Organizing An Elementary Classroom



Elementary Classroom Arrangements

An elementary classroom specifically refers to a class of grades 3-5. Needs for a good functional classroom for this age group are a bit different from the early childhood classroom arrangement. Kids in this age group are expected to become more self-directed in their learning. But they are not ready for a middle school organization.

These students have unique needs as they are between primary and middle school.  A critical time, many school systems have third grade reading testing as a best practice. Students not on grade level at this point are provided with remediation and/or retained.

Arranging a classroom for this special age group can require some unique planning. The following organizational ideas can help the elementary classroom operate smoothing. This smooth operation saves valuable time for the elementary teacher and provides a secure environment for students.

Classroom ArrangementFlat table top desks are preferable over tables and slanted desks for the elementary classroom. These desks can be moved around, grouped and lined up in functional order. In this classroom, the table top desks form a sort of  double square horseshoe shape. This is the preferred arrangement for whole-group instruction, but they can easily moved together for peer tutoring and cooperative learning activities. These students are at an excellent stage for shared learning. A round table and four chairs at the back of the classroom invites group work.

Counters and a clean-up area are shared characteristics of the early childhood and elementary classroom. These kids still love to paint and make creative projects, and that is an important part of their development. Separate tables provide areas for self-directed learning centers, another important aspect of elementary classrooms.

Teaching aides and charts turn cabinet doors functional

Using Pocket Charts as Teaching Aides

You will notice that pocket charts are used a lot in this elementary classroom. The clear pockets make them a great visual organizational tool. These charts and teaching aids make the cabinet doors attractive and functional. Incentive charts attractively displayed can really go a long way to reward achievement. Pocket charts provide really durable materials. The teacher won’t have to keep making these sort of teaching tools from poster board and laminating.

In this elementary classroom, the times tables are cleverly displayed for students to learn. This is a critical step in mathematics for this age, and the responsibility for memorizing the times tables falls on the student. For achievement  testing, these visual aides have to be taken down. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to these teaching aides remain in a student’s visual memory even if they are removed.

Calendar Math Bulletin Board

Instructional Bulletin Boards

Again, pocket charts help to create a really organized Calendar Math instructional area. So many math concepts can be taught with a calendar! Ordinal numbers that students can relate to transform into other numerical expressions like decimals and money.

Notice the patterning for this month. Colors and shapes help continue the important patterning concept the students learned in Kindergarten. The patterns just become more complex.

The Calendar Math bulletin board is a cheery red with small white polka dots. It is a cloth covering, and will not have to be replaced because of looking ragged. The Calendar Math bulletin board introduces many opportunities for whole group instruction and independent work.

Classroom supplies that are organized in categories and containers will help to make a smoothly operated classroom.

Storage, storage storage

That saying about location, location is a great way to explain storage for the elementary classroom. It’s all about storage. Having equipment and supplies in ‘apple pie order’ can mean the difference between an effective and non-effective classroom.  Have plenty of plastic bins, jars, baskets and pans for storing classroom materials and game pieces. This type of classroom sorting can help facilitate learning by organizing visual and conceptual  input.

Speaking of organized information, notice the hundreds board that is arranged on the Calendar Math bulletin board. It helps elementary-aged students see patterns in numbers, an important future algebraic concept.

 The Numbers System

Use cardboard  file holders for student materials such as notebooks, workbooks and folders. paint them white and decorate with a number sicker on the side. Each student has a number. This allows the student to learn to independently keep up with materials with minimal assistance. They are stored neatly on a shelf in numerical order. This efficient method saves time that is used for more instruction and less ‘housekeeping tasks’.

Cardboard file holders and a number system for organization
Cardboard file boxes help keep student notebooks and folders organized.

The Numbers System and Behavior Charts

The same numbers used to organize classroom supplies for the elementary classroom can be used to notate daily behaviors. In this way, a system of rewards and consequences can be implemented with less confusion. Student reward coupons are placed in numbered pockets. These coupons list special privileges like computer time.

A numbers system allows the teacher to give rewards in numbered pocket holders


A levels system with student names on clothespins is an effective semi-public method to encourage cooperative and respectable behavior in the elementary classroom. again, cabinet door displays add attractiveness and functionality to the classroom.  The teacher places clothespins for behavior levels as infractions occur. The students should have been taught these rules and consequences from day one. They also need to be reviewed often.

Behavior incentive charts take up less space on cabinet doors.

Small Group Instruction in the Elementary Classroom

Small group instruction area

In an elementary classroom, students will invariably have differing levels in both reading and math. Reading in the content areas will soon get more difficult. A  half circle or kidney-shaped table is ideal for small group instruction.

Organizing Classroom Supplies

The teacher can think of  creative ways to organize materials. Here we see the  acronym  BUILD as a way to incorporate independent learning activities into the elementary classroom organization. Again, storage, storage, storage!

Creative ways to organize materials


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