This year I went in again and helped a teacher friend of mine set up her second grade classroom.  It is always fun- I love the back to school season and set up!  The best part is I get to go back home, and spend time with my girls rather than plan! LOL! The perks of staying home with kids, right?

While the pictures below are not of my friend’s classroom, I did take them so you can see what teachers start with when they walk in the door for the first time at a school.  Crazy, right? This is the empty classroom right across the hall from her.
When we entered her classroom, it looked like this.
As  you can see in the picture above, we had some special guests! Both of us have kids, so we just brought them along with us.  It was a bit of a zoo with a 1,2,3, and 4 year old with us, but we hung in there! LOL!
This year was a bit different.  She was moving from being a self-contained classroom, to a co-taught classroom. Well, the classroom setting- she was still staying in the same physical classroom! LOL! This meant we needed to declutter and prepare the space for two teachers.  Luckily, her co-teacher is AWESOME.  She wasn’t able to be there on the days I was there due to scheduling conflicts, but I used to work with her too.  She is a super sweet lady- she didn’t mind us setting up without her.
One of the first things we did was try to arrange the furniture.  This took almost ALLLL morning.  My friend’s classroom is a GREAT size, but has odd cabinets, little walls sticking out, and outlets in difficult places.  I think we drug furniture around about 3-4 times before we finally found a set up that would work.  The kids thought it was a great obstacle course.  Oiy!  We are lucky we made it out with all of our limbs all attached! LOL!
The big pile of stuff in the right corner above, is all the co-teacher’s materials.  We left most of it there, so she could go through it when she came in a few days later. She really had her stuff pretty well organized and shoved in a corner for us, which was nice.
This is the end of the first day.  We spend several hours, and got a pretty good bit done.  Mostly just getting the furniture in place and the library set up.  Considering our kids were running around like a bunch of wild ones (that had an AWESOME time, actually), I felt pretty good!
We came back the next day down two kids :).  My mom was in town and was able to keep my girls (yahoo for Grandmas!!).  We decided to get down and dirty.  My friends really wanted to get organized this year.  Since that is my passion and love, I was in heaven! LOL!
She really wanted to organize her desk area.  Last year, she departmentalized and taught math, social studies, and science.  This means all her reading materials had been packed away (for the most part). We needed to dig her materials back out and set them up in a way that make sense.
We actually set her guided reading books up like this last year, but she gave them away when she departmentalized to her partner. 
The school my friend is at has a fantastic guided reading collection for each classroom.  She wanted to be able to access them all when planning, so we set up the shelves beside her guided reading to hold all her books.   All the books were sorted into buckets by Fountas and Pinnel level.
The colored buckets (blue, yellow, green, and orange) are her buckets for each reading group. Since school has already started for her, I bet they will start filling up soon ! 😉
We created a nook for her with all her materials.  She has her desk behind her guided reading table with a shelf on top to maximize storage. She doesn’t actually sit at her desk, but uses it more to store things.  Since the shelf is on top and the desk is a small one, the footprint of her desk is pretty small- not much bigger than just a shelf.
Behind her table is this set of stackers.  The top three drawers are frequently used office materials.  She has a drawer for dry erase markers and erasers for small groups, post it notes, and fasteners.  That is my catch all name for anything that fastens things together- tape, staples, paper clips! LOL! The bottom three drawers are manipulatives for small math groups.  She had a drawer of base ten blocks, counters, and snap cubes.  This way it is easy to grab the most frequently used manipulatives during small group math instruction. 
Next to the stackers is a cup of pencils so her kids ALWAYS have pencils for guided reading.  No going back to their desks 400 million times to find the “right” pencil.
Next to her desk she kept a rolling cart of materials she used frequently.  On top, she had a green bucket of her Mr. Sketch Markers.  Let’s have a moment of silence for our love of Mr. Sketch.
They are magic, right?
In the basket (it is divided like a kitchen utensil basket for picnics) she has her pens, pencils, and Sharpies.
In the very corner of her desk she has her heavy duty stuff- staplers, tape dispenser, hole punches. etc. Since she doesn’t sit at the desk, it doesn’t interfere with the space.  She can just spin around in her chair at her guided reading table (which is more like her desk) to grab them.
Next, I tackled her buckets and buckets and buckets of center materials.  She had tons of stuff- but couldn’t FIND any of it. I meant to help her with this last year, but we ran out of time.  This year it was at the top of our list! 
Since we had kids with us, we tried to use materials we had on hand. She had a bunch of these empty crates so we used those and hanging folders to get ourselves organized.  The system isn’t perfect, but hopefully will be simple to maintain.
I just sorted the materials by content.  All the red crates are math materials. I stuck multiple sets of the same center in one hanging folder.  Then, I put sticker name tags on the crate of what skills are in each crate. 
It may not be a perfect system, but when she is ready to teach place value, she can just take out her place value crate and flip through the folders. Hopefully, it will help her!
This is how we left her room (but, we did take the stroller with us! LOL!).
She still had a LONG way to go.  Luckily we did this all before preplanning actually started, so she was able to get some work done later.
I asked her to snag some “final” pictures (is your room actually ever done? 
This is what her room looked like before kids walked in the door.  Cute, right?
The bulletin boards really tie the colors together!  I love them!!!
Have you already started? Is your room ready?
***Edited to Add***
My friend emailed me about her first day.  It was a doozy!  Like for real. She took pictures to illustrate her point.  Aren’t these classic?  Now THAT is a long day! LOL!

Published by Mandy Gregory

Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grade in both the general education and inclusion setting. She is the owner and creator of the Teaching Tips website ( and has over 10 years of experience. She is married with two beautiful children.

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