Like I mentioned in the previous post, I’m an art teacher, and over the summer I had to move everything from my old classroom into a trailer/portable classroom (a small building outside the main school building). I wasn’t too thrilled about that at first, but in a lot of ways it has turned out to be a really good thing! It forced me to start over and really think critically about how I wanted to organize my classroom, and having a year’s experience caused me to set things up a lot differently than I did last year. So that was a major project that I kinda put off until August and then school started and so I’ve been pretty busy ever since!
I get tons of inspiration from blogs written by other art teachers (Cassie Stephens and Deep Space Sparkle are a couple of my go-to’s), so once in a while I’m going to post classroom organization tips, art project ideas and basically, stupid stuff I did last year that I realized was stupid and now I do it differently (and my life is 1000% better because of it) in case I can be of any help to other newbie art teachers.
So today, I’m taking you on a tour of my new classroom! This year I decided to do a “Travel the World” kind of theme, and France is the first country we’re traveling to, so that’s why my classroom is decorated with a French theme. Bonjour!
This is the entry way before you walk in my classroom. The box in the corner of the photo is my “Beautiful Junk” box where I have kids put their BJ donations as they walk in (Beautiful Junk is just recycled materials that I ask kids and their families to donate throughout the year, more about that later).
This wall is on your right as you walk into my classroom and I call it the supplies wall. Most of the art materials we use are organized in the totes on the shelves, and I have my rules posters on the bulletin board above the shelves. Those shelves are pretty genius by the way, just cinderblocks holding up some long pieces of particle board painted white. I can’t take credit for that idea, they were already in the classroom, but the shelves are perfect for holding my supplies.
Just to the left of the supplies shelves is my paper shelf. I live in a college town and the university has a surplus sale. I scored all of those paper organizers there for $0.50 each! So now I have a spot to keep every color of construction paper, along with printer paper, drawing paper, graph paper, etc. Last year I just kind of shoved all the paper in a cupboard and it was a huge mess so believe me this is soooo much easier.
I didn’t take a shot of the entire wall around the corner from the supplies wall, but it pretty much has two things, the whiteboard and a “meet me” mini gallery wall where I hung up some photos, books, and a favorite art print to help the kids get to know me better. It’s been fun to see how interested they are in that little feature! They’ll say, “You love Harry Potter too? No way!” or “Oh, Blueberries for Sal! I love that book!” or “You went to San Francisco?” or “Hey, I know that kid!” (my youngest brother is a 5th grader at the school where I teach). So it’s been a lot of fun!
On the wall, top to bottom: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, and Soda Jerk by Norman Rockwell (links are affiliate).
Here’s the whiteboard. Not much to see except those cups of popsicle sticks are going to be a lifesaver this year–I hot glued magnets on the back of regular plastic cups, then wrote the teacher’s name and color-coordinated by the grade. Then I wrote all the kids’ names in each class on a popsicle stick (during a Harry Potter movie marathon with my brothers) and dipped the popsicle sticks in water that I colored by sticking dried-up markers in it for a while. When I need a volunteer for something, I go to the class’s cup, pull out a stick with the colored end up, read the name and put it back in the cup with the colored end down. It seems such an obvious thing to do, but last year there were so many times when I wished I had a system like that, but I didn’t want to take the time to write all the names and put it together. This year I decided it’s totally worth it.
Turning to the left we have what I call the clean-up wall. On this wall, I have more shelves and I leave most of them empty, because I need them for storing paintings that need to dry. I’ll show you that process sometime, it’s hard to explain without more photos. Underneath the shelves I have boxes of supplies related to clean-up or messy projects, like rags, paint shirts, water containers, sponges, etc. On top of the shelves in the left corner I have class folders where I store each class’s art work. The folders sit in mail organizers, another surplus sale and thrift store score. Seriously I’ll never buy office supplies for full price again, they are so easy to find at thrift stores and even if they’re ugly you can always spray paint them.
And last we have the back wall. This is where I keep supplies that I don’t want the kids to get into, so things like clay, tempera paint, art prints, watercolor paper, etc. are in the cupboards and drawers. I also have extra supplies and Beautiful Junk organized in the paper boxes on the shelves and on top of the cupboards. My desk is to the left of the stool in the corner, but I didn’t take a photo of it because it’s a hot mess!
A few things that I love about my classroom this year:
- It’s way more organized because I took the time to really think through and organize pretty much everything.
- Everything is labeled. I labeled a lot of stuff last year too, but I took my labeling frenzy to a new level this year and I’m loving it. I’m a big believer that environmental print helps kids learn to read, so I want to provide as much of that as possible.
- The kids are more independent because they know where things are. Holla! I don’t get kids asking, “Teacher, can I use a pair of scissors? Where are the scissors?” anymore because I SHOWED THEM WHERE EVERYTHING IS LOCATED at the beginning of the year and I explained which supplies they can use whenever they need to and which supplies they need to ask me for permission before using. More on how I handled that later.
- I have bulletin boards! And I can put pushpins in the walls! Last year my classroom had those annoying carpet walls that are satanically difficult to hang anything on. This year it’s much easier to hang up art prints and students’ artwork.
Are there any other art teachers out there with great classroom setup and organization ideas to share? Do tell! And if you have any questions about my room or want me to explain why I’ve set something up a certain way, comment and let me know what I should address next time I talk about my classroom!