This is my fifteenth year of teaching! So that means that I have had 14 years of experience with getting a classroom ready--and 8 classroom moves.
Classroom arranging always begins with the furniture. My husband is a teacher as well, so we have a nice division of labor at the start of the school year. He figures out the best way to arrange my furniture, and I do the cursive writing for his desk nametags. (I know--I totally have the better end of the bargain!)
This year, I've decided to try something a little different. Instead of putting all of my books together in one classroom library, I'm going to separate the parts of the library into three sections in the room--fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Why will they all be separated? Crowd control! I like to have kids browsing, but 5 kids in a tiny corner doesn't work very well. I hope that by separating the sections, I can have more kids browsing at once. We'll see how it works.
After the furniture is put in place, I attack the paper. Or rather, the paper attacks me. I have a hate/hate relationship with bulletin board paper. In my first seven years, I taught at an open space school with flexible walls. So I had to put paper up every year to cover the dull beige--and I made the place look like a circus with just about every single color of fadeless paper. Now, I stick to just one or two colors on my much more manageable bulletin boards. If I'm really lucky, my husband will do this step for me too.
Then there is the most important decision of classroom preparation--what kind of border will I use? I have to admit that I love border. Lately I've been liking the border with the nature photographs. This year, I have calm leaves, cool forests, and peaceful bamboo. I like border that is not busy with lots of pictures and text. The rest of the classroom will be busy enough.
Then I grapple with a decision--to theme or not to theme? On the one hand, a theme is a fun way to start the year. On the other, a theme can be a thankless pit for energy and creativity. I never want a theme to overshadow the really important work that we'll be doing in the classroom.
This year, having just returned from a trip to Disney World, I decided to give in to the urge to theme. My husband arranged the 27 desks into 7 clusters. Seven groups? Hm...7 themed lands! Although I strongly wanted to have Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the like, I resisted the impulse and went with a much more teacher-ly 7 continents, which led to a World Travel theme.
After I worked a bit on the decorations, I spent some time making labels. I have lots of cabinets in my new room, so I have to label them all or no one will be able to find anything. I also made labels with students' names on them and my classroom checklists. Even though I could have used mail merge, I like to type in the names of my students--this helps me to learn them so that I'll be quicker at matching names to faces on Day 1. (My goal is to know everyone by 10:00!)
Furniture, paper, border, theming, labels...that's about all I've done so far, and I'm still two wonderful weeks out from Day 1.