Classroom Setup & Organization

Every student or parent remembers seeing those teachers whose classrooms looked more like a war zone than a place of learning. You could often find these educators camouflaged at their desks behind enormous piles of papers and tests. In those classrooms, empty boxes, spare textbooks, and piles of ungraded homework often littered the landscape. As far as the teacher was concerned, it wasn't a big deal but rather just business as usual. Unfortunately, when viewed through the eyes of a parent or student this environment gives the impression of unprofessionalism and chaos.

Educational research shows that there is a clear correlation between better learning and organized classrooms. The old days of having boxes stacked in the corner and drab colors on walls doesn't help to promote the type of critical thinking that teachers and administrators are desperate to build in the Common Core era. Not only can a better organized classroom develop better students, but it can also decrease the level of stress and frustration for teachers entering the profession.

It doesn't matter if you're a student in pre-school or law school – clutter clouds the mind. One of the first actions a teacher can make to impact the learning of a student is to create an environment that helps students reach their full academic potential. This is done through a careful balance of establishing an environment that is comfortable, engaging, and safe. The prospect of organizing a classroom can be especially daunting for new teachers who often start with fewer resources and ideas for a clutter free, imaginative environment.


The Basics

  • Place your own desk in an area that allows for an unobstructed view of the entire classroom.
  • Make certain that your room has enough student desks to accommodate the largest class you teach each day.
  • Always take steps to ensure that sensitive student information remains in a secure location that is not accessible or visible to others.
  • Consider lighting challenges when arranging and orienting student desks. If sunlight brightly shines onto the entire back row of student desks then students may have problems seeing.
  • Make a rule that prevents students from keeping unnecessary items on their desks throughout the class period. This way you can keep an observant eye on your students.
  • Plan for temperature challenges. Many teachers do not have control over the thermostats in their classrooms. Tell students to dress in layers if the temperature tends to fluctuate.
  • Make certain that classroom rules and expectations are clearly posted so that students and visitors can easily see them. This gives visitors and students both comfort in the fact that your room is orderly and safe.
  • If you are a new teacher and do not have the resources necessary to create the environment you want, ask administrators for help.

Creating an Inviting Environment

  • If possible, paint your classroom so that drab, muted colors are eliminated and replaced by brighter colors that are more stimulating to the students' brains. Find a balance between making the room more inviting, but not distracting.
  • Create a bulletin board that reflects the units you are teaching in a creative manner. Also develop a separate bulletin board to highlight student achievement and allow for celebrations such as student birthdays, awards, and other recognitions.
  • Make use of bins, storage boxes, filing cabinets or whatever is necessary to keep track and store important student work such as homework assignments or tests.
  • When possible incorporate music into lessons. Music has been proven to arouse the brain and help foster critical thinking.
  • Arrange student desks to make sure that collaborative learning can take place in a quick, efficient manner.
  • Display posters with inspirational, positive messages as a way to encourage student success and to help develop self-esteem.
  • Use technology whenever possible. The use of technology helps better engage students in the learning process. Technology that requires students to participate works the best.
  • Make sure that the classroom's air quality is not stale. Open windows to allow fresh air in the classroom when weather permits it. Consider using some type of aroma enhancer to give the room a pleasant odor.

Each teacher has different strategies when it comes to creating an inviting environment that helps to promote efficiency and learning in the classroom. Depending on what subject and grade level you teach your needs will likely differ. Research other information about organization by looking at websites such as teachingchannel.org and edutopia.org. Properly planning for an organized classroom can help make your transition into the teaching profession as smooth as possible.