Flexible seating is “so hot right now,” (Zoolander? Anyone?). But it’s a trend I can really get behind. Setting up a few fun spots in your classroom where students can retreat to read, meet with a small group, or talk to you one-on-one is just a great idea. Google does it. Enough said. Is there a place you could put a couple of stools? A sunny corner ripe for bean bag chairs? A wall where you could push a couch and a poof? Go for it!
Choice Reading Library
For me, this is a must. Kids simply read SO MUCH MORE if I can bring the books they will love right into the classroom and show them off. Creating book displays, adding posters, and doing a few book talks now and then about the latest and greatest is a key part of a choice reading program.
Magnetic Poetry Wall
Magnetic poetry is a pretty amazing writing tool. Add the occasional prompt on a felt or chalkboard nearby and you’ve given students a lovely little creative break when they need it. If you don’t have a good metal file cabinet or anywhere else for the magnets to stick, follow along with the Pinterest DIY world and buy a giant oil drip pan ($12 at Walmart) to hang on your wall. It’s the perfect frame for all that great poetry.
A lot of TPTers have created lovely sets of classroom posters. Print them out and laminate them or stick them into a pack of cheap frames like these.
- Classroom Community Random Acts of Kindness Bulletin Board and Justice vs. Injustice Bulletin Board, by The SuperHERO Teacher
- 12 Inspirational Quotes for Reading, by The Teacher Couple
- Classroom Creativity Posters (I made these!)
- Literary Inspired Anti-Bullying Posters, by Julie Faulkner
Ever since I started doing name tents for my students for the first day of school to help me learn their names (check out the video below to see how this works) I LOVE keeping the piles of name tents around to use as a quick seating arrangement change-up. On any day that I want to control the seating, I simply throw the tents out on all the desks before students come in. I can quickly shift things if I see pairings that won’t work, and if I’m got the room set up for group seating, I can distribute students into groups in a way I think will work well. This is SO HELPFUL. Students just come in and sit wherever there name tent is.
Keep some bins, boxes, or shelves available with section labels for each class. then have students bring in blank notebooks they can use for journaling in class. Having journals in the classroom gives you lots of bellringer options and the ultimate back-up plan for whenever students finish early. Consider having students glue some topic lists (like these) into the inside covers on day one so that they always have ideas something to write about if you don’t want to assign a specific topic.
OK, so technically I don’t drink coffee. Weird, I know. But I see a whole lot of happy teachers enjoying a little coffee corner in their classroom on Instagram. So if you’ve got one of those fancy machines where students can bring in those fancy little pods (yes, I know I don’t know much when it comes to coffee!) this could be a fun addition to your classroom. Even a non-coffee drinker like me enjoys seeing cute mugs hanging on the wall!
Stocking a box or drawer of candy in your classroom is just simply good planning. For times when you are exhausted, need a quick prize or reward, or just want to delight your students who are working hard. Stock it with what you like, that way you’ll never be disappointed when you hit it up yourself! Personally, I love sharing Smarties with students (I know you get it).
Bulletin Board Options
Whenever possible, having lots of bulletin boards or a cork board strip going around your classroom is such a help. You’ll need it to showcase all the amazing creative work your students will be producing throughout the year.
Felt Board or Quotation Chalkboard
If you are into quotations, then having a standing easel chalkboard or a felt board where you can put them up throughout the year is a lovely classroom element. If you need ideas for what to put on one of these check out this post for fifteen options!
Ever since I became aware of lighting, I have hated fluorescent lighting. And I know I’m not the only one. If you can, diversify the lighting in your room. Throw a standing floor lamp in next to your reading library or strings of white Christmas lights around your bulletin board. Sometimes it’s nice to have a softer light, if only to give everyone a little break for their eyes.
We all know that keeping a desk organized is not easy. But it’s also not easy to get much done when the landslide has hit your desk. Check out Target, Staples, or The Container Store for a few fun organizers, jars, craft boxes, etc. where you can stash all your things. Find a handy stack of trays for storing papers that need to be graded and photocopies that need to be handed out. Make your desk the kind of place where you want to sit and work.
About Me Bulletin Board
One of my colleagues in Bulgaria way back when put one of these together and I love the idea. It’s not always easy to know how to share bits of your own story with your students, but they will connect to you more if they know more about you. Then they know what they have in common with you and it’s easier for them to ask you questions about your life. Creating a bulletin board for your room with pictures of your life (family, travels, important moments) will be fun for you and for them. You can sign up below to get the template partially pictured above sent to your e-mail inbox.
Student Work Hall of Fame
I bet you’ve been saving amazing work from your students for a while. Incredible illustrations, beautiful programs, inspiring blackout poetry and one-pagers. Put it all up in a student work hall of fame, either on a bulletin board or on display on a bookshelf. Seeing the amazing projects students have created in the past will help inspire students of the present. Plus, when you’re introducing a new project and want to show your favorite old example, you just have to walk over to the hall of fame, not dig through bags and boxes in your closet. You can download the letter banner I used in the photo above for free here.
If you have tech options available to you, putting together a special area for charging them is key. Make sure to clearly label locations for tech that needs to be charged and tech that is raring to go.
Even the most responsible student can be tempted by their smartphone. Consider building a phone parking station into your classroom. A hanging shoe organizer full of pockets is an easy way to do this. Add a “Phone Parking” or “Phones at Rest” sign and you’re all set.
If, like me, you want to share some art-based interdisciplinary activities with your students, having a box or basket of art materials in your classroom is a great asset. A few students will carry colored pencils or flair pens, but not many. When you roll out a lesson involving sketch notes, one-pagers, graphic novel creation, murals, etc., you can also pop that basket out and say “art materials are available. Please treat them with respect.”
If you like having students engage in reader’s theater with your novels or act out scenes from your plays, having a few theater props, costumes, wigs, etc. stashed on a bookshelf, in a closet, or in a big crate can be an awesome classroom asset. I love watching teenagers get excited about dressing up. I think it really helps them step into theater mode and take on a character. They just have to let go of a little of their formality and self-consciousness once they are wearing a costume!
Bean Bag or Beach Ball
A bean bag is a nice tool for student-led discussion. Let them throw it to each other to pass the chance to speak. I like the socratic beach ball I’ve been seeing float around the internet too. A beach ball with literary analysis questions written into the different sections is a fun tool to warm up a discussion. Just have students throw it to each other, then address the question facing them when they catch the ball.
For a huge variety of inspiration for what all (and more ideas too) can look like in classrooms, check out my Pinterest board, English Teacher Eye Candy.
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