Primary Chalkboard: Middle Grades Classroom Set Up and Organization

Middle Grades Classroom Set Up and Organization

Well, hey y'all! It's so good to be back blogging here at Primary Chalkboard! I'm Heather from Brainy Apples, and today I am going to share how I set up my classroom for the new school year. I officially go back tomorrow, but I went in every day this week to get my room ready. Please don't throw tomatoes! I know you elementary peeps go in MANY more days than just 3, and, on those days, you spend close to 8 hours each day. I know. I was elementary for 13 years. I don't even know how many days and hours in the summer I would spend setting up my classroom. This will be my 2nd year in middle school, and I spend way less time getting my classroom ready. It's a lot easier when you teach just one subject. Last year I taught ELA. This year I get to teach social studies, and I can't tell you how stinkin' excited I am about that! So, when you see my classroom, you will definitely be able to tell I am a one-subject-kinda-gal now. 
  I wanted to write my blog post about middle grades classroom set up and organization because last year was my first year in middle school....and I was so worried I wasn't doing something I needed to be doing because I had my room set up in less than a week. Going from spending probably 80+hours setting up a room to less than 15 hours was weird. Definitely weird, but weird in a good way (well, weird is always good). There are some things I do the same, but there are many more that I do differently.

First Things First

Before I even begin decorating my room, I still write down every function I need my classroom to perform. I want to make sure I have a designated area for everything. AND that everything will actually fit. Nothing makes me a sad panda more than decorating most of my room, and then realizing that all I wanted to include won't be possible because I have run out of space. Even though I am still a rookie when it comes to middle school, I know I will definitely need the following:

A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 
Since I am teaching social studies, I know my students will be working on a lot of projects. These will most likely stay in my room, so not only do I need a place for students to turn in their work, I need space for them to store their work. Did I mention I teach 5 classes? So about 150 students...I need to have space for their work...ALL of them...during projects. 

Supply corner
My students will be coming to me with all the needed school supplies (pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, scissors, glue, etc.). However, there are always a handful who somehow forgets their supplies. Um, yeah. So instead of wasting time having them go to their lockers to get said needed supplies, I want to have a corner of my room with everything they need, so they can quickly get a loaner (and I know most will go missing because loaners become theirs. That's why I have tubs of extras in my closet. And I have been known to ask students for a shoe when they borrow a pencil from me because they give it back every single time...sometimes sticky...sometimes not).

Storage for extra supplies
Since I will be needing to replenish my "I forgot my supplies" corner, I know I will need adequate space to keep all the extras that will eventually make their way to that corner...and I need storage for my own supplies.

Absent work
This is a biggie. One reason why I love middle school is because the responsibility of completing classwork, getting work missed, etc. falls on the STUDENT. Not me. The STUDENT. So when someone is absent, it is his/her responsibility to get missing work. We use ItsLearning, which is an on-line platform, and I post what we are doing in class. However, if a student does not have access to a printer or a computer at home (which families can actually check out a laptop from our media center and get a broadband card for FREE so they do have the needed technology at home), or their Internet broke (which is an excuse I hear...a lot....) I need a place to neatly keep missing assignments so students can get it on their own without asking me. HEAVEN.

Word Wall
Even though I teach middle school, I am going to have a word wall in my room. It's non-negotiable. This year my word wall will consist of social studies vocabulary because there is a LOT of content-specific words in the curriculum. I am going to create my own word cards, and I will be putting a visual representation on each card to help students make connections. This will be an on-going project for me this year.  *Update! I finished my Social Studies Word Wall and you can get it by clicking {HERE}*

When I taught ELA, I had a Greek and Latin roots/affixes word wall. There are SO many students are responsible for learning, and I found that they were forgetting already learned ones. I created a word wall specifically for students to refer to all year long. I put this word wall on a bulletin board. During the year, students would write words that contained a specific root/affix on a notecard and then tack onto the board under the word wall card. Students were on the lookout for roots/affixes without me having to ask! You can also use this word wall during science because several vocabulary terms have these roots/affixes. My students were referring to my word wall to remember key science terms! You can see this word wall by clicking {HERE}.

Maps, maps, maps.....and more maps. I will be teaching Europe, Canada, Australia, Latin America, and islands in the Caribbean. We are literally all over the world. So I will be hanging up a lot of maps in my room. Good thing I love maps :)

A place to display student work 
Even middle schoolers like to have their work hanging on the wall! I don't have wall space outside my classroom (darn those lockers!), nor do I have wall space for 150 kiddos. I can, though, have a dedicated space on my wall and rotate out student work, so they know I appreciate and respect what they create. And, even though they may not admit it, they are proud when they know their work is important enough to display.

I love quotes. Wen I coached basketball years ago, there were 2 girls responsible for finding a quote to read to the team before our game. They had to explain the significance of the quote and how it pertained to our team and the upcoming game. It was amazing to hear the message my players heard from those quotes and the impact it made on them. So I knew I wanted a wall space for quotes for my middle schoolers. I also decided that since there are specific people I will be teaching, most of the quotes will be said by those people (yet another on-going project for myself this year!). Not only will these quotes hopefully give my students something to think about, but the quotes will also help my students remember the significance of each person.

Interactive notebook table of contents
I will be using an interactive notebook this year. There is SO much content I will be teaching, I have to make the material engaging for my students. I will do this through INB and projects. I need a place where I can display our INB table of contents so if students are absent or get behind, they can see what they missed and what they need to make up. This won't take up much space at all either...thank goodness!

Word Splash
I love word splashes. I consider a word splash to be a group of words associated with one term. Because we will be studying 5 different areas, I want to help my students recognize key terms associated with each area. I need a large enough area to display the current splash as well as previous splashes (and I really need to think of a cuter name). I am going to color code each region's splash because color can help some students with remembering word associations. 

Fun social media board
We are a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) district. Our kids come to school with different types of devices. I know they use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I am going to bring those social media platforms to my classroom. I need a space where I can have an interactive bulletin board that they students will be responsible for updating. I have several ideas floating around in my head, but until the school year gets going, I am not sure which path I will take. As soon as I figure it out though, I will be blogging about it on my blog, so be sure to check in with me regularly!

This day in history...
I love trivia. And I love to know what happened today in history. This will be another interactive display my students will be responsible for updating. It won't need much room, but I do want a space where students can easily switch out events that happened in history, and I hope they find really obscure or interesting, little known facts! I just want them to become fascinated by history because I did NOT like social studies when I was in school. AT ALL. I am trying to think of things that would have helped pique my interest in hopes that it carries over to my students.

A place for students to sit
I guess this is important :) I do not like desks. Nope nope nope. These are the adjoined chair and desk, and they are so cumbersome! I like to have my students sit in groups, and those desks would move all over the room! They drove me crazy. I wasn't keen on the idea at the beginning of last year, but thought I would give them a try. I nixed that the 3rd week of school. So, over the span of several months, I replaced desks with tables. Now I have 5 rectangular tables and 1 circle table for my students. Not only do these tables not migrate, I have way more space than if I had 30 desks. I want my students to get on the floor and spread out, and easily do group work without having gaps between the desks. 

Once I knew what all needed to be in my room, I could begin moving furniture and decorating! Did I mention I love how I teach just one subject? I don't remember how in the world I fit everything 5 needed for multiple subjects in one room! I am going to eventually need storage space for social studies games and centers that I will be making this year (add some more projects to my ever-growing on-going to do list!), and I made sure to leave some blank space in my room for my new creations (and now I have Taylor Swift singing in my head).

Get Your Decorating (and Furniture Moving) On

Here's the fun part! Now, my room is not totally complete. I know there will be things I didn't think of that I need to add to my room. I learned in years past to NOT decorate every square inch of my room. Not only do ideas hit me out of nowhere, but I also want students to feel like it's THEIR room, too. It does make it look a little blah at the beginning of the year, but by the 3rd month (if not sooner), it becomes more colorful with the help of my students!

So, here we go with my classroom set up! I will address each item on my "Must Have" list:

A place for students to turn in (and store) their work 

Supply corner

Storage for extra supplies

Absent work
(the absent work display is behind my door)

A place to display student work, Interactive notebook table of contents, & This day in history...

Word Splash, Fun social media board, & Word Wall


Quotes & A place for students to sit

My quotes will go above my board, and I didn't take pics of the tables because there is still a lot of crap supplies on them :) 

I am going to be doing another blog post towards the end of August/beginning of September about how I have tweaked my classroom to fit the needs of my class (because you know it happens.EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR.) Be sure to head on over to my blog in a few weeks to check it out! I am also going to be blogging a lot more this year because, in case I haven't already said it, I am SO excited to be teaching social studies! I would love to share my journey with you! 'Till next time! -XOXO



  1. Wow! What an amazingly informative post! Your students are so lucky to have such a caring, creative teacher. I so love all your ideas. I am going from teaching first grade to being a reading specialist this year. I look at my tiny office, and am not sure how to organize. Your post helped me tremendously! Thanks so much!

    1. I am so glad I could help you out! Good luck this school year! :)

  2. I'm teaching 6th ELA for the FIRST time this year. I haven't taught school in almost 20 years. Tips?