Save Time 

Let’s Simplify the Classroom Set Up!

Save time setting up your classroom this year using these handy tips.
Teachers have limited time to get it all done so we need to look for ways to simplify the setting up process.

Elementary Classroom Expectations

It’s already the end of June, which means the next school year is starting soon, at least here in my part of the South, and teachers all over the nation are preparing to return to the classroom. It will soon be time to unpack the multitude of boxes and create an inviting classroom around pre-planning meetings from the administration, grade level, and team meetings, scheduling, slogging back and forth to get the new textbook adoption materials (usually from the gym), committee meetings, writing out greetings to new students, decorating your door and classroom hallway, planning lessons and celebrations, discussing upcoming holidays and events, filling out year-long planners, analyzing data on your new class list, analyzing data on your previous kids, and putting your classroom together for an open house.

Whew!  Then we will be ready to greet a new set of bright-eyed children that we will get to love, guide, nurture, worry over, and love on for the next ten months.  

And please do this all in the four days given to us in pre-planning within the hours of 8 to 3.


That is the expectation. But that is not our reality. We get it all done. But we sacrifice a lot of our time to get it done. Should we have to? Absolutely not. But do we? Yep, we sure do.

Simplify the process for setting up your classroom.
Teachers have too much to do and should simplify some set-up procedures to save themselves time.

The Elementary Classroom Teacher

We sacrifice days and days of our time and money working on our classrooms.

And I like having a pretty room. But after a lot of thought and research, I realized that I put too much effort and time into “fake work.” Work that is not important to my job’s or my students’ success. You know, those odd jobs that are time filling, sometimes pretty, but take a long time to complete? 

So I decided to look for ways to simplify opening up my classroom and save myself time. So that I can focus on the needs of the kids but also value my own time because I am worth it. My own family is worth it. And my mental health and happiness are worth it. Yours, too. Let’s celebrate our fantastic work daily, encourage each other to be our best and our happiest, normalize simple classrooms full of content, and support students enough without putting undue stress on ourselves that we need to do more.

Here was my thinking process:

Elementary Classroom Ideas

First. Time for self-reflection. I had to be honest with myself. What do I spend a lot of time on, and is it necessary? Also, are there things that I put up but never really use? We have all seen those blank word walls hanging on the wall in March and April that we didn’t get to. Or those reading centers trashed the second week into school that have entirely lost their appeal.  

Try it. Run through everything you must do to set your classroom up. What parts are necessary, and which parts are just fluff? Meaning the class can function without it.  

So right off the bat, I came up with some areas that have previously taken hours to set up that I can change up, look at from a different perspective and save myself some time:

  • Reading area.
  • Wall decor.
  • Writing center.

Here are my top three time-saving tips!

The Reading Area: 

save yourself time and simplify the reading center.
Encouraging reading in the classroom does not mean you need to spend hours setting up a reading center.

The reading area was my first section that needed some serious thought. What was necessary? Because 23 years in and never have my kids utilized the reading center as I envisioned. What do I want?

I want kids to love to read and love books.

Now, I am sure you can agree. I already do read-aloud, novel studies, and small group reading instruction. In addition, to take them to the library to check out books every other week, schedule DEAR time daily, and incorporate book buddies and book presentations. Probably you do something very similar, yes?  

So I encourage reading. Providing time to read and encouraging reading seemed more critical than a reading center that takes up a lot of time to set up and space in the classroom.

I want my kids to read. OK. Then I needed to put the books where they could see them easily. Heavy baskets on shelves don’t work. Stacked tightly on a bookshelf, the spines out don’t work. I put books in tubs in the middle of the desk groupings. Although I did leave one basket on the floor with a few hardback books displayed, but had the majority on the tables.

I switch out the tubs among tables every couple of weeks. Anytime kids have free time, they can flip through the tub before them and read. Tubs have a variety of reading levels in each one. Perfect and easy to set up with little to no effort. I incorporated the cute pillows and chairs from the previous reading center into my flexible seating routine. I also display Unique titles, face out, on the chalk trays of the board and show them around the room.

That saved me time and space.



Create year-long displays
Create year-long displays, like student work walls, that require little to no change during the school year.

Wall Decor:

Making wall displays takes a very long time. What did I need? A space to display children’s work, their published writing pieces (maybe), a focus wall for the standards and guiding questions, and a word wall. An inspirational quote or two. Additionally, wall space for my SEL/Mindfulness lessons and community building.

I used green construction paper (laminated) to create a wall display outside my classroom that displays individual student work. Next, I tied in my nature theme by having each child decorate their butterfly, on the first day of school, with a personalized design and display with their name and photo. I glued an inspirational quote above their work. This wall display of their ever-changing work is a year-long display.

Inside the classroom, I utilized the bulletin board for the focus board and hung it with one solid color to keep it visually appealing. Then, I divided the sections using the same border for consistency and visual appeal.  

Additionally, I put students’ published pieces in individually labeled baggies and placed them in a basket for children and parents to flip through, read, and comment on in their spare time and at the end of the day.

I used the alphabet letters to tie in my theme and the headings of a word wall. I hang the words as I introduce them throughout the year to create a portion of the word wall at the beginning of the year.

That saved me a lot of time. Yet still looks calm, welcoming, and student-focused.

Woohoo, again!

Writing Center:

The writing center used to take up lots of space on the wall and a table crowded among many student desks. Additionally, it would gather lots of dust and scraps of paper and trash. So I asked myself, what do I want a writing center for? I want to encourage writing. OK. I do that with author celebrations, an author’s chair, providing time to read and comment on students’ published pieces in the classroom, and including several different types of writing conferences in my class. A writing center is not needed for any of that.

I wanted students to be able to access the papers to publish a piece when they were ready without having to ask me. OK. That could all be handily stored in a cute colored plastic filing box and brought out during writing time, and stuffed back under a table when not in use. Creating cover art supplies could be found in the student supply boxes or the classroom tubs.

I loved all these great ideas, and everything felt present.

Encouraging writing does not require a writing center.
Encouraging writing does not need a writing center.

What’s Important:

I continue to look for ways to save time and put that time and energy into a different focus. I’m making sure that my classroom is a nurturing, safe space where we are all happy and thriving in a supportive learning environment and not spending lots of extra time on things that don’t matter.



Hugs, Teacher Friend.

Thank you for sharing your magic with the world and showing up for your students daily. The world needs you.






Have Questions?

Need a virtual hug or encouragement?  Let’s Connect.  Find me at


Looking for a fun, creative writing prompt for the first days of school?  Try My Summer Vacation.

Want to encourage year-long writing fluency?  Writing Fluency