How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 1

Part One: Facing an Empty Room

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.

Oh, and the district is “supporting” you with new-teacher induction programs during those same days, so you’ll be attending lots of meetings.

Setting up the classroom will have to be done during evenings and on the weekend—if you have a weekend between the time you get hired and the first day of school.  Here are some tips for first year teachers and transferred teachers.

Step One: Assess the situation.  Request the room be cleaned if it isn’t already.  Request furniture you may need.  For example, do you have enough student desks?  Chairs? Do you have a table for reading groups?  Enough bookshelves?  A teacher desk?

Are the student desks all the same height, or are they a mish-mash?  You can ask for school custodial staff to adjust the desks for you.  They should be able to help.  If necessary, you can adjust them all yourself—or, to get started, put like-sized desks together in tables.

Step Two: Clear the room.  Often, the teacher before you has left weird little things, claiming they might be “useful.”  Chances are, you just don’t need this excess stuff.  I’m talking about those student worksheet packets that MIGHT be useful in November, if you can even remember where you put them, knick knacks, 30 year old posters, strange office desk accessories.

Just clear that junk out.  Put it in the hallway, in trash cans if you can, but it’s not necessary.  The custodians will clear it away.

Step Three: Arrange the furniture and desks.  Map this out on the whiteboard if you can, and use a measuring tape on the room and furniture so you get a rough idea of if your plan will work.  You don’t want to shove desks around, then find out there wasn’t room for your design.

Nowadays, it is more common to make tables than to arrange the desks in rows.  I find that tables of four to six desks are good, and so are long tables of desks down each side of the room.  Whatever arrangement you decide, test it for livability.  Do student chairs back into each other?  Is a student sitting right in the flow of traffic to cubbies or the bookshelf?

Visit for ideas on setting up desks.  Don’t get too fancy your first year.  Take a look at the picture here—my all-time favorite desk arrangement that I used for years.  It’s a variation on a nice horseshoe shape, but the horseshoe is made from tables of four.

Your teacher desk DOES NOT need prominent placement.  You won’t be able to work at your desk during the school day because you will be too busy with students.  Arrange the important things, like the reading group table and bookshelves, and put the desk in as unobtrusive a spot as you can.  Up against the wall is often a good spot.  That way, more of the classroom is available for the kids.

Procuring furniture, clearing the room and setting up desks could take you a full day…or two.  Enlist helpers, if you can.  Regularly assess your progress, and adjust if need be.  Your goal must be to have the classroom ready for students and you must be ready to teach your students.  Keep that in mind and don’t be tempted to stray into projects that don’t require immediate attention.

Part One: facing an empty room (this post)
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Jul 27, 2012


FREE online resources to practice telling time and reading a clock

Reading a clock and telling time are difficult skills for many students.  Online games and resources make practice fun.

Click here for a previous ClassAntics post on telling time pitfalls and how to address them

Online manipulative clock: Here is an online clock that you can manipulate to show your students how a clock works.  Ask them to pay particular attention to how the moving minute hand advances the hour hand.  Students don’t understand that at 6:30, the little hand is halfway to the 7 and that by 6:50, it’s almost at the 7.

My favorite clock game: This one has no bells and whistles, just a good solid multiple choice clock game.  I like it because you can work up by level: first telling time by the hour, then half hour, then quarter hour, then five minute increments.

Clock shoot: the most fun telling time game!  It has 3 levels and the students love it!

Elapsed Time Games

Best for teaching: an elapsed-time game that is almost like having a manipulative clock and a tutor.  The game shows one analog clock and instructs the student to do tasks like “show what time it will be in 20 minutes by moving the hand on the second clock.”

Elapsed time matching game:  Match something like “5:00 am to 2:00 pm” with “9 hours 0 minutes”
Challenge!  Elapsed-time online quiz
Another fun elapsed time online quiz

Good luck!  I hope you and your kids have a great time!

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Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ Jul 20, 2012


FREE Online Resources to Practice Rounding Numbers

Rounding numbers is a tricky task for most students.  Here are some computer games that liven up practice of this essential skill during the summer months.

First, make sure your child has a good sense of place value.  Many students who struggle with rounding also struggle with place value.  They won’t get better at rounding until they know it.

Here are three ClassAntics posts to help you teach place value:
Beat Summer Math Slide: Place Value
Place Value & Addition: Adding 10, 100, 1000
The Comma Method for Reading Large Numbers

Next, have your child practice rounding to the nearest ten.  Students will make quick progress at this, especially if you show them the Rounding Hill diagram.  Encourage your child, but don’t’ get too excited—because troubled times are likely on the way!

Round to the nearest 10:
Basic but effective rounding game  (Scroll down for the game.)
Seashell Rounding

Now students can round to the nearest 10, 100, etc. in larger numbers.  This is where it gets difficult, because kids who could round 28 to the nearest ten have trouble rounding 128 to the nearest ten.  They need lots of practice and a good sense of place value.

 Round to 10s, 100s, etc. in larger numbers:
Many rounding games in one place: (Follow the link, then scroll down for the games.)
Rounding flashcards

Another basic but effective rounding numbers game

Finally, practice with rounding to the value of the underlined digit.  That’s the format most often used on standardized test, and this game will help students practice:

Round to the value of the underlined digit

 Happy rounding!

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Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ Jul 13, 2012


Why kids struggle with telling time and reading a clock

A National Board Certified Teacher explains common pitfalls in telling-time lessons and suggests resources that address students’ difficulties.

Telling time is a very difficult skill for many students.  When you see this breakdown of common pitfalls, you’ll understand why kids struggle.  I offer hope for frustrated teachers, parents and tutors by suggesting resources that can help.

No familiarity with analog clocks: Today’s kids use digital clocks—and their parents grew up with them, too.  Your students will have to practice, practice, practice.  The online manipulative clock will help you teach because it shows digital and analog.

Not knowing 5s times table: It’s hard to quickly read the clock if you can’t look at the 7 and think “35.”  Kids really, really need to know their 5s.  That’s why first and second graders have such a hard time reading a clock, and third graders finally break the code.  Hint: practice your 5s with the Best Multiplication Songs EVER! and FREE Best Times Tables Practice EVER!

Confusion over a quarter: Students hear the word “Quarter” and think “25” because they are used to working with money.  You will have to stop, do a fractions lesson, then show how a quarter of 60 is 15.  Good luck with that; it’s always a tough lesson!

Pie wedge fractions diagrams: these visual aids help because the pie shape echoes the clock shape
Quarter hour time worksheets from
Basic fractions worksheets can help

Big hand/little hand confusion: With practice, kids figure out that the big hand is minutes and the little hand is hours.  I tell them that “minutes” is a longer word; think longer hand.  At least it’s something for the mind to wrap itself around.

The online manipulative clock will address big hand/little hand confusion.   Even better is a set of individual manipulative clocksso the students understand the gear workings better.

If you buy just one manipulative clock, make it a big clock.

Reading the hour incorrectly:  Kids have trouble grasping the concept that the hour hand moves gradually from one hour to the next as the minute hand makes its way around the clock.  Students don’t understand that at 6:30, the little hand is halfway to the 7 and that by 6:50, it’s almost at the 7.

Again, the online manipulative clock or real-life manipulative clocks will really help.
Printable telling time clock faces let you put several examples under the document camera.

Writing the time incorrectly:  There are as many ways to mess this up as there are students.  My all-time favorites are “7:5” for “7:25” and “5:12” for “5.00”

Telling time on the clock worksheets will help.

When students can do draw the time on the clock worksheets, they really show they understand how to tell time.  Also, some kids who can’t seem to write the time correctly might get a little better when they see that 7:5 is NEVER used to mean “7:25.)

Good luck!  As with all skills, mastering clock-reading takes time.

Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ Jul 6, 2012