwork, and kids portofolio.
    I put all the assessment tools into a large notebook and the portofilio things together over the summer. Its all ready to go in the fall.

  7. 1. As you pack up in the spring, jot down a brief inventory of items in each box, and include the inventory at the top before sealing up the box. This will help your organization when unpacking in the fall.
    2. After each section of the classroom is set up, take pictures to use as a reference for future years; use pictures from previous years to assist you in your current set-up.
    3. Plan ahead – laminate and cut out classroom decorations during the summer to prepare for the limited time you actually have in the classroom.
    4. Have a game plan already laid out for classroom library organization, and (barring any major issues) stick to it!
    5. Put music on to sing along to as you work. And if you get overwhelmed – take a dance break!

  8. 1. If you have the same classroom as the year before, or if you know your layout, go ahead and draw in your furniture ahead of time so you can get started on moving right away! Once the furniture is in place, everything else will fall to place.
    2. This tip is good for year round organization: for early childhood educators, create theme boxes ahead of time. I use 15 qt boxes and put books, games, puzzles, poems, magnet stories, etc. in them. This way when I sit down to plan my week, I just pull out my box and have everything right there. It saves time with planning and gathering!
    3. Plan out your themes/topics, for the year if you can but at least the first month, so you can get ahead. I created my first 4 weeks of lesson plans over the summer so that I could stay ahead and spend all of my preplanning time in my classroom hanging displays, etc.
    4. When typing up parent sign in sheets, schedules, class procedures, bus information forms, etc, save them to a folder on a flash drive titled “beginning of the year”. This way you can go right there at the start of each year and print out your forms. Also, with it on a flash drive, you can work on it at home and then transfer it to your computer at work to print out.
    5. Decide ahead of time what displays you want to have, gather and laminate the pieces, and store each display in a labeled large 2 gallon zip bag. Then you just have to pull out a bag, go to that part of your room, and hang your display! I also purchase matching borders and backgrounds ahead of time. I’ve used wrapping paper, fabric, posterboard, patterned contact paper, and tablecloths as backgrounds.
    6. As soon as you get your class list, you can start labeling items at home, such as folders, journals, file folders, etc. this way you have it all ready by the time you get to your classroom.

  9. 1. I always do my research on my incoming students. I like to ask paras who have worked with them for advice for my seating chart. Paras truly are a great source of information about your incoming students. Use them!!
    2. If I need any furniture I start looking at yard sales. Then I customize the piece to fit my decor.
    3. You can find amazing things at the dollar store if you look hard enough. I get all my bins there for my library and my tables. They last year to year. I buy clothes pins there. A lot of my seasonal decor also comes from there.
    4. Have fun! It may seem overwhelming but if you have a clear vision of what you want everything will fall into place. And seeing your vision is pretty cool!

  10. My tip: Have a designated place for papers, supplies, materials, etc. That way, it will help keep materials and paperwork organized and you won’t have any wasted time looking for needed items.

  11. I make a check list of papers that need to be turned in at the beginning of the year and then add my class list. As they get turned in, I mark of who and what was turned in. I also keep a binder of activities for the first week of school. When I need something it’s right there.

  12. Be organized! Make a list of ideas that I would like to implement. Make a goal each day to complete two or three things each day. By focusing on only a few, it really helps feeling of being overwhelmed. Relax and take one day at a time. 🙂

  13. As a preschool teacher, I like to have a room that flows and is open and inviting. So I bring the children in with their own cubby, we start our day with an activity on the carpet which is situated as close to the cubbies as possible (so there isn’t as much temptation to go to other things in the room, just yet!). I like to have as much open space as possible and my quiet centers (library/computer) on opposite sides of the room as the louder centers (blocks/dramatic play).

  14. Make sensory items ahead of time . Homemade playdough and slime can be frozen. That way if theres a rainy day you can thaw it out and have it ready.
    I print out labels with the childrens name on them ahead of time.
    The plastic labels can be put on coat tags and lunch boxes which really cut down on searching for lost items later.

  15. I also have a storage bins marked fall spring and winter. I store things in them by the seasons. It works great for quick grabs of what you need. Plus everything has its spot.

  16. The best tip I can offer is to use “student numbers.” This enables me to have everything set and ready before the kids even get there, no matter how many times they change my class list or add new students! It allows me to hit the ground running regarding procedures and organization, and it also allows me to use many systems/materials year after year (like folders or data binders).
    Another tip I can offer is to digitize your files – this way you can work on them/organize them/prepare them from home, school or whatever and whenever you want! I get stuff like that done on rainy days, whether I can get into my classroom or not.
    Last tip – take it in stride! No one will ever be as worried as you are about how things look! Control the things you can, and eat chocolate!! Have a great year!

  17. Take the time to deep clean and organize first. Our custodian does a fabulous job daily- but there are certain things that just don’t get done- and if you wait until the year starts, it will never happen! I am also relentless about purging- if something is broken or missing too many pieces/parts- it’s gone! Real estate in my room is too valuable for things that don’t pull their weight:). Once everything is in it’s place, the set up and planning go much smoother. I also make sure to have a few extra sets of name stuff in baggies- cubby tag, desk plate, welcome board, nametag, birthday cupcake, job list. Having a complete set makes it so much easier to welcome those unexpected artivals quickly!

  18. As I took over a preschool classroom mid-year and wasn’t able to organize it until this summer, I’ve been checking out various BAM radio shows, websites such as, and Dr. Jean’s book- Wonderful Rooms Where Children Can Bloom! to get ideas. I’ve drawn a floor plan of my room to get a feel of where to put the furniture and supplies. I’ve been making lists of ideas to try and sorting through and removing what hasn’t been used or is taking up too much space. I’m also keeping a binder for book and activity ideas I’ve come across on pinterest and other websites.

  19. My tip is to invite last year’s students to help decorate the room for next year’s students. I usually have several students that want to help. We put together binders, notebooks, folders, and change the bulletin boards. They have come in during the summer and passed out books and supplies.

  20. my biggest tip would be to be prepared ahead of time for the first few weeks. Pick out the books you’ll read, prepare and get together all parts of your projects, write out your lessons. I think it cuts down on the stress when trying to run your class the first few weeks, when the children are emotional and just getting used to each other

    Another tip: Children’s diaries (use something like a composition book) that can be set out each morning for them to write or draw in as you are waiting to start class. Have them do it everyday, from first to last – what a great way for parents and children to see their progress throughout the year. It also helps with writing skills and can be used in all grades with minor

    Another tip: Have your preschoolers adopt a tree on the property at the beginning of school, and build your science lessons off the tree as much as possible throughout the year (name it, water it, hang a bird feeder in it, do leaf drawings, learn about seasons….)

  21. Task card system for individual students with task cards that represent skills they are struggling with or just learning to use when they have completed other work so they aren’t just sitting there.

  22. I make my nametags and cubbie namemarkers ahead of time,laminate and cut.. I always make several extra for those latecomers. Then I just pull them and write their name on them.

  23. I implement The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) to support quality care and learning- This is a great book resource that helps to know and check key elements necessary for setting up a developmentally appropriate and safe learning environment. In doing so I make sure to set up these clearly defined areas – Dramatic Play, Science Area, Building Block /Manipulatives Area, Writing Center, Circle time Area, Art Center, Music Area, Sensory Play, and a Quiet & Cozy Reading Area. Using this tool helps me to nurture multiple learning intelligences and provide a safe classroom for children to positively learn and grow. Be sure to check this book out…it truly is a valuable resource for every early childhood teacher!

  24. 1. Make “new student bags”. I teach in a school where lots of kids move in and out. So at the beginning of the year I take 15 plastic bags. As I am setting up all the “little things” like name tags, job clips, cubby and coat book labels, journals, etc… I set extras aside for new kids. When I get a new student it takes about 5 minutes to grab a bag, label everything with their name and set it up. This has saved me SO much time. Especially that first week of school when I get a new student almost every day!
    2. For open house: make an anchor chart called “lend a helping hand. Take colorful sticky notes and write down all available jobs. (Homework copier, picture day helper, field day captain, guest readers, etc…) Write the job, the date and time you need help, and a brief description on the sticky note. As parents come for open house they can grab a sticky note, let you know what they have taken and then they keep the sticky note for their own calendar. I just keep a list of who-took-what and my volunteer jobs for the year are DONE! I make sure I have a variety of short term, long term and one-time-only jobs. 🙂 Don’t forget to scour the calendar for those spring dates!!

  25. Have a layout for everything.
    Get organized
    Label the spine of binders so you can know what is in every notebook without having to search.

  26. Before the school year ends, I make the 1st day of school folders for the next school year and have my students help stuff them with the opening assignments. I sure appreciate the help and the students do some giggling and reminiscing. I also make copies of some of the tried and true opening week activities and have them ready to go before I pack up my room in June.
    Starting the week after July 4th, I start visiting the office supply stores weekly. (That is where I have found the BEST deals!!!) I stock up on things for the classroom and sometimes little doodads that I put in a gift bag for the kids at holiday time.

    New technology sure helps in putting together a presentation for the first day. From their seats, students are able to visually tour the room with its many nooks/crannies/stations and learn about classroom procedures. No more droning teacher and more images with stories to help explain my expectations.

  27. Simple idea. Prepare two class lists. One first name alphabetically. Other last name alphabetically. Ready to grab to check in paperwork, permission slips and supplies. Quick place to jot down informal observations as you notice strengths or needs for your new students.

  28. 1. In. June I create packets of all the information I need parents to fill out the first week of school (IEP consultation logs, consent to exchange information, etc).
    2. I keep all the originals in a sleeve protector with yellow highlighter slashed across them so I know those are my originals,
    3. In. June, I create the home school connection binders. Then in September I just have to add names and I am good to go.

  29. *If you liked last year’s setup, take a picture of each area before you have to take everything down and box things up at the end of the school year.

    *Work on one area at a time. It is easy to get distracted by other things, but you will feel better if see at least one area complete.

    *Don’t put up too many things on the walls. Your students’ work needs a place to shine!

  30. After many years of first day of school I have learned that not everything needs to be done for the first day of school This summer my school moved. I saw my room for the first time on Wed. and we had meet the teacher on Fri. I had everything I had to have up for Fri. I did add things during the first week.

  31. If you like the room arrangement take a picture so you can set it up again that way. Or if there is something you know you are out of at the end of the year or setting up write it down when you think of it so you can get it before you need it.

  32. I always enlist helpers to get my room ready. This summer I had the best willing sophomore that helped with hanging paper, the alphabet and numbers! This saved my legs and back a ton of wear and tear. Enlist helpers!

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