Classroom Management

Setting Up Your Classroom For Success (Ep. 102)

At the beginning of the year, the big question looms over everything: how will you set up and organize your classroom this year? In this episode, Nic talks you through her art room and gives her best advice on how to set up your studio for success. Listen as she discusses flow and layout, procedures and routines, and what you may want to focus on this school year.  Full episode transcript below.

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Nic:  Do you dream about your art classroom? Yeah, me too. Sometimes I find myself actually waking up in the middle of instruction. I have a coworker actually, whose husband recorded her talking in her sleep to her classroom. She was releasing each of her color groups. Guys, she doesn’t even have color groups in her classroom, but you know what she was doing? Her brain was already trying to figure out how to manage her classroom better and how to set it up for success. That’s what we’re talking about today, how to set up your art classroom so it can be successful in this next school year. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

Let’s talk about setting up that classroom for the new year. This is an exciting time for all teachers. You get to redevelop your classroom if you have been in the same studio for many years. Or, you get to create a new classroom and figure out the flow for your students and how you’re going to make it a welcoming environment for all. As I think about setting up the classroom, I think about many prompts. I’m going to bring you through some of the prompts that I think of as well as some of the solutions I’ve come up with, but it doesn’t mean that these are absolutely the way to go. These are just the ways that I have gone and believe me, I’ve gone in many different directions, but here is where I currently am with a lot of my classroom setup.

The first thing that I always think about is the flow and the layout of my classroom. I think about how students are going to come into my classroom. Now in my case, I have them line up by an in door. My students come to me and leave all at the same time, so I have this ever moving classroom of students coming in, working for an hour and leaving as the next ones are coming. When I have them line up by the in door. I have worked with my teachers, my homeroom classroom teachers and ask them to have them line up behind a piece of tape on the ground because when I open up my door, I do not want to crush any children. It’s a personal goal, I guess we could say. But having that line on the ground allows them to know where to line up.

I also plan to have this year, a little note outside my door that says, “Have you gone to the restroom? Have you gotten a drink? Are you ready to be into the class, the art studio? È Because I find that students often will be leaving during my hour and it’s just precious time. Making sure that students have that opportunity as they line up is a practice that I want to create for this next year. With that little sign I’ll be able to do that. As students come in, I welcome them same routine every time. If it is the first class coming into the classroom, I have them take down chairs and meet me at the carpet. If it’s anyone else they know to meet me at the carpet. Now of course I have to work on this a couple of weeks before it is routine, but when it is routine, I simply smile at them as they walk in.

During this time, I don’t say anything to them. Even if they come up to me, “Hey Miss Hahn, look at what I made. Hey Miss Hahn, what are we making today? Hey Miss Hahn,” whatever it is. I just simply smile back at them, give them a wink, gesture with my hand to have them go into the carpet and then I will address all of their questions as we are group and ready to learn.

What has helped me a ton with students going to the carpet is for my littles, I use sit spots. Sit spots are these plastic, well I have round, there’s many different shaped, plastic round Velcro pieces in every color you can imagine and they Velcro right onto the carpet. As my students enter the classroom, they know exactly where to sit. They have their own space. There’s no arguments of who’s sitting where. It has been a, just a very effective classroom management tool.

When I think about getting them into the classroom, the next thing I need to think about is where will they learn? How will they learn? And the first place that most of my students are going to learn is from me in the front of the room, so I have an instruction spot. My students know when I go to this spot I’m going to start teaching and they give me full attention and if they don’t, I just wait. I stand in that spot. I smile at them and allow them to settle in and take and bring their attention to me.

Then I often will use the smart TV. I have that hooked up to my computer. Therefore I need a desk in the front of my room for my computers to sit on as well as a dot cam. I actually have an iPad stand where my iPad sometimes is connected to my smart TV. I have spaces for those two things. And then I need to, sometimes I give instruction, so sometimes they learn there right away or I’ll have them come join me around my instruction table.

Usually my instruction table I’m using for my younger students, kindergarten through third grade even, and I have them line up around a table. Now I have invited students in the past and course they smush in as close as they can so I said, “Oh hands by your side.” Therefore their hands can’t be resting on the table or I have them take one step back. But these are abstract ideas. Instead, I have a piece of tape on the ground. I’m using the gymnasium tape and I place that about an arm’s length away from the table. This allows students to make room for everybody and not be too close in, covering up instruction. I have several different places where the students are going to learn and I have it so that it is classroom friendly.

Then where are they going to make? In my classroom, I have a group based learning environment. I consider my classroom to be community learning. We are going into mini groups, into our tables of four and they’re working as a team. If you are choice based, you need to think about where your individuals are going to go to do the making during class.

How will students get the goods? Okay. We’ve all heard Cassie Stephens mentioned her store table, going to the store and shopping for what they need for tools and materials. I don’t really have that set up, instead I have a countertop that is filled with materials that they will always use, pencils, Sharpie markers I use a lot, crayons, that sort of thing. And then I will pull out the specialty items and give them instructions of using that. I know that I’m going to use the side countertop and I’m going to release my tables by color.

Now you might have other methods. Some people use numbers at each of the seats, sometimes they have, maybe they’re leaving from the carpet. Maybe I’d use the sit spots to have them go get the goods and then make their way to the tables. I’m thinking about how I’m going to release my students as I’m setting up my classroom as well.

Then I need to think of the flow of the room. I want the students to enter the countertop space in a certain way so that they can exit in a certain way and we don’t have a big traffic jam. How I often do this, is I do one of two things. I’ll have a fishbowl, which is, that just simply means I’m going to invite one class or I’m sorry, one table, so the red table, please go up and get the pencils and erasers for your table. And then I use play by play, so just like you would hear on a sportscast. I say, “Look at the red table as they walk over to the countertop, they are walking with a nice even pace. No one is running. Wow. They are doing a really good job. Oh my goodness. Take a look. They have now just entered a beautiful line. Nobody is in front of each other or pushing, pulling.”

You get the picture. I monitor everything that I want to see and I do this almost every hour, every day. This reinforces my expectations. When they have made, now we have to talk about cleanup. Again, what is your method that you will be using? Are you going to have the students just, hey, clean up. Are you going to have the students each have a job every single time? Are those jobs going to be rotating? Is there going to be a winning table for being the cleanest?

In the past, I’ve done something called pick a stick where I had sticks in the center of my table that they would pull from and they’d have one, two, three, four and then the ones would do this job. The twos would do this job. I got to say, most often all of those have failed for me and what works best for me is just monitoring. I have a cleanup monitoring spot for myself. I stand there with my hands to my side. I’m smiling the whole time. I give the expectations. I say go and then I watch the students and monitor and encourage all students to do their best as they’re cleaning up. They make their way back to their tables and it’s lineup time.

Here’s another prompt. How are your students going to line up? Instead of looking for that perfect table that is cleaned up really well, I’ve already monitored and told them, “Oh, I see a pencil under here, can you go get that for me? I spy with my little eye, a crayon on the ground. Whose is it?” They love that game and I’d say even to fifth grade.

Now they’re all back at their table. They are showing me, look at, I’m done cleaning up Miss Hahn and I use sticks. Stick release, I call it. I look and I pull up a colored stick that matches the tables and when they see that stick up, they know it’s time to go get in line. On a certain area of my floor I have yet again, the tape, there’s so much shape on my ground and they know to go stand on top of the tape, the lineup tape. I pull up that color, they’re all looking at me to see what color it is and then they quietly line up. And they’re lining up by the, you guessed it out door. We had an in door and now the kids are leaving by the out door. Whoo. That is the hour.

But how are you going to make this happen? You need to make sure that your furniture is set up correctly, so your sink, your doors, maybe your drying rack, because maybe it’s huge like mine is, countertop storage units. These are all things that are permanent fixtures and we can’t move them around. Those we have to work around, but then you think about the heart and the core of what you want to accomplish in your classroom. Is it most important to have the workstations be the main thing in your classroom? Is it most important to have the carpet be in the main place for your classroom? Is it kind of a combination?

For me, I would say the carpet is number one. I want students to come there to be pumped up for the class. I want team challenges and goals as a group, this is what we’re going to do today. I’m so excited. Let’s go. Go team. I bring them back sometimes to the carpet to just quickly have a little reinforcement. This is our goal. This is what we’re trying to do.

What are you going? Where? I’m bringing them back, is the carpet often, and so I made that a featured spot in my classroom. The tables, of course, when I think about my tables and the work areas, I want to make sure that there’s enough room for everybody to work. I want to make sure that there’s enough room for everybody to sit or stand around the table. They get to choose. I want to make sure that when we do a gallery walk, we can walk a nice path around each table to look at every single student’s work. These are the things and the goals that I know that I want, so I make sure that my tables are spread out enough that I have enough tables for all of this to be accomplished.

All right. You might have a goal or a focus for this school year specifically. Maybe this year you’re going to use the app Seesaw and you’re going to have the students, or maybe Artsonia, you’re going to have the students take photos of their artwork. Well then you need a photo station. What is that going to look like? Are you going to have a low table, like an Ikea table? They’re only 8.99 or something. Are you going to have an iPad mount for them? Are you going to have a nice clean background for them to take their photos of their artwork on maybe three dimensional or two dimensional? What is that station going to look like if that’s a goal for you this year?

Maybe you need a critique space, so a big empty wall where students can quickly go pin their stuff up there and we can critique it as a class. Maybe your goal is to work on maybe using more green screen. Maybe you’re going to use the app, Do Ink in your classroom and so you need a green screen place. Whatever your goal is, try to find a spot for that to happen throughout the year. Make it an event.

And then the final thing that I want you to think about as you’re setting up your classroom is what is going to be on your walls? Be Very intentional about what you put onto your class or your classroom walls. You should have things that students can reference. For example, I often say shapes and lines make the best designs. Instead of asking students to use shapes that they already have in their brain, I have a huge display of many different shapes and many different line types that they could combine to make their designs. Inspiration is on the wall.

I have the color families from Randy McKee. He has an Etsy shop called Angry Strongo and they have a color family packet that I have purchased and hang in my classroom and students refer to that on a regular basis. I have rubrics, coloring rubrics, medium rubrics. What my expectations are for each of these mediums and the coloring expectations. I have targets so our school has, I can statements. You might have something like that or goals for each lesson or the artists that you’re learning. What are you going to put onto your walls to make it a safe environment and a useful environment so students always know where to look to find ideas for shapes or lines or so forth?

Okay. That was a ton of ideas and we still have more to go but not much. I got to tell you, one of the places that I started really developing my ideas of how the flow of my classroom and the setup of my classroom would look like is when I was reading the book Classroom Management for Art Music and Phy Ed Teachers. It’s by Michael Linsin and he has been a presenter for the online conferences through the Art of Education University, but it is also the book that coincides with the grad credits called Managing the Art Room. It’s again, through the Art of Education University. It’s three credits or 135 clock hours. I’ve taught the course several times. I love teaching that course because there’s so many aha moments after it has been taught or as the students are participating in the assignments. Plus it’s a really good class to take because it’s so relevant to your classroom, as we were just discussing all the setups and all the things that you have to think about as you’re setting up your classroom.

Last thing to consider is to be extremely prepared when your class comes to you at the beginning of the school year and then be willing to throw it all away if needed. Don’t panic. I’m just encouraging you to be flexible. When your class comes in and the routine isn’t working, watch what will work. Ask your students, “What, this is my goal. How do you think, this is what’s happening right now, how do you think that we can get to that goal as a team?” They’re going to come up with some really good, honest answers. Be honest with your students if you’re not seeing it work the way that you want it to. Get them involved with the flow of your classroom and I think you’ll see success.

Good luck to each of you as you create your classroom setup and flow for the beginning of the school year.

This whole entire episode was all about setting up your classroom. However, I didn’t forget about you Art On a Cart people. A lot of the prompts that I mentioned earlier in this podcast can be used for you as well. How do you want the flow to work? How are students going to obtain the materials that you’re going to be presenting to them? How, what things can you communicate to the classrooms that you’re entering in order for them to have their students prepared? Are you going to ask them to have the students go to the restroom prior or get drinks? Are you going to have them have the tools available? Or, are they going to be gathered on the carpet for you?

Think about some of the things that we talked about in this episode and try to apply them to your situation. Of course, we all have different situations and we just have to take this information and address it to the environment that you’re in. Good luck to all of you, the people who have classrooms, the people who are on a cart, you are going to make this school year amazing.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.