Classroom Set up and Procedures

Planning, Organization, and Behavior Management

Here are some ideas and printable sets for your classroom!

Simple Science Set-up

(How I left work on time each day!)

Honestly, I rarely left work late when I was in the classroom. I am not a slacker, and my students always thrived in learning and scored high enough to keep our exemplary status on state tests. I had a good system in place, and methodically prepped each lesson of the school year. One year at a staff development meeting the superintendent was asked what the time was that we could leave each day. He answered with “You can leave when you classroom is ready for the next day.” That’s a simple answer that gave me motivation to work smarter, not  later 😉

Making Copies

Okay, here we go. The biggest system I had in place to keep me within my workday hours was prepping for upcoming lessons. Keep all of your lessons in binders, organized chronologically within each unit. Make copies for each week, a week in advance. So by Friday, you should have every copy made and set out on your designated counter or table space. Teaching Science and Social Studies to three rotations a day, leaves you with too high of stacks to keep in file folders. So, I had a label stuck to the counter for each day of the week and would pile the papers for each day on its label. Then I would lay my lesson plan for the day on that stack, and be ready to go!

Binders: Lessons Planned and Organized

Streamlining my copies, only works when I have my complete curriculum planned and stored in binders. I print each week’s lesson plan with the master copies for the activities and store them in a section of my lesson binder. This is where those Mega Bundles and complete curriculum bundles that I have collected really come in handy!! Anyone that knows me knows that I like to streamline everything the best I can so I don’t have to stress and overwork myself. I also like to use accordion file folders and slip the lesson plans and master copies in one slot per week. They work just as well and take less energy than binders. I will always find a easier way. If you want my lesson plans sent right to you each week, sign up for my Science Newsletter! Or, I even have a Preschool Newsletter if that matches your grade level better.

Grading Papers

My least favorite part of teaching- just kidding- well, sort of… A lot of teachers have what they call an “86 File”. If you have so many useless activities to grade that you have to dispose of them, you are wasting both your time and your students’ time. To cover my methods for grading papers within the school day, we will start with cutting down on the quantity of grading you do. Only grade items that fall into the formative assessment and summative assessment categories. That’s when you really want to give them a score for their progress anyways. My school required 6 formative assessments and 3 summative assessments in each grading period. It came out to about one graded assignment a week, depending on the week. That is a very manageable amount to grade. I chose to grade during my grading period and while I scarfed down my lunch. Any grading I had left, I would finish right after school before I worked on my lab baskets for the following day.

Not only does tossing papers waste time, it wastes a learning opportunity. If you go over the work with the class, you can lead valuable discussions and have students correct their work as you go. You just doubled the learning your students get from that one activity! It probably takes less than 10 minutes to go back over most assignments. All those 86 files can now be more learning for each student.

Supplies and Lab Set-up

Baskets. Always have a basket for each group sitting on the back counter or table. At the end of each day you can put up the left over supplies and materials for the day, and restock for the next day. Fill each basket with the materials that each group will use the next day and you will be ready to go the next morning! This would seriously take me twenty or thirty minutes at the end of each day, and then I was ready to head home!

Now you may be wondering: What will I do with the remainder of the work they do? Go over the work they do in class when everyone is finished. A teacher I student taught with did this with most of the class work her students did, and I saw it as a great teaching opportunity. Students can evaluate their own answers as you discuss the correct answers as a class. Have them make corrections as you go. As far as knowing how well your kids are learning the material, you will know how well they are doing by all the “spying” and detective work you do during their class time. Walk around, observe, ask questions, have students share thoughts with the class, use exit slips. You will be able to get an idea where their thinking is on each activity by using non-paper types of formative assessments. Plus, you can always add in a quick write or summary writing for you look over while walking around the classroom.

Want to know an even bigger time saving secret? I have been turning all of my labs into digital labs! This means that you can still have real experience learning when you just don’t have the supplies. Works great for make-up labs, labs on sub days, labs for at-home learning, and saving materials in class. Pandemic year led me to make this addition, but I have found that digital lesson sets and labs work for so many situations.

Check out even more tips for leaving work on time!


Classroom Management Ideas

The best approch to classroom management is to maintain student engagement in their learning. When students are engaged in their learning, they are less likely to be disracted and distract others. I have also found lab safety to be a successful behavior motivator in the science classroom. I inform the students that privilege to participate in science labs are earned. If I can’t trust them to follow instructions in class, then I can’t trust them with lab materials. Kids love labs and really want to participate, so this alone has made a huge difference in classroom behavior. They still need constant reminders to act responsibly, but will overall stay on track themselves. I have also found that a visible behavior incentive and warning tracker helps communicate to the class as a whole how they are doing each day. My fishbowl behavior set has made a noticeable difference in each class. They can watch their three daily warnings and see how many fish they have collected towards a big prize. Their prize after filling the fishbowl with fish is letting them pick their seats for an entire unit. *Classroom Fishbowl Incentive Set and Warning System

 classroom behavior system
Classroom and Individual Behavior Charts cover

How it works:

This set is a fun way to track and reward good behavior in your classroom! This printable set includes the fishbowl which can collect fish as visual cues for spotting good behavior in your classroom. The fish bone tracks warnings in the classroom. Each warning the class gets, the cat will move up a spot on the fish bone, closer to the fish bowl. There are three warning reminders before the cat can eat a fish from the class’ fishbowl! The set can be printed, laminated, and is magnetic when you attach small magnets to the backs. This can sit in the corner of the whiteboard so the students can see it at all times. When the bowl fills up with fish, the class achieves an award of your choice! I used this in my classroom, and it worked better than any other incentive plans I tried!! An example of a reward I let my students work toward is unassigned seats for a few weeks or a unit.

And, you can use the smaller sized set for individual behavior charts.

Individual Behavior Chart

Another tool to help students become aware of their behavior is to have a log tracking behavior and consequences. This will also provide a record for you to reference when contacting parents about reoccurring behaviors.

Behavior chart

Classroom Organization Ideas

Teacher Binders are the best way to organize all of your papers, lessons, and logs. I make my own teacher planners and binders to organize and plan throughout the year.

DIY Planner.jpg

My Organization is based on a 5th grade Science and Social Studies Class, but can easily be modified to fit any class. I do not like using filing cabinets and filing folders because I end up piling a bunch of papers chaotically in each folder. Binders work better for me because I can hole punch and put each page where it belongs, and it stays there.

1. Communication Log – This is so important for keeping track of each student. I like to set this up in a binder with a page for each student and room to keep extra information behind the student’s log page.

  • Table of Contents The following pages need to be made one for each student:
  • Student Communication Log (for any conversations you have with a student leading up to a parent phone call)
  •  Parent Communication Log (for any conversations you have with a parent)
  • Student Records (Report cards/ Progress Reports usually have information on grades, behavior, and attendance)

2. Lesson Plans – I like to put all my lessons in binders. I make a 3 inch binder for each unit of a subject. I break my science into four binders for the reporting categories of the Texas STAAR test:

  • Matter and Energy
  • Force, Motion, and Energy
  • Earth and Space
  • Organisms and Environments

*I have dividers in each binder for the standard(s) that the lessons fall under. I have a separate binder for lesson planning. There I keep a copy of my state standards that I need to teach for the school year, a copy of the Bloom’s Taxonomy, a list of district or principal requirements in a lesson, and a template for my lesson plans. I keep my weekly lesson plans on my computer as a digital copy and print a copy for reference throughout the week.

Check out these posts for How To Build an Engaging Curriculum:





3. Turing in assignments and Grading – I set up a turn-in tray for each subject and class period. I like the big, colorful, stackable baskets and I found them at Lowes. I only have them turn in papers that I will take for a grade (formative or summative). The other activities we do leading up to each formative grade are graded, or gone over, in class so the student can see the best answer and make corrections. This helps them self-assess and learn from the assignment. I like to take two to three formatives per every summative assessment. I like to fully cover a standard before taking a formative grade.

4. Labs – Each lab station has a basket that contains the lab supplies and instruction sheets. This makes it easy to prep for the lab because you can gather materials for the groups in one location and carry it to the tables when each basket is complete. Clean up is easy as well this way. Before each lab day, I take the baskets and fill them with the materials needed for the next day. They are ready to go when the students get to class the next day.

5. Science Interactive Notebooks – I place a basket at the end of each table and the students can store their notebooks in them. I use the plastic file bins for baskets. They are a perfect size to hold the students’ notebooks from that table in all three class periods. Putting a sturdy divider between each class period’s notebooks will help them stay straight up and down and not pile up in the bin. The notebooks are in a convenient location if you need to take notebook grades or check notebooks. You could pick a table a day and check each notebook over a week’s time.

6. Word Wall – Having a wall of Science words can help build vocabulary. Most classes I have seen organize word wall cards by letter of the alphabet. Some have organized by unit. Either way works, just depends on personal preference. You can tape laminated word wall cards below each letter and use them year after year. You can also hang a ribbon below each letter and use paper clips to hang each word on the ribbon below the letter. I like this way because it can be annoying to take four pieces of tape off of each card at the end of each year.

7. Decorating the walls – I leave the walls blank at the beginning of each year. The only thing up is the letters for the word wall. With each unit, we build anchor charts which become the classroom décor. It saves a ton of money on decorations and posters while providing great reference for the students to remember what they have learned. Don’t forget to cover word walls and anchor charts for each major test. On the main board, I have a place to write the “ I can” statement for each lesson and a place for the Classroom Rewards and Warning Behavior System.

8. Make-up Work – I like to have a folder for each day of the week for two weeks at a time. Make week one green and week two blue so you can rotate them easily. Every day I place the left over assignment pages in the folder so students who were out or lost the page can find it when needed. When I grade assignments, I make a list of who I am missing work from and place it in the bin of make-up work folders for quick reference.

9. Sub folder –  I keep one folder of the information that I leave for a sub. Within the folder are daily schedules, helpful students, and a phone number list for the front office and fellow grade level teachers. The folder sits on a stack of papers which are the assignments for a sub day. I have this ready at all times for any unseen absences. I never leave a lesson for the sub to teach because in the past, some of my subs have not done the best job “teaching”. I leave review work that can be done quietly and individually. I will catch them up with proper teaching when I return.

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