How do I set up my class when I don’t have any stuff!?

Hello – 

We’ve  had lots of time in our class discussions and our own findings to have a sense of what type of routines we want to implement and how we want to teach our students……but what about the space your students are going to be in? How is that going to be organized and where are you going to put all your things so you can find them? As a new teacher you probably have a small stash of things you have randomly bought along the way but what else are you going to need? I’m going to go over a few basic ideas to help you (and me, mostly) get started and also to bring to your attention some things you may not have given thought to! 

First of all, give yourself time before the school year begins to get ready! Obviously this isn’t always possible as a new teacher but if you can get into your classroom atleast the week before you will have much less stress. This gives you a chance to look at your layout, what type of shelving or storage you have in the class and where the white boards and projectors are set up…..if you have any. Another good reason to get yourself into your new school early is to make contact with some of the other staff.

I know I always feel nervous going into a new school, but I always feel better when I’m in my hometown because I always recognize somebody I know in the staff room and that is comforting. Teachers are much better at collaborating these days and you will want to get in on that!

Once you know what type of space you are working with then you can begin to plan your bulletin boards, carpet space, and displays you will have. Make sure that you use cohesive colours and keep a theme, this keeps the classroom all in sync. Getting prepared ahead of time means you have more time to think about what you would like to display and gives you time to print and laminate different resources. Of course we all know and but do start regularly watching as many things go on sale or become free from time to time that could be useful in the future. It’s ok if your classroom is pretty empty, don’t feel that you need all the posters and displays already chosen. It’s very difficult at this stage to know what we are going to want to use on the walls. Your students will enjoy watching their walls fill up as the year progresses and they know the reason behind everything you put there! I love the idea of displaying the cover art of all the books we have read as a class on the wall, or sort them into categories. There are some many things you could do with that idea!

Other decisions you will have to make in your space are:

  • Find distinct areas around the room for your different uses. (carpet space, desk area, stations/centres, quiet reading nook etc.)
  • Where are YOU going to work? At one desk? Multiple work surfaces?
  • Where will student supplies be kept (glue, scissors, pens, paper)? How will you store these?
  • Where do you expect the students to work? Find areas in the classroom that can be used as work space.
  • Do you want different lighting in some space of the class? 
  • Where are the students personal belongings going to be?

Lastly, I think it is important to specifically talk about books. A very important aspect of a classroom is its library and how book selection for students is set up. This is an area that I do worry about because it is going to take a lot of time to build up a book collection and know which books we prefer using over others. As for where to get the books….start looking now. I have already been collecting books, whenever I see a trolley of free books in a school. Its hard to know which ones to pick but I just grab a stack every time. Another good strategy is get friendly with teachers who are going to retire soon! This may sound crazy but they do not want to keep every single thing they have in their class and I have found many are thrilled to give it away knowing it is going to good use. Also, many TOC’s are teachers who no longer want to work full time or have their own class, and I have gotten totes full of stuff because they don’t need it anymore. It feels super overwhelming, but it will come together I promise you! It will be easier to know what you need if you break it up into a few different groups of book types.

  1. Reading level groups – This can be done in a few ways but the most popular is to have “Just Right” baskets with same-level books. Some teachers will make clothespin with the students names on them and clip their name onto the appropriate basket, this way they can be moved around. Benchmark books are also useful for this but not always as fun to read for the students. has some great online resources (depending on the tech access at your school) and also provides access to online reading records.
  2. Have a main library with a good assortment of fun books. These are books that students can grab at any time and read whether or not they are the right reading level. The purpose of this library is to inspire the love of reading. Generally, these would include popular classics and new popular books with characters that students love. Be sure to have your favourites in there as well! If you love your book collection then so will the students.
  3. This one is more optional but you could also add to your class a book shelf, or basket with theme books. This could rotate according to units, holidays and seasons. This is a different way to get students to look at books they may never have noticed before.

So now you know what I know! I suggest we all start taking notes of these little details while we are in practicum and compiling a folder of ideas…..and maybe hit a lotto garage sales looking for stuff…. 

Ms. S

Here are some great links I used for my research.


More resources…

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  1. Nadine,

    This post was very relevant to my situation as I am consistently anxious that I do not have enough resources to fill my future classroom. As I’m sure many other education students would agree, it is tricky to build your repertoire of resources when you are juggling rent, tuition, and a countless number of other things. As a result, I have an underlying fear that when I transition from student to teacher I will be unprepared.

    The links and insight you shared reminded me that there are plenty of alternatives and free resources that I can utilise.



  2. What a great and relevant inquiry! I find myself shopping for my future classroom all the time, but I have to remind myself to slow down! I think my biggest concern for buying things for my classroom now is that it’s very unlikely that we will get a continuing position in the beginning. We could spend a ton of money on primary books, and then be put in a grade 7 class the next year. Thank you for giving us the reminder that there are a ton of resources and we don’t need to over plan or buy.

  3. Thank you for all of these very relevant resources as a future teacher. This is very useful information.
    The ideas you have outlined may seem like a given but must be given thought. It will determine how your class functions smoothly. It definitely gave me some perspective.
    Thanks Nadine!

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