This post originally appeared on the blog Elementary Chalkboard.

Hey everyone! I figure since it’s back to school season for some of you all, I wanted to update my BTS blog post I did a couple of years ago. I am going to share how I set up my classroom for the new school year. (I did change my room up after I wrote the original blog post, so some of the newer pics may look a little different. The original pics are at the bottom of the post because I wanted to offer as much inspiration as I could as you head back!)

Before I even begin decorating my room, I still write down every function I need my classroom to perform. I want to make sure I have a designated area for everything. AND that everything will actually fit. Nothing is more frustrating than decorating most of my room, and then realizing that all I wanted to include won’t be possible because I have run out of space. 
A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 
Since I am teaching social studies, I know my students will be working on a lot of projects. These will most likely stay in my room, so not only do I need a place for students to turn in their work, I need space for them to store their work. Did I mention I teach 5 classes? So about 150 students…I need to have space for their work…ALL of them…during projects. 
Supply corner
My students will be coming to me with all the needed school supplies (pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, scissors, glue, etc.). However, there are always a handful who somehow forgets their supplies. Instead of wasting time having them go to their lockers to get their forgotten supplies, I want to have a corner of my room with everything they need, so they can quickly get a loaner (and I know most will go missing because loaners become theirs. That’s why I have tubs of extras in my closet. And I have been known to ask students for a shoe when they borrow a pencil from me because they give it back every single time).
Storage for extra supplies
Since I will be needing to replenish my “I forgot my supplies” corner, I know I will need adequate space to keep all the extras that will eventually make their way to that corner…and I need storage for my own supplies.

Absent work
This is a biggie. One reason why I love middle school is because the responsibility of completing classwork, getting work missed, etc. falls on the STUDENT. Not me. The STUDENT. So when someone is absent, it is his/her responsibility to get missing work. We use an on-line platform, and I post what we are doing in class. However, if a student does not have access to a printer or a computer at home (which families can actually check out a laptop from our media center and get a broadband card for free so they do have the needed technology at home), or their Internet “broke” (which is an excuse I hear…a lot….) I need a place to neatly keep missing assignments so students can get it on their own without asking me.

Word Wall
Even though I teach middle school, I am going to have a word wall in my room. It’s non-negotiable. This year my word wall will consist of social studies vocabulary because there is a LOT of content-specific words in the curriculum. I created my own word cards, and I  put a visual representation on each card to help students make connections as well as the definition. *You can check out this word wall by clicking {HERE}*


When I taught ELA, I had a Greek and Latin roots/affixes word wall. There are SO many that students are responsible for learning, and I found that they were forgetting already learned ones. I created a word wall specifically for students to refer to all year long. I put this word wall on a bulletin board. During the year, students would write words that contained a specific root/affix on a notecard and then tack onto the board under the word wall card. Students were on the lookout for roots/affixes without me having to ask! You can also use this word wall during science because several vocabulary terms have these roots/affixes. My students were referring to my word wall to remember key science terms! You can see this word wall by clicking {HERE}.


I will be using an interactive notebook this year. There is SO much content I will be teaching, I have to make the material engaging for my students. I will do this through INB and projects. I need a place where I can display our INB table of contents so if students are absent or get behind, they can see what they missed and what they need to make up. This won’t take up much space at all either…thank goodness!

Daily Schedule and Announcements
Our schedule changes every 3 weeks, so I have to post a daily schedule so students will know where they are going next and when. Our daily class times vary, too, because we have a homeroom period W-F. It gets confusing! However, the kids really do pick up quickly on it…so I guess the posted schedule is more for me. I created 3 different schedules, and each one is two-sided to show the different times that we use during the week. I can easily put the schedule up on my board with magnets. I also write on the board important announcements the students need to know such as upcoming projects/tests/events, homework, class activities, focus for the day, etc.
Word Splash
I love word splashes. I consider a word splash to be a group of words associated with one term. Because we will be studying 5 different areas, I want to help my students recognize key terms associated with each area. I need a large enough area to display the current splash as well as previous splashes (and I really need to think of a cuter name). I am going to color code each region’s splash because color can help some students with remembering word associations. 
Fun social media board
We are a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) district. Our kids come to school with different types of devices. I know they use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I am going to bring those social media platforms to my classroom. I need a space where I can have an interactive bulletin board that they students will be responsible for updating. I have several ideas floating around in my head, but until the school year gets going, I am not sure which path I will take. As soon as I figure it out though, I will be blogging about it on my blog, so be sure to check in with me regularly!
This day in history…
I love trivia. And I love to know what happened today in history. This will be another interactive display my students will be responsible for updating. It won’t need much room, but I do want a space where students can easily switch out events that happened in history, and I hope they find really obscure or interesting, little known facts! I just want them to become fascinated by history because I did NOT like social studies when I was in school. AT ALL. I am trying to think of things that would have helped pique my interest in hopes that it carries over to my students. I wrote a blog post dedicated to this project, and you can read about it {HERE}. Oh, and you can download (for free!) everything you need to do this project in your own classroom 🙂

Important displays/posters
I have class discussions often, so it’s very important for students to understand ground rules for class discussion. I make I sure post anything that is very important like this in a prominent place in the room where it is easily seen by every student, no matter where they sit. In the photo below you will see a pic of 6 small posters, each with a ground rule for our class discussions. It’s just to the left of our “This Day in History” display, so I can easily refer to it at the beginning of the year to help students learn how to discuss and debate in our class. If you are interested in learning more about how I set discussion norms in my classroom, I write a blog post {HERE} and you can also download those posters for free. Enjoy!


A place for students to sit
I guess this is important 🙂 I do not like desks. Nope nope nope. These are the adjoined chair and desk, and they are so cumbersome! I like to have my students sit in groups, and those desks would move all over the room! They drove me crazy. I wasn’t keen on the idea at the beginning of last year, but thought I would give them a try. I nixed that the 3rd week of school. So, over the span of several months, I replaced desks with tables. Now I have 6 rectangular tables and 1 circle table for my students. Not only do these tables not migrate, I have way more space than if I had 30+ desks. I want my students to get on the floor and spread out and easily do group work. Tables allow me to have extra space in the room.
Once I knew what all needed to be in my room, I could begin moving furniture and decorating! Did I mention I love how I teach just one subject? I don’t remember how in the world I fit everything 5 needed for multiple subjects in one room! I am going to eventually need storage space for social studies games and centers that I will be making this year, and I made sure to leave some blank space in my room for my new creations and, more importantly, for student creations. Oh, and keep in mind how you might rearrange if you are going to do any class transformations! In the photo below you can see how I had to “cram” our Aztec temple in front of our wall of maps, and the temple was around for about 2 months (I actually left it up past our Aztec unit because it took FOREVER to make and I had to have other teachers help me so I finished it in time).

I noticed two years ago that when school started back, I started to get really bad headaches. This had never happened before, so I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. On the weekends and during breaks, my daily headaches went away. I finally figured out that it was because of the overhead lights. Luckily, we are able to have lamps in our classrooms and patio lights that are outdoor grade (and if we need an extension cord, it has to be outdoor grade, too). I went straight away to Target and bought lamps and patio lights. I wanted enough so that I could not have my overhead lights on at all. My headaches went away, and my students would comments on how soothing and peaceful our room was. Anytime I had to be out, the sub would have the overhead lights on, and when I returned, my students would complain about the bright lights they had to endure 🙂

***THE PICS BELOW ARE FROM TWO YEARS AGO*** I decided to leave them because you can see how my classroom has evolved. Some parts are the same, some I have really changed. After living in my room for a year, I realized what did and did not work for me, but I did want to give you as many visuals and possibilities as I could!

Here’s the fun part! Now, my room is not totally complete. I know there will be things I didn’t think of that I need to add to my room. I learned in years past to NOT decorate every square inch of my room. Not only do ideas hit me out of nowhere, but I also want students to feel like it’s THEIR room, too. It does make it look a little blah at the beginning of the year, but by the 3rd month (if not sooner), it becomes more colorful with the help of my students!
So, here we go with my classroom set up! I will address each item on my “Must Have” list:
A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 
Supply corner
Storage for extra supplies
Absent work
(the absent work display is behind my door)
A place to display student work, Interactive notebook table of contents, & This day in history…
Word Splash, Fun social media board, & Word Wall



 **I really hope you were able to get some inspiration from my classroom pics! And know it’s totally OK to change up your room. I actually started to rearrange mine after almost half the year had passed. It’s like your home away from home. Once you start spending a lot of time in it, you begin to see what does and does not work for you and your students. Just remember to not stress to much about your classroom set up and organization and just try to have as much fun as possible! And one thing I started to do was ask for student input on how our class is set up. Their voices also led me to making some changes, and they really appreciate it! It’s their home away from home, too :)**
Heather LeBlanc has 17 years experience in education and has been a Curriculum Coach. She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment and a Specialist in Teacher Leadership. She has been a TpT-Author since 2012 and has resources for secondary social studies, upper elementary social studiesliteracy, and math. Heather is currently creating resources that will help teachers step away from the lecture podium for social studies and promote authentic student engagement. She also offers free webinars for teachers, and you can click here to see the upcoming schedule. You can find teaching tips and resources at her blog Brainy Apples and also on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.