When I have something big to get done, my first impulse is to make my office beautiful and clean up my desktop. Do you have the same tendency? It makes such a difference to my work, if the windows are open, my desk is clear of clutter, pretty flowers are peeking up out of my favorite blue vase, and I can find things on my computer background.
The atmosphere we work in matters. Reggio Emilia, an amazingly innovative educational group in Italy, talks about the environment as being the “third teacher” for students. Surrounding students with creative materials, flexible spaces, and documentation of their own and their peers’ best work plays an important role in learning.
If you’re like most teachers, your classroom probably went through a lot of changes during the pandemic. Your flexible seating may have been moved out, your library sealed up, your desks placed in straight rows with as many feet between them as possible. So I thought this month, as you think about how to shift things when you start up again in the fall, we could devote ourselves to designing creative classroom spaces.
As with so many things, it helps to think about your goals and draw up a bit of a plan before you begin revamping your classroom. Taking half an hour to think about what colors you like, what makes you feel inspired, and what types of materials and spaces will complement the work you do with your students, will guide you in creating a consistent classroom that reflects your goals.
Try using a mood board to help you with this process. For mine, I used areas of the board to reflect the different spaces and goals I have. Different areas have ideas for a classroom library and forms of display, descriptors for how I want to feel in the classroom and how I want students to feel, ideas for mood-boosting spaces, and more. I designed mine in Canva (here’s the template on TPT), but you could also design on paper or in Google Slides.
Once you’ve laid out your vision, everything becomes a lot easier. You might want to start by clearing away your clutter, Home Edit style. Tackle a drawer first, then a cabinet, then a bookshelf. Haul away the stuff you don’t want or need to make way for what’s coming! As you go, categorize your things in piles on your floor. Put books together, art supplies together, trays and folders and organizers together, costumes together, etc. This will make it so much easier to create areas in your classroom for your students.
And speaking of areas, now that you’ve got a decluttered classroom and a vision, setting up a classroom library is a great way to begin, because it may just play a pretty dominant role in your space moving forward.
Your classroom library has the potential to be a central space in your classroom. Use your mood board to help shape its vibe as you add genre labels, reading posters, fun displays, and nearby flexible seating. Check out this fun classroom library hall of fame post for more inspiration!
OK, I think that’s a great start for us! Take action to create a mood board, start decluttering, and begin to build your classroom library vision. Next week, I’m bringing in five wonderful expert guests to share their top classroom design ideas on the podcast, so stay tuned!