Setting Up Classroom Space
One of the most fundamental decisions you will make is how to organize your room. This includes the location of your desk, student desks, tables, bookcases, file cabinets, and any other items you have at your disposal. Before you make any decisions about specific items, it is a good idea to think of the utility of your room. For example, keep a bookcase with books you often refer to within arm's reach of your desk. Keeping that in mind, you can begin placing your biggest items first.
Most likely, your room will have a blackboard (or whiteboard) along with an overhead screen. Therefore, this will probably determine the general direction your students will face. Traditionally, student desks are placed in rows. However, if you wish, you can try other methods of organization.
Some teachers like to place their students in blocks or even in a large circle. However, be careful of jumping into this sort of desk arrangement unless you have a strong handle on classroom discipline. Sometimes these arrangements can lead to more talking and less attention from your students.
You should always keep some antibacterial cleaner on hand to clean off your desks. Custodians often do not have the time to clean student desks. It is a good idea to wipe the desks once a week in order to kill germs and keep things clean.
A good alternative is to arrange your students' desks in rows, but have them move their desks for special assignments and discussions. If you plan on having your students periodically move their desks for tasks (for example, if you ask them to move into a circle for classroom discussion each week), then it is a good idea to have your students practice quietly and quickly moving their desks into position. One word of warning: If you are going to have a lot of shifting desks in your room, be thoughtful of your neighbors. Have the students pick up their desks instead of just pushing them along the floor. You don't want to start shifting desks if the class next door is in the middle of a test.
It is in your best interest to assign your students their seats. This aids in learning names and also in keeping students under control. Teachers may go about this in a couple of different ways. Some teachers allow the students to choose their own seats, and other teachers choose the seats for the students.
If you allow students to choose their own seats, have them pick their seats on the first day of class. Create a classroom seating plan based on their choices, which becomes the seating chart. The positive benefit of this plan is that students like the freedom to choose their seats in the beginning.
Pay particular attention when you're placing students with learning disabilities. For example, students with hearing and sight problems will need to be placed in the front row. Students who are easily distracted need to be placed away from possible distractions like windows.
The drawbacks to this option, however, outweigh the benefits. While it might be easier for you on the first day, it will probably cause you problems later in the year. Students will sit next to their friends, which will cause behavior problems. Poor-performing students who need extra help will usually choose to sit in the back of the room.
Assigning seats for your students is the other option. You prepare a seating chart before the students arrive, and then they sit in the seats you indicate. This option will probably cause some grumbling, but if you act matter-of-fact about it, your students will quickly adjust.
If you choose to pick where the students sit, you will probably want to adjust the plan as the year goes on. You should make this clear to the students. Explain that you will be making adjustments after the first two weeks and then once each grading period. That way, once you become familiar with your students, you can move them into the seats that will afford them the greatest opportunities to learn.
Placing Your Desk
Where you place your desk will greatly depend on the location of the chalkboard and student desks. There are numerous ways you can place your desk. Most teachers put their desks in the front of the room with the students facing the desk. It might be to one side of the chalkboard. This allows you quick access to the board and will allow you to look at your students as they work at their desks.
However, you are not required to place your desk at the front. In fact, many teachers find that placing their desks behind the students can be very effective. For one thing, if you allow students to choose their seats, usually those who need the most help or are the most disruptive will sit in the back, even if your desk happens to be located there. This can lead to better classroom control.
Make sure that you have at least one lockable drawer or cabinet where you can store your personal effects and confidential information. Many people will be in your room when you are not there. Do not assume that anything in your desk — or classroom, for that matter — is private.
Another benefit of sitting behind the students is that you do not cause as great a disruption for them as they work. They will not be distracted if you shuffle papers or work on your computer. You will also have some privacy to complete other daily tasks.
Organizing Other Items
Now that you have placed the student and teacher desks, you can place the rest of your large items. As previously noted, think about each item's placement in terms of how you plan to use it. For example, if you need students to access certain books during class, try not to place the bookshelf behind your desk. If you have a file cabinet you plan to use frequently, try to position it close to your desk. That way, it will take less time and effort on your part to stay organized.
Decorating Your Room
Once the big items are in position, you can decorate your room. Most teachers have to pay for their own decorations, however, some schools do give teachers a small discretionary budget. At the very least, you will want to have some construction paper and a cardboard border to go around your bulletin boards along with a few posters or visuals that are connected to your curriculum.
Think carefully about possible distractions as you place posters and create billboards. There is a fine line between an interesting and well-decorated room and one that is so cluttered that students will have problems concentrating. If you find your students spend more time looking at your posters than working, you might want to consider removing some.