Back to School for Teachers: 4 Minimalist Classroom Setup Ideas to Maximize Student Success

It’s back to school for teachers! Pre-planning has begun and it’s time for classroom setup. Preparing your classroom for students is both exciting and important. More than just a creative outlet for the HGTV obsessed teacher, the physical classroom can help set the tone and expectations for the school year. Classroom setup can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Let’s keep it minimal and efficient. The following is a list of 4 minimalist classroom setup ideas that will set you and your students up for success.

1. Classroom Library

Classroom libraries are the norm in ELA classrooms. However, you know here at Lit Science, we are all about literacy in the science classroom. Therefore, it only makes sense we’d suggest a classroom library. Yes. That’s right. A library in a secondary science classroom. In addition to non-fiction science books, I always included non-fiction books on various subjects, fiction, graphic novels, and comics in my classroom library. Offering a variety of genres appeals to a variety of student interests. Moreover, setting up a classroom library in a science classroom sends a message to students that literacy is valued in your science class. You could also include a “What the teacher is reading,” sign next to your library. This is a way to connect with students and show them your love of reading.

Middle school boy reading in front of a small classroom library.
Setting up a classroom library in a science classroom sends the message to students that literacy is valued in your science class.

2. Student Desks

The arrangement of desks sets the tone for how you expect students to learn. There are many benefits of collaborative learning. If you want students to collaborate, group the desks together. Preparing for a Socratic seminar? Arrange the desks accordingly. Naturally, your arrangement can, should, and will change throughout the year depending on what you’re teaching. If you want students to collaborate from day 1, arrange your desks in groups and assign seats based on random colors. To do this, simply have students choose a small piece of construction paper from a bag and sit at the table with the same color. As the weeks pass and you get to know your students, regroup based on student data you’ve now collected.

Classroom Setup: Desks in different arrangements.

3. Bulletin Boards

Of course your bulletin boards are likely to be free of student work for those first few weeks of school. However, making sure they are neat and tidy before students arrive is one less thing to worry about once the school year officially begins. Find out what is required from your administration as far as classroom and hallway bulletin boards. If you have some freedom and are unsure of what to put up before student work has been collected, consider a word wall, inspirational quotes, posters relating to your first unit, and classroom norms and expectations.

Classroom setup: Bulletin Boards.
Student work — cell organelle posters in my middle school classroom — Brooklyn, NY.

4. Lab Supplies

As science teachers, we have the added responsibility of preparing our classroom for labs. Whether you have a separate lab or conduct your labs and classes in the same room, it’s important to prepare lab supplies and technology before your students arrive. Take the time to organize your lab supplies in a way that works for you and is safe for students. Do your best to label everything ahead of time, as it will be easier for your students to return the equipment after lab cleanup. Once you have your supplies organized and labeled, it will be easier for students to acclimate to the lab.

Classroom setup: Lab supplies

Overall, aim for fun over overwhelm. Keep it simple, yet efficient. You will spend a good portion of your time in your classroom. Of course, you want to set students up for success. Something tells me you’ve got that part down. Don’t forget to make your classroom comfortable and convenient for you. Happy new school year!

Classroom setup…done. Now what? Explore my science-specific back-to-school lessons here.

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Hey, I'm Jessica

I create differentiated, literacy-based science lessons for middle school teachers of diverse learners. 

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