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Elementary Classroom Tour : Organization and Design Ideas to Promote Student Independence

We are heading into the fourth week of school and I finally had a moment to write my classroom reveal post for this year. If you read my reveal post from last year, you will recognize most of what you are about to see.

Last year, I switched schools and put a bundle of time into decorating and had a precious class that cared for everything so carefully, which saved me a ton of time this August. That meant I was able to focus all my classroom decor brain power on details, making my room feel even more like home. Without further ado, here is a peek inside my second grade classroom.

Core Inspiration Wide Angle Second Grade Classroom View

TEACHER CABINET

This is my go-to storage spot for anything related to our current units of study. I also have bins that store examples of projects for each month. I am not a fan of file cabinets (I only have one for my student portfolios) so I use little drawers and magazine files that force me to stay organized and rid my life of excess paper. All of this is kept behind closed doors to reduce clutter and excess visual noise for my students.

Core Inspiration teacher resource cabinet with daily lesson materials, weekly copies, storage for centers, and monthly storage.

WHAT’S IN YOUR DRAWERS?

Each drawer on the upper shelf contains items I want to keep handy for current units of study or lessons for next week. This eliminates piles and clutter around the room. When I am lesson planning each week, quickly check my drawers and am reminded of the resources I wanted to use for the coming week.

The lower drawers contain anything that needs to be graded, filed or copied. I love the “Grade” drawer because it minimizes paper clutter and keeps my mind clear throughout the day. As soon as the drawer gets full, I sit down and grade. The stack of papers never becomes an unmanageable mountain because the drawer is fairly small.

Here’s a closer look at my monthly project bins found on the top shelf.

Core Inspiration monthly projects samples can be stored in Sterilite hanging file folder bins.

These customizable drawer labels are available in my Teacher’s Pay Teacher’s store. Simply print your labels, attach to a 12×12 sheet of scrapbook paper, trim down to size, and tape to the inside of the drawer front.

Sterilite 3-Drawer Organizers are perfect for classroom organization.

These round labels found on my daily copy bins are also included in the same Classroom Organization Labeling Kit.

Core Inspiration weekly copy bins in classroom.

MATH AND WORD WORK STATION

This is a new feature in my classroom and takes the place of the teacher desk I had in the corner last year (that desk lasted all of two weeks). To create this station, I set three pieces of Ikea furniture in the corner. One white Kallax Shelf and two Trofast Frames with green storage boxes (this version is slightly darker green).

My amazingly handy brother designed a surface to cover the gaps that resulted from the corner arrangement and added backing to the Kallax Shelf so our math supplies wouldn’t fall behind the shelf.  This is where we store our math binders and various manipulatives for word work and math.

Core Inspiration math and word work station for center and game storage.

If you are interested in downloading the daily place value activities my students complete each morning in their math binder, click here.

Core Inspiration number of the day binder storage.

These clear photo storage boxes from The Container Store are perfect for creating place value block kits that your students can easily keep organized. Our math tower has any supplies students may need to build models for our Word Problem Solving Task Cards or play our Math In Motion Hands-On Math Games.

Core Inspiration math manipulative storage.

Our word work tower stores all our supplies for Wacky Word Work practice completed during Daily Five.


MINI LESSON ZONE

Core Inspiration mini lesson zone. Copernicus bamboo teaching easel, ikea shelf turned bench and lesson white board.

Our mini lesson zone is a bit cozier this year thanks to my amazing mom who sewed a cushion for our white Kallax Shelf (turned into a bench). I highly recommend using outdoor pillows in the classroom because they are far more durable and easier to clean. My students now call the bench our couch! I am also thrilled to have a full-functioning easel for the first time ever in my teaching career. I keep our anchor charts for reading and Daily Five on the easel and now host our math lessons on the large white board.

Here’s a closer look at our gorgeous bench. Thanks Mom!

Core Inspiration mini lesson bench. A comfortable place for teachers to sit while teaching a mini lesson.

Our Container Store storage cubbies for our Math In Motion Hands-On Math Game Cards.

Our Daily Five I Charts (click here to download). I cover these with oversized post its on the first day of school and reveal each of the expectations as they are introduced during the first weeks of Daily 5.

Core Inspiration Daily 5 I Charts

Our Copernicus Bamboo Teaching Easel (great quality) includes these handy storage bins to keep Responsive Classroom and Daily Five supplies close at hand.

Core Inspiration storage bins in Copernicus Bamboo teaching easel.


SMALL GROUP AREA

Core Inspiration small group instruction table.
Core Inspiration small group instruction table.
Core Inspiration supplies area.

My small group area is pretty much the same as last year with a few minor tweaks. When I took this photo I thought the balance ball was going to be the best idea ever for my teacher chair. Now, it’s at my house because I realized you can’t sit on a balance ball while wearing a dress. Live and learn.

To the right of our small group table is my guided reading tower from The Container Store. I added this through the middle of last year. It is the perfect size, made of super durable metal, and has five compartments – one for each day of the week. The only thing I have left to add are these teal dry erase Wall Pops to help students with personal space. Added bonus: they won’t have to bring their whiteboards to the back table during math…time saver!

This guided reading tower is also a perfect little spot to store any reading tools we are currently using and a mini timer so my reading aide can keep track of time during each round of Daily Five. These stools from Ikea are the perfect size because they tuck under the table and out of the way when we need more floor space.


SINK AREA

Core Inspiration classroom sink area.

Nothing much to say here…this is our sink. I added a mirror this year because kids were constantly asking to use mine to check if something was in their teeth or monitor the progress of the countless facial injuries the seem to incur. The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. poster can be found in my store as part of my classroom management system.


CLASSROOM LIBRARY

Core Inspiration classroom library.

Still my absolute favorite corner of the classroom. Our ever-growing library is stocked to the brim this year thanks to the generous Scholastic Reading Club points system. All of our books are labeled with full-color sticker labels that perfectly match the image on each book bin (for picture books) or shelf (for chapter books).

All of my bins are from Really Good Stuff labeled with my Classroom Library Labeling Kit (also available in white). I took several other photos of my library so you can get a closer look but this is a crazy long blog post, so I will blog about the library in more detail later this week.


FRONT OF THE ROOM

Core Inspiration front of the classroom dream big white marquee block lettering.

At the front of the room are our quiet chimes, our inspiring Dream Big letters and the daily schedule. I like to keep things clean and simple so my “teacher desk” doubles as our projector station. My fingers are crossed that this is the year my school installs ceiling-mounted projectors so I can move our doc cam to the corner and this table can be eliminated.

In the meantime, the laminated green paper helps me position documents in the right spot so I don’t constantly have to look behind me to double-check that my students are seeing what I want them to.

Core Inspiration document camera set up.

GROUP STATIONS

For the fifth year in a row, these sturdy white Kallax Shelves are working perfectly for storage of book bins, group supplies, tidy up tools, and work in progress folders. These stations minimize desk clutter like a boss and help students stay super organized.

Core Inspiration group supply stations.

This year, I added duct tape to our book boxes (Ikea Flyt Magazine Files) to increase durability. I also added a personal touch to each with my customizable Book Bin Labeling Kit. Second graders are really hard on these compared to third graders.

Core Inspiration FLYT book bins with duct tape and personalized labels increase durability.

Here’s a peek inside our group supply bins. I load them up with as many color options as possible to support focus on creating quality products with quality supplies. Our tidy up tool is a super fun fuzzy duster. The kids are obsessed with cleaning when you give them a bright green fuzzy puff.

Core Inspiration uses Sterilite mini drawers for organizing group supplies in the classroom.

Can’t wait to post updates throughout the school year so you can see how amazing our room looks now that the kids have added their beautiful artwork and writing to our walls. For frequent updates, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

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148 Responses

  1. Laura, I've so enjoyed this post – so inspiring. What an engaging place you've created to optimize your kids' learning and your own teaching. If I were a parent bringing my child to your room, I'd know they'd be WELL looked after. MargD

  2. Your tip about laminating a sheet of paper to use with your document camera is literally GENIUS!!! Why didn't I ever think of this!?!? I spend so much time positing papers, and this will totally save that headache. Thanks for the best tip ever!! 🙂

    -Liz
    TheHappyTeacher

  3. Hi there,
    I think the consensus is that your room is GORGEOUS! I can't get enough of it! I'm looking to upgrade a lot of my classroom furniture (hooray!) and I love the white you have used, but I have to ask, does it honestly get dirty really fast with all the lovely kiddies handling it?

    I'm torn between a love of the white, and having to clean all the surfaces areas and drawers at least once a week which makes me wonder if dark furniture is more user friendly.
    Thanks for getting back to me and putting out this truly inspiring post!

    1. Thank you Rees! How exciting that you get a furniture upgrade!

      I prefer the white because you can see if a surface is dirty (I like to see exactly where dirt is so I can eliminate it ASAP).

      The kids keep it clean daily during our tidy up time. We have jobs including that include the responsibility of dusting and wiping down the furniture and surfaces in our classroom.

      I highly recommend white because it brightens the room and makes the environment feel open and relaxing.

  4. Wow. I teach in a rural area where poverty abounds. Our computers have monitors from the 90's. Seriously! Where is the equity in education? Your room is beautiful but I could never afford it.

  5. I love your room! Looks great! Gives me so many ideas for next year! One quick question: what kind of document camera do you have? Do you like it? I had one that disappeared while I was out on maternity leave and I’d love to get another one. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lori, I’m glad you were able to gather a few new ideas. I have a Lumen DC192 Ladibug Doc Camera and I really like it. How crazy that your’s went missing while you were out…that very disappointing. Here’s a link if you want to take a closer look at mine: https://amzn.to/1Ydq5dt

  6. HI! I love your organization! Your room is beautiful! I was wondering where you found your long shelving unit for your book bins.
    Thanks,
    Vonda

  7. Your room is beautiful. Can you tell me where you got the library pockets that you used for jobs? Thanks so much.

    1. My shaggy teal rug is from Pier One. They don’t have that exact rug at the moment (it was called a peacock blue rug), but they have something similar here. The rug with the white designs in it is from Walmart.

  8. I have absolutely fallen in love with your classroom and am so inspired as I venture into my first year of teaching! I was wondering where you found the blue and green leaves that you have on your bulletin board behind your small group instruction table?

  9. Hi Laura! Your room is amazing in look and function! I have just learned we are not able to affix anything to the walls in our new school this year. I teach kindergarten and was hoping to pull off a fun jungle theme, but now I’m not sure how to do that. I thought you may have a suggestion? Any are welcome!!! Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. What a bummer to hear you can’t affix anything to the walls. Does this mean you don’t have bulletin boards in the room where you can hang things?
      If so, I would focus on creating your jungle vibe with color coordinating bins from (Really Good Stuff or Dollar Tree both have several color options) Possibly spray paint any furniture you can and add cute leaf cut outs around the room (border on the whiteboard, leaf/jungle themed name tags and labels. A green rug (Ikea has great rug prices), or the leaf-shaped Sit Spots.
      If you do have bulletin boards, I would cover them in various shades green paper and border those with some leafy/jungle borders. Would love to hear more detail about the specifics of this regulation but I hope this helps get you started. 🙂
      Laura

  10. This room is gorgeous and in my favorite colors! I am an aspiring educator and finishing up my program. I was wondering how you were able to afford all of this. I would LOVE to have my room this clean, organized, and beautiful but the task and cost is a little daunting.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Thank you so much for messaging me. 🙂 Congrats on finishing up your credential…that is a huge accomplishment and one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking times in your teaching career.
      It has taken all seven years of my teaching career to gather the furniture and organizational tools I use in my classroom. At the beginning of my career, I purchased most of it myself (because I needed to spend my limited school budget on other classroom materials). I would buy a couple items each year. Last year and the year prior were the first two years I used school money to buy a furniture for my classroom (the file cabinet in 2015 and the the easel in 2016). One of my main motivators for selling on TPT was so that I could buy things for my classroom. 🙂
      Since a lot was bought with money out of my own pocket, I spend time at the beginning of the year teaching students how to truly care for and clean the classroom so that our furniture and supplies last. It is amazing what kids can do and how careful they can be when they are shown how. I am always so grateful for the help they provide in making our classroom a beautiful home away from home. All of my IKEA shelves have lasted five years as a result…and they are just now starting to show wear.
      It certainly took time and patience to get my room to look like the vision I had from day 1 in the classroom, but it is well worth the slow investment. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions. Enjoy your first year of teaching!
      Laura

  11. Your classroom is beyond beautiful!! I was wondering where you purchased the green leaves that stand out of the corner of your classroom library. Are those from IKEA?

      1. Hi! I love your room. I have the leaf canopy but I have not been able to hang it easily because we aren’t allowed to nail holes in the wall. Did you drill it into the wall? Any other idea as to how I can hang mine? Thank you!

        1. Hi Veronica,
          I drilled them into my bulletin board. The design of the leaves gives you the ability to screw them into the wall at the base of the stem but they drooped down really low when I had them set up that way. Therefore, I added extra screws through the brighter green part of the leaf directly into the bulletin board. Thumb tacks probably would have done the job too if you pinned several of them right through the bright green leaf along the edge. Another thought is to poke a hole through the leaf canopy, string fishing line through the tiny hole in the canopy and tie it to a washer (you could even paint it green if you wanted it to blend in more), then tie the other other end of the fishing line to a push pin and pinning it to the wall to hold the leaves up. Let me know if any of those ideas work.
          Good luck! 🙂
          Laura

  12. Everything about your classroom is absolutely beautiful! I love the color theme. I was wondering what borders you used on your bulletin boards in your classroom library? I can see the green chevron. Is the scalloped border layered with it just a plain green or is there a design on it as well? I’m obsessed with the way you layered the borders- thank you for the inspiration! 🙂

  13. I love love love your classroom!! I was wondering where you got the numbers that are on the our jobs library pockets and your welcome and schedule signs. I looked in your TPT store, but couldn’t find them. Thanks!