Arranging your secondary classroom for the first time, or maybe just looking for ways to switch things up? In this post, you’ll find over 20 helpful ideas for everything from seating to management and from storage to libraries – plus, more. I’ve asked some of my friends to share posts from their own classrooms because it always helps to brainstorm new classroom setup approaches when we have examples to inspire us.
If you’d like to see more details about any of these images, just click on the picture, and it will take you to that teacher’s original post.
1. Flexible Seating
Dabbling with flexible seating? Christina @hansonhallway suggests, “Just as students should have choice in the books they read, they should have choice in where they sit and learn best.
Couches, rocking chairs, stools, high tables, coffee tables, and, yes, even a bathtub, are all possible flexible seating options. Don’t spend too much money on these things either: ask friends and family if they have furniture they are looking to get rid of and check out garage sales or Facebook Marketplace.”
Kim @believetheycan has an unexpected seating option in her classroom.
“I love my classroom stage! Some of my favorite uses for my stage, which was inspired by the amazing @adventuresofmssmith_ are:
- Flexible seating option: My students LOVE bringing their collaborative work to the stage.
- Public Speaking: Over the course of the year, it is a goal of mine to encourage my students to feel comfortable and confident approaching the stage to share a presentation or project that they’ve completed.
- Decor: I LOVE using my stage as a feature in my classroom transformations!”
Some teachers enjoy using their stages for extra storage as well.
3. Small Group Space
I have three priorities when it comes to desk arrangement. One is that students can easily face one another to have debates and discussions. Another is that it’s easy for them to find elbow partners. I also want to make sure that we have open floor space for acting, demonstrations, and group work.
The student desk arrangement in the photo below is the one that I’ve found fits best so far. It’s somewhat traditional, but it’s effective for discussions, debates, and mini lessons. Plus, it’s so easy to group the desks for station work, and students are always moving them around for different activities.
Most importantly, when setting up your secondary classroom, I highly recommend having a small table available. I use it every day for small group interventions, student conferences, differentiation, and more.
4. QR Codes
Amanda from @mudandinkteaching has a unique approach to classroom management.
“This QR code management system streamlines two very distracting bad habits that my students have year after year: coming into class late and being absent from class wondering ‘what did I miss’?
Now, those two questions are answered by simply pointing back to our QR code station and a quick scan. And, I have a running record of tardies (great for parent conferences!) I am able to answer follow up questions on absentee work instead of the one that makes me want to pull my hair out!”
5. Exit Slip Magnetic Baskets
Emily from @readitwriteitlearnit builds in a system for organizing student readiness levels when setting up her classroom.
She says, “Get quick informative feedback. Ask students to hand exit tickets into one of three bins. Label the bins: I completely understand. I could use more practice. I do not understand. With a glance, you can gauge overall class understanding. Upon closer look, you can see which students need more practice.”
6. Weekly Agenda
Christina @thedaringenglishteacher has a simple but effective plan for keeping track of weekly work.
“When I plan my classroom configuration for a new school year, I always make sure that I have a dedicated place to post what we are doing for the week on the whiteboard. Writing the weekly agenda on the whiteboard each week is helpful for several reasons. First, it helps me stay on track with my weekly lesson plans. Furthermore, it also lets students know what they can expect throughout the week; it also helps eliminate some of the, ‘I missed yesterday. What did we do?’ questions.”
7. But why!?
@amandawritenow takes a different white board agenda angle by building in the relevance factor.
“The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin discusses four tendencies people have when it comes to work and life changes. Those tendencies are: upholders, obligers, questioners and rebels. Our students have these tendencies too, and we should be factoring them into our day to day classroom routines and set up. This whiteboard agenda includes a column not only for the objectives of the day but also for the questioners of your class. The ‘But Why!?!’ column answers the all important question we should all be considering when we plan lessons for our students…why are we doing this?”
If you’d like to have an area in your room devoted to fast finishers, puzzles might be the perfect solution to promote thinking and build community.
Addie Williams relates, “My kids love having a classroom puzzle to work on! We get through 4-5 a year. I set it up in my classroom and students can work on it before class starts, as a brain break or if they’re finished early. It’s a great way to build community and I love the excitement that builds as they get close to finishing. Many of my puzzles are donated by staff members and students.”
9. Organizing Books
I love Christina Hanson’s approach to setting up classroom libraries. She says, “Promoting literacy and lifelong reading with students starts with a well-stocked classroom library. Having a variety of books in different genres and formats for students to choose from will expose them to characters, settings, and situations that they can see themselves in or open windows to new worlds and experiences.”
Christina uses a combination of baskets and traditional shelving to house her books, and she also decorates with genre posters.
“Classroom libraries are not 25 copies of 5 books. Classroom libraries are 1000-2000 copies of different books.” -Richard Allington
10. Displaying Books
It’s so important to display books! Students need to see book covers, not just the spines. Covers are alluring. Many people post what they just finished reading, what they are currently reading, and what they will be reading next. I like to do this with floating shelves. That way, I can display the physical books and students can always see them.
These shelves are also perfect for displaying mentor texts and First Chapter Friday books to build anticipation and help with recall. Plus, if you have multiple books you’re reading or want to read next, they are sturdy enough that you can put a few in a flat stack and then balance one up on top. Find them here.
11. Categorizing Books
Wondering how to best organize your classroom library? Shana @helloteacherlady recommends using washi tape.
In her words, “I use washi tape to organize my classroom library by genre. It’s a simple solution that helps students find and return books more easily. As an added bonus, the color-coded spines look pretty cool on my bookshelves too.”
12. Bookish Travels
My friend @staceylloyd believes that classroom decor needs to be both visually attractive and informative.
She reveals, “I feel strongly about including global perspectives in the literature we read as a class: thus my “Words of the World” display was created! Simply purchase a world map (I found an attractive piece of wrapping paper), and then as you read texts from around the world, put a pin in the place, and label the display. Having it on the wall throughout the year made me even more conscious of sourcing reading material from varied places and perspectives.”
13. Group Work Kits
Jackie @room213tpt loves her group work kits because they save her time.
“Last August, I bought some plastic containers at the dollar store, labeled them as you see below, and filled them with the things my students might need when they work in collaborative groups (which they do a lot). Each one contains post-it notes, highlighters, markers, a glue stick and paper clips.
Now, instead of wasting time passing these things out individually, my kids know that they need to send someone to my back cupboard to grab a kit. I can start circulating or conferencing right away, since the kids can form their groups and get ready to work without my assistance.”
14. File Cabinets
Staci @theengagingstation has one of the most colorful file cabinets I’ve seen.
While most people save their files digitally, I’ve always found it helpful to save at least one print copy of each resource from the year. It makes it easier to spread them out and lesson plan!
Staci says, “I think we all have that filing cabinet with the endless amount of file folders and the random, misplaced task cards and matching cards, and as much as we try to organize it, it’s better left closed.”
The solution? She color-coded and laminated tabs for each unit. “With just some cardstock and tape, you can organize and transform your filing cabinet! Using these labels to separate your resources by unit, theme, book, and more, will save you so much time from scouring your files!” Read more about her system.
15. Colorful Supplies
Amanda from @engagingandeffective absolutely loves new pens, pencils, and notebooks at the start of the year. She shares, “I keep this on my desk so everyone has easy access to it. My students love having the option of using one of my colorful pens with their writing notebooks. The fun colors inspire a bit of extra motivation and creativity in their work.” Like it? Download the free printable sign she made.
16. Storage Bins
Tracee Orman keeps it real. This classroom setup tip is for those of us who have ever had a mess we need to hide quickly.
She says, “You’ll never see me post a picture of my “Pinterest-worthy” desk because it doesn’t exist. (And not just because I don’t have a desk this year, but because THIS image is the real me.) I’ve never been a neat freak and I’m definitely a type B personality. I’ve tried to become better organized, but you see those colorful bins in the bookcase? I used those to hide the clutter when I needed to clear my desk or counter in a hurry. This is real life.”
17. Teacher Desk
Caitlin from @ebacademics says that her tidy teacher desk is from IKEA.
She advises, “Making sure to leave your classroom with a clean desk at the end of the day is one of the easiest things you can do to bring a little bit of calmness to your teaching life! Even if you just make piles of papers when you don’t have a ton of time. It’s a great feeling to walk into your classroom the next day to see a clean desk!”
The cart is just extra storage for easy access. Caitlin says she doesn’t move it around at all, but she likes the look of it to hold a few more things, like expo markers, push pins, and binder clips.
18. Traveling Teacher Cart
It can be frustrating when you don’t have a teacher desk to call your own. Addie Williams calls herself a traveling teacher because she shares spaces with others. At the beginning of her year, she spends some time setting up her cart so that she feels organized.
“I love to travel… but not at school between classrooms! Teaching from a cart can be challenging, but I have a few tips to help you out.
Firstly, I use bins or baskets to stay organized. I have bins for student work (in folders), my technology, books, and lesson plans. My classes are organized by coloured folders, and I have coordinating bins in each of the classrooms I use.
Secondly, As much as I can, I eke our a storage spot for myself in the other classrooms – my colleagues are very understanding! Lastly, every Friday I spend a few minutes getting my cart ready for Monday. Happy travels!”
19. Inspirational Quotes
For those of us who don’t consider ourselves professional interior designers, I love Lauralee @elaclassroom’s tip.
“After I finish setting up my room, I stand back and decide what the main colors are. I don’t have an unlimited budget, so my bookends, posters, and rugs are often mismatched!
A simple solution? Classroom quotes! I print quotes on colored paper that will tie all the colors together. Doing this is an inexpensive way to tie the room together, to add a finishing touch. Plus, the quotes encourage student thought. I can use them for journal prompts or tie them into class discussions.”
20. Classroom Rules
Julie from @juliesclassroomstories shares, “I prefer having a few overarching rules that guide students’ lives “in the right direction” over lists of rules. Yes, I have guidelines and procedures about make up work or food in class, but I want my class (and rules) to teach life lessons. Shall we say “rules of the road”?
P.S. – I had my rules poster printed as a picture at Walgreens. These posters that match my journey classroom theme are free at my blog at juliefaulknersblog.com and via this link.”
21. Student Work
Shey from @theclassroomsparrow recommends leaving some open wall space at the beginning of the year when planning your classroom setup. Why?
She says, “I use student work. It’s truly a win-win for everyone. You get to showcase what your classes are working on, plus bring some color into your classroom by covering up those boring, white walls! You can even take this idea a step further and showcase actual photos of your students interacting and engaging in your classroom. Here’s a fun group project that my students completed!”
Classroom setup tends to be one of the most high-energy, exciting times of the school year. Most teachers are coming off of summer break refreshed, waiting to meet their new students with anticipation, and looking to change a few things just to stay fresh.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything everyone else is doing. Try what you think will work best for your teaching style, your students, and the learning environment you are trying to create. Overwhelmed? Just pick one thing.
What classroom setup tip makes the biggest impact on your teaching? Tell us in the comments!