The following article comes from secondary NQT Rebecca Dawson, who shares her top 5 tips for setting up your first classroom.

I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I found out I would have my own classroom during my NQT year. During a tour of the school the assistant head ushered me in to see my new home for the year and assured me I could give it a complete makeover if I wanted. I lost a lot of time that night browsing through Pinterest looking for displays and classroom organisation tips that only added to my excitement. From that extensive research and my own experience here are a few tips to help you prepare your first classroom.

1. Set up your tables

This is something that can quite easily slip your mind when you’re thinking about classroom organisation, but the layout of your tables can play a major role in behaviour and affect teaching and learning. It’s up to you if you want to set your tables up in groups, rows or as a horseshoe. At the very least make sure that every student will be able to comfortably face the whiteboard and there is plenty of space for them to work. Ensuring there’s enough space between tables for you to walk around the classroom and provided 1:1 support is a must too!

2. Displays

Honestly, displays are the one thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they know they have control over their very own classroom so it is the best to start with. Before you begin planning your dream wall displays check with your school if you need to follow any particular guidance.

Some schools will have literacy resources that need to be on display in every classroom or will be very strict about fonts. Check beforehand so you can plan ahead. Make sure displays are purposeful. Even if they are creative, if they don’t enhance learning or support your students then it might be time to go back to the drawing board.

3. Don’t expect a clean classroom

Unless you’re extremely lucky the chances are you will be moving into a classroom that has been previously used by another member of staff. Even if they’ve done a clean out you will inevitably find old exercise books or used glue sticks in the cupboards. It might be frustrating but expect some of your time to be dedicated to clearing out some clutter. Take this as a positive, you will feel very accomplished after the clean out and will be able to create your own learning space.

4. Don’t spend too much!

It can be all too tempting to buy lots of stationery to decorate and equip your own classroom, but I would suggest holding off. Most of the essentials (board pens, staplers, glue sticks etc) will be provided by your school so you may as well save your hard-earned cash. If you’re unsure about what will be provided ask your school and wait until you have seen your classroom before writing your shopping list.

5. Figure out your classroom technology

Technology will differ from school to school and sometimes from classroom to classroom. Familiarise yourself with the computer, interactive whiteboard, visualiser and any other technology in your classroom. If something doesn’t work report it to your site manager or IT team as soon as possible so everything will be ready for your first day of teaching. That first week will be stressful enough without worrying about being unable to log onto the computer or not knowing how to print resources.

Interactive whiteboard

For the travelling teacher

Not everyone will be lucky enough to have their own classroom and with year group bubbles in Secondary Schools, the chances of travelling between classrooms to teach are highly likely. To set up I would recommend investing in a foldaway trolley so you can easily transport the equipment you need. And if it’s feasible to print your resources out before the school day starts and leave them in the room you will be teaching in, so you don’t have to worry about misplacing your year 10 mock exam papers…

Always remember your classroom is your space! Make it your own and experiment so it works for you and your pupils.

Rebecca Dawson author


Rebecca Dawson

Rebecca is a Secondary English NQT in the North West of England. Through her blog ThatLitChick she shares her top tips for trainees and NQTs alongside the highs and lows of her teaching career.

Outside of the classroom Rebecca can be found wandering the globe or with her head in a good book.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter – @MissDawsonNQT.

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