Thursday, July 5, 2018

Setting up a Special Needs Classroom

Setting up a classroom can be overwhelming! However, taking time and being meaningful about certain aspects of the classroom setup can really help you to start your school year off well.


Spend time upfront organizing.
This might not be the most exciting part of setting up a classroom and it might seem obvious, but getting organized will definitely set you up for success in the fall. I suggest getting all of your materials out of cabinets, off of shelves and out of bins and separating materials into piles based on categories and functions (i.g. put all the math materials, literacy materials, cooking supplies, sensory toys, etc. together). Then look at what organization materials and space you already have (like bins, buckets, shelving units, etc.) and determine what materials will fit where. Grouping all of the materials that belong together ahead of time will avoid finding another 2 boxes of math manipulatives three days later and not having shelf space for them with the rest of the math materials. 

Create a classroom layout/ template. 
I don't like to move heavy furniture multiple times, so I'll make a classroom template/ layout before I move a single piece of furniture. I obviously normally end up moving a few pieces of furniture again at some point either in August or September, but making a template avoids moving heavy bookshelves 20 times just in July.

You don't have to have your entire schedule planned out to create the template/ layout, but before you plan your layout and start setting up your room, you'll want to have an idea of what activities you're going to do on a daily basis.


Here are a few things to think about when planning your classroom layout:
-Think through each daily lesson/ activity that you plan to do. Where will you store materials? Where will students and staff sit for each activity? Will students be distracted (visually or physically) by anything when they're in that space?
-Make spaces that have dual functions (i.g. use a table for small group and snack, or a small area for independent play and an independent reading center.)
-How many small groups are you going to be running at a time?
-Are you going to be running any whole group activities? How many students and staff will be included in this?
-Put any toys or super reinforcing/ distracting materials away (I suggest putting all toys in cabinets that students can't get into. You can read more that here.)
-Use furniture and rugs to section off the classroom and create little sections/ spaces, but leave room to maneuver students with wheelchairs, if needed.
-Do you have paraprofessionals or nurses in your classroom? If so, think about where they will store their personal belongings and if they need a work space.

Don't over do it with the decor. 
Don't get me wrong, I love a beautiful classroom, but we don't want to overstimulate our kiddos with too much decoration or empty our pockets spending a ton of money on pompoms and borders. I love to turn my visuals and work materials into my decor by adding pretty backgrounds and printing on colored paper. It's a simple (and cheap) way to add color into your classroom without adding visual clutter or breaking the bank.

A pretty watercolor addition to schedule cards.

Objectives on colored paper and a pretty colored core board poster. 

My next suggestion is to create a few bulletin boards that are pretty but that are meaningful. A few examples could include a pretty colored goal board, schedule board, word wall, etc. I just suggest making bulletin boards that can stay for more than a month long and add value to your classroom.


Happy classroom set up!

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