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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.