Elementary Class Set Up

Levels of Classroom Organization

Multiple layers of classroom organization mean that you can focus on one at a time as you set up for the new year. The levels I think of are:

  • The Teacher
  • The Students
  • The Parents

Here's a list of many of the supplies you will need, ways to organize records and your students plus guidelines in setting up your learning environment.

Just as you take care of yourself first to be able to care for others, you organize your teacher space first when you prepare to teach.

Set Up Your School Calendar

This calendar with your curriculum mapped out on it is the foundation for all the other organizational tasks in your room. If you have not done these steps, take time to do it before school starts. Note that some districts may have these calendars prepared for you.

  1. Add testing dates, beginning and ending of grading periods, birthdays, faculty meetings, holidays, parent conference days, early releases, library days (?), rotating classes. 
  2. Map your curricula onto your calendar by grading period.
  3. Map out your first six weeks of instruction.

Directions for setting up your school calendar .

Handy Hint-- Room set up depends on your lessons—Keep note of the types of spaces you will need in your class.

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Handy Hint-- Room set up depends on your lessons—Keep note of the types of spaces you wil l need in your class.

Set up the teacher area of your classroom

1.       GATHER furniture and supplies:

  • Table and/or desk, office chair, file cabinet, small bulletin board for yourself
  • Pens, pencils, markers (Sharpies and regular)
  • Paperclips, white-out, paper
  • Notecards, stamps, stickers
  • stapler, staples, staple remover, staple gun and staples for it)
  • Ruler, measuring tape
  • File folders and labels (come in handy for LOTS of things, #1 recycling folders)
  • Mirror
  • Clinic slips, bandaids (if allowed), nitrile gloves (to prevent exposure to blood and other body fluids)
  • Place to hang your coat
  • Trash can
  • Binders (2” and 2.5” are fine)

 2.       Set up record-keeping

  • Running Records Notebook (2”)
  • Running Records for Reading—blank forms
  • Running Records for Reading—alpha by student
  • Running Records for Math—blank forms
  • Running Records for Math—alpha by student
  •  Annual Teacher Notebook (2.5”)
  • Phone numbers—Make sure these are handy. You’ll want the numbers of your teammates, school administrators, school secretary, school counselor, and parents/guardians of your students.
  • Parent Contact Log—You will document each time you talk to a parent. This record is very important. ALWAYS document these conversations. You WILL need those notes. Even, and sometimes especially, for the nice parents. EVERYONE.
  • Discipline Log—Date, time, where, what happened before, what happened, what happened after. If you even have to move a clip, jot your notes. As the year progresses, you will find that there are only a few students you will be writing about. Your notes will help you solve the problems.
  • Team Meeting Agendas and Notes—Handy Hint, keep a running “To Do List” separate from your notes so you can put them on your calendar.
  • Faculty Meeting Agendas and Notes—Handy Hint, keep a running “To Do List” separate from your notes so you can put them on your calendar.
  • Pacing Calendars—District and your personal annual planning calendar you made, above.
  • Lesson Plans—Divide by Subject and Grading Period. So, under Reading, you would have tabs for each grading period. When each grading period is over, you can save these in an expandable folder with all of the papers that go with that 6 weeks. It will save you next year and even this year for evaluation purposes.

3.       Set up your File Cabinet

  • Instructional Resources (By Subject and Unit)
  • Grade Period plans and materials as you complete them (see above)
  • IEP’s—Must be secure
  • 504 Plans—Must be secure
  • ESL Paperwork—Must be secure
  • Test Reports—Must be secure
  • Grade Records—Must be secure—Handy Hint—Print your grade book at the close of each grading period for each subject you teach. Things happen. They really do, and it’s not unusual for grade records to accidentally be deleted (for example when students are transferred to a different class).

 4.       Create a Substitute Spot or Tub

  • Schedule
  • Rosters
  • List of special issues (bullet style for quick reading)
  •  Notes for each class period that include what students may have to leave and with whom.
  • Extra paper, pencils, a pen
  • Hall passes
  • Clinic Slips
  • Notepad for them to write you an update/reflection on the day
  • School map
  • Where the teacher restrooms are
  • Where lunch is usually eaten
  • What to do during your conference period
  • Who they can go to for help
  • Extra seat work for kids who finish early
  • Behavior management plan—the quick version!
  • Names of students they can depend on for help/information
  • Where emergency procedures are posted
  • Thank you note!


Organize for the kids

  1. Make and Post your daily schedule in your room (kid size)
  2. Make and Post your year’s knowledge and skill clusters (broad learning goals) for the year front and center. Use them to introduce what you will be learning and to refer to as you progress from one topic to another.
  3. Prepare student table supplies and ensure that they are accessible without leaving the table area--Scissors, glue, markers, colored pencils, sticky notes, manipulatives they will need, dictionaries, journals, interactive notebooks, dry erase boards, dry erase markers, dry erase erasers. 
  4. Student Center not too close to door—bin or folder with homework copies (extras), baskets for turning in work, basket for turning in permission forms and other forms from parents, pencil exchange, reminders posted, restroom and office passes, pencil sharpener
  5. Bookcases filled with books organized by genre and level (see Lexile.com for help in identifying the level of each book—some will surprise you!)
  6. Place for students to hang up their coats
  7. Decide where students will keep their backpacks
  8. Student planners or folders for homework organization and home/school communication


Organize your parents

     Parent Information Sheet—Write one for YOUR class and distribute before the first day if possible. Otherwise, send it home the first day of school.           

  • Your name and contact information
  • Your conference times
  • Student daily schedule
  • Grading Period end dates
  • Homework expectations
  • School grading policy
  • School lunch policy (can they eat with their child, can they bring lunch for their child, etc.)
  • School birthday celebration policy
  • Recess times
  • Library day
  • PE information
  • Anything else you feel parents need to know


Design your learning environment

Keep these principles in mind:

  1. SAFETY FIRST—clear doorways, post emergency roster and procedures at door
  2. Color affects mood and energy level
  3. Lighting affects mood and energy level
  4. Clutter is distracting—minimize as much as possible, always straighten up
  5. Furniture layout changes with activities for learning, so keep it flexible.
  6. ALL students should be able to see the board—arrange so no one has their back to the board
  7. Cords are a tripping hazard—tuck them away
  8. You’ll need an area to bring a small group of students to you to work