Feng Shui In Your Classroom

What type of feeling or energy would you like to create for your classroom?  What types of activities do you plan on having students participate in? You might want rows for lecture or direct instruction yet pods or tables for group work and collaboration.  Of course, students could be arranged in pairs to have a ready partner or in a horseshoe for open discussion.  The possibilities for setting up a classroom are endless–and can be daunting.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

For more information on these classroom arrangements, check out  http://behavioradvisor.com/ClassroomDesign.html.

But don’t stop there! Scholastic offers a wonderful, free tool to plan your classroom and easily make a seating chart (seating chart for sub folder, check!).  Use the Classroom Set-Up Tool to play around with different arrangements. You might choose several arrangements and use them on different days based on the types of activities you have planned.

So tap into your inner Feng Shui Master, and start creating your positive classroom energy!







Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

You have probably heard before that the first few weeks of school are all about teaching procedures. Well that is very true and the plan for procedures should start as you set up your classroom. The flow of the classroom and location of supplies will all depend on what procedures you plan on putting into place.

Start by making a list of each task a student might need to do during the course of your class. Once you have your list, you can chip away at it one by one with a specific plan for how you want students to accomplish each task in your room. Try to think of as many as possible before the school year begins so that you can teach students just how you want it done. If you skip this step or don’t plan thoroughly, you may find yourself frustrated by a student interrupting class for a tissue or putting books back in incorrect places. If you don’t teach the students how you want it done, most of the time they won’t do it in that specific way that pleases you (and makes your life easier).

Here is a list of some tasks you’ll probably want a procedure for:

  • getting and throwing away a tissue
  • where to get hand sanitizer (also how much to use!)
  • throwing away trash
  • sharpening pencils (oh, the never-ending need!)
  • turning in homework
  • turning in late work or homework
  • getting assignments after an absence
  • collecting and handing back papers
  • retrieving supplies (notebooks, markers, glue, scissors–there may be a different procedure for different supplies)
  • getting into small groups
  • finding a partner
  • getting the class’ attention
  • lining up
  • entering the classroom
  • exiting the classroom
  • emergency drills
  • borrowing and returning books from library

…and the list could go on and on! Think specifically about the types of things students will do in your classroom and decide how you would like students to perform each task. Taking time to make these decisions now will make the daily operations of your classroom much smoother. You will thank yourself later for doing this prep work today!

The Best-Laid Plans…

By now, you have decided on your supply list, you’ve probably been thinking about all you want your students to accomplish this year, and you’ve been setting up your classroom. Preparing for a successful year takes a lot of work upfront. You want to have a great plan in place for the first day your students walk in. That plan, though, has much more to do with organizing your school year than planning getting to know you activities.

Don’t get me wrong, getting to know you activities are essential at the beginning of the school year. But the work that needs to be completed now is The Plan. Think about the types of work your students will do in class. Will they write in journals, take notes, complete homework, compile portfolios? For each type of work you want students to do, you will need a plan for how they will organize and store this work. Yes, this is true from kindergarten through 12th grade. You need to be very explicit in your expectations for how they will organize and store their work if you want to end up with a quality product and with students who feel confident each day in the work they are doing.

This may seem like a big, daunting task that holds the success of your year at stake but don’t fret. If you are at least taking it into consideration and developing a plan, you are already on the right track. You may find that your plan isn’t working once the school year begins and you have to modify it. Don’t worry, parents and students can be very understanding if you explain your reason for adjusting the plan (just don’t try to come up with a completely new plan each week and don’t expect parents to run out tonight to buy a whole new supply list).

Where to start?

1) Make a list of the activities you plan on having students do each day or each week.

For example:

  • vocabulary notebook
  • take notes
  • complete morning work
  • journal
  • homework
  • reading log

2) Look at the list you made. Now think about how you want the students to complete this work. Also, think about where the work will be stored.

Here are two examples of different ways you might expect students to complete the same type of work.


Notebook/Folder Example

  • vocabulary notebook –Spiral notebook kept in classroom
  • take notes -spiral notebook for each subject that students can take home
  • complete morning work -each student will have a folder with their own morning work for the week based on needs, teacher will monitor progress throughout the week
  • journal -spiral notebook that students keep at desk and turn in on Friday
  • homework -homework folder
  • reading log -print reading log sheets to insert in middle of homework folder


The End-All-Binder Example (Have a quality 3-Hole punch ready!)

  • vocabulary notebook -vocabulary section in binder
  • take notes -notes section in binder
  • complete morning work -morning work section in binder, turn in when finished
  • journal -journal section in binder
  • homework -homework section in binder, turn in at beginning of class
  • reading log -reading log section in binder

And there are about a million other ways you may choose to have your students organize their work. Come up with the best plan possible now but be willing to adjust certain aspects for the needs of your new class. Because of course, the best-laid schemes of mice and men oft go astray.

Feeling Anxious and Excited?

You’re not the only one! Your students are too. They have many questions about the upcoming school year…Who will be in my class? Who will my teacher be? Will s/he be nice? Are we going to have any fun at all?

Take this opportunity to intrigue your students, make them feel comfortable, and build excitement for the upcoming school year. A simple post card or letter will do just that.

You can get a mailing list from your school for the addresses (also ask if you can use postage from the school to mail them).

A few years ago, I decided to make a post card and letter for my students but I wanted to add an additional touch. Hand deliver all of them. Let me also add that this was for an inner-city school. What an experience! If you did not grow up in the inner-city but plan to teach students there, you really should know where they are coming from and at least see where they live.

I was successful in making it to about 20 out of 27 homes. Unfortunately, some students had moved over the summer so the new tenants received a warm welcome from me instead! The look of surprise on the students’ faces when they saw their new teacher at their door, in their neighborhood was priceless (let me point out that there were also many unanswered doors since opening the door to a strange woman isn’t always a good idea!).

The effort over a few days went a long way to build great relationships with the students and families. I understand if you may not feel comfortable going door to door (see note about safety below). A post card, picture, and/or letter can have a wonderful effect on a child as they anticipate the new school year. Give them something to look forward to and dream about and they’ll be like putty in your hands when the school year starts.

A note on safety: Make sure you have some sort of understanding of the neighborhoods you are going into. If you are not familiar with the area, ask someone who has lived there for a long time. Taking someone with you can be a great idea. Make sure you have a charged cell phone also. And in the end, if it just doesn’t feel right then move on! On one outing my husband accompanied me on, we decided to call it a day after we heard several gun shots (not that most situations would be that extreme but you need to be careful!). Be smart about what you’re doing but also remember, this may be where your student is living.

It’s That Time of the Year Again

You see clues sneaking in here and there–crayons $0.25, backpacks 30% off, jeans and polos galore. And you Know. Its that time of year again. Oh, what a bittersweet feeling. A last farewell to summer break paired with excitement and anticipation of a new school year.

So what should you be doing as we break into August? Here are a few ideas to start with…

Think about what you put on your supply list. Are there items you want students to have that may not be on the list? Do students in your district usually bring in the supplies you have requested? If there are items not on the list or if some students won’t bring supplies in then Now is the time to act!

Supplies are at their cheapest right now. But don’t feel like you have to purchase everything on your own. Many people love to help out adorable school children and kindhearted teachers. Ask around, is someone in your family willing to purchase a class set of folders? Would people from your church be willing to purchase the supply list for a few of your students? Don’t forget about the internet community. You can use social media to connect with more people or check out websites such as www.freecycle.org or www.donorschoose.org. If you put your needs out there, I think you will be surprised by how many people are willing to help.

After you have started here, go to the pool, check out a local winery, or go to the park with your kids. It still is summer after all and you should enjoy it!


Welcome to Success in the Classroom, a place where busy teachers can get great tips, tricks, and advice. Teachers are in the business of education and can only continue to be successful if they continue to learn. How easy it is to get bogged down with grading, parent phone calls, lesson plans and report cards. This site is designed to give you fresh inspiration and advice in the classroom without taking much time out of your busy day.