Setting Up A Classroom For A Successful School Year

Setting up a classroom is a lot of work! I have done this in two days AND I’ve done it two months. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you set up a classroom that you and your students will love coming to everyday.

What Do You Already Have?

You may be entering a classroom where a teacher has left you a FORTUNE of pipe cleaners and cotton balls. Or maybe there are ditto sheets left from 1999. Sometimes the things left behind are amazing and other times….not so much. Look and see what is currently in the classroom that you want and set it aside. Get rid of what you won’t use (if you are new to the school you might want to ask your principal first). Next, look at what you are bringing into the classroom. What do you already have? Make a list of what you need.

Plan Your Theme Or Color Scheme

Will you have a theme? Ocean? Pirates? Bees? Frogs? Or will you do more of a color scheme? I’ve always loved using light blue paper for the background and yellow borders with polka dots. The polka dots had brights colors that went well with the blue paper. There are tons of options for color schemes! Color schemes also allow for more flexibility with the content you put on the walls. However, themes are so much fun too! You may spend a bit more money if you are trying to make everything match perfectly – so keep that in mind as you plan.

Start With The Walls

This can be a really fun part of putting a classroom together. However, most people save the walls for last. But, I like to do them early in the process because it feels happier and cleaner. However, this also can be a little bit like “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” You might not know what you want to put on the walls until you have set up the rest of your classroom. But it can be hard to get to the walls if your classroom is already set up.

So I compromise. I put up the backing paper and borders and planned out my color scheme or theme. Then I can focus on planning out my spaces. This way I will know the purpose for each wall but I still get to see the bright cheery colors as I finish cleaning and organizing! Although, if you can’t get to your walls because all the furniture and boxes are in the way, save this step for later.

Plan Out Your Spaces

When setting up a classroom, the heart is in the spaces that are created and organized. In this step I’m only planning my spaces so I know which area of the classroom to put my boxes and materials. Think about these areas: Where will your calendar and large group rug go? How about your teacher space? Small group reading area? Tables or desks for students? Where is the front of the room and the back of the room? Where will you put center materials for students to use? How will you store centers when they are not using them? Don’t forget about the classroom library! There are a lot of details in setting up a space. This summer I’ll be diving deeper into how I used to set up some key spaces in my own classroom.


Now that you have a color scheme or theme picked out, background paper and borders up and you have planned your spaces and have your boxes of materials in the correct area (ready to be unpacked), it’s time for some deeper work. It’s time to declutter! Wait! What? I don’t want to get rid of my stuff!

Hang in here with me. You don’t HAVE to get rid of anything you don’t want to! But, teachers tend to find value in every little thing so we tend to collect a little…er….too much, dare I say.

I love to listen to Dana K. White from A Slob Comes Clean. She has a YouTube channel and podcast (I’ve linked both of those) that are amazing! Even though Dana talks about decluttering houses, her decluttering process works anywhere there is TOO MUCH STUFF.

Here are her five decluttering steps:

  1. Trash – Always look – even if you DON’T think there is trash – there usually is
  2. Do The Easy Stuff – If you know an object has a different home already established take it there right now
  3. Duh Clutter – Things you know you don’t want and you are thinking “duh – why do I have this?” then stick it in the donate box
  4. Ask The Two Questions – If I needed this item where would I look for it first? Take it right there now. If you can’t answer the first question ask this one – If I needed this item would it occur to me I already have one? If not, you might be able to donate it.
  5. Make It Fit – Consolidate and see how many of one specific item you have then make it fit using the limits of the container you are planning to keep the items in. If you don’t have the space something must go. A box is a container, so is a shelf and even your classroom is considered a container.

Dana K. White has hundreds of YouTube videos and podcasts on this process and she has some books as well. However, if you find your are overwhelmed by your clutter, it’s worthwhile to check out her videos and podcasts.

Organize What Is Left

Now you can see what is left and it is time to use the cute bins and containers and put some order to your classroom. If you have all summer to work in your classroom you will have time to think through each space and organize it with cute matching labels. However, if you are hired a week before school starts make sure you are organized enough to start. Make your organization macro and broad categories and then you can work on the details later in the year as you have time.

Finish Those Walls

Finally, you can put the finishing touches on the walls. Put up things you will need during whole group teaching such as a calendar, poem of the week, rules, etc. Put up the Word Wall and Alphabet Chart. Set up the board that will display student work. Put your lunch chart and birthday chart on the wall. Add the cute thematic pieces that you’ve decided on. Decorate your door. You can be as elaborate OR as simple as you want. If you don’t have time to decorate it all that’s okay because you can have many spaces where you put student work and wait to decorate it once the kids have created the work you want to display.

Here is an example of one of my spaces in my old classroom.

Setting up a classroom - my own picture

Do you need help planning your routines and procedures for the new school year? Then you will need this (there is so much more than routines and procedures in this resource):

Relax! Have fun! YOU’VE GOT THIS!

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