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There are many back to school to-do’s for teachers, but few are as full of hope and promise as setting up your classroom. After all, it’s hard not to be excited about molding a fresh crop of new minds. Try these tips to help you create an engaging learning environment with classroom supplies this year.
No, no — we’re not advocating vandalism. A graffiti wall is a tool to encourage expression in your classroom. Choose a wall in your classroom and cover it with poster board or self-adhesive chart paper and provide multicolored markers so your students can decorate the wall. “I’m having kids choose their favorite lines from pieces we write, favorite quotes from the books they read, and/or the best things said in class for our wall next year,” says Phoenix-based high school English teacher Carrie Deahl. “Projects like this allow for ownership, build community and create interest in what's happening in your classroom.”
When setting up your classroom, make sure you have enough SMART Board markers and document camera bulbs. If your school provides laptops or tablets for kids, stock up on a few power strips for those times when kids forget to hook up the power cords in the charging cabinet, or if you’re a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school. One smart way to make sure students don’t use their cell phones during class is to use a few power strips to create a “required” charging station where kids park their mobile devices while in class.
Bulletin boards are a classroom setup classic, especially for the lower grades, but you can use them to showcase posters or students’ work at any grade level. “It’s all about how you arrange it,” says Terry Steiner, a fifth-grade teacher in Washington State. “Make it colorful, and use borders.” And if you’re displaying children’s work, “put stars on it, use highlighters to point out the best parts — even frame it.” Choose a prepackaged bulletin board set if you’re not sure where to start.
Posters reinforce learning, inspire curiosity and provide helpful reminders for students. Create your own high-quality large-format posters featuring everything from the traits of good writing to classroom procedures with a little help from your local Copy & Print Center. Ready-made posters and charts make setting up your classroom even easier.
Another effective way to feature student work in your classroom setup is creating an Author Pocket for each student. Use a 2-sided folder to feature each student’s work. “The left side holds an ‘About the Author’ piece with a photo or hand-drawn picture of the student. The right side displays the student’s current best work,” explains education strategist Steve Peha, of Teaching That Makes Sense in Carrboro, NC. “Author Pockets allow students to truly ‘publish’ their work because it’s visible to the public. That makes a huge difference in the attention to detail they bring to its creation and the pride they take in its display. Another advantage: You don’t have to change your bulletin board, ever. Just set up your Author Pockets and the work your kids do will change naturally as the year goes along.”