Setting up your Montessori Elementary School classroom

Setting up your Montessori Elementary School classroom

Here are some quick tips I have had about setting up a Montessori Classroom for the beginning of the School Year. This picture is mine from a couple of years ago. My experience is in Public School Montessori. The room I taught in was not an ideal size but I made it work :)

1) Think Practical!
In my very first classroom I decided it would be wise to have my water glasses on one side of the room on a small filing cabinet and have the water 3 metres away on a bench! This was totally impractical and while it looked nice it led to congestion issues in my tiny kitchen in the class! Lesson learned make sure things are practical for small people!

2) Allow spaces for group and individual time
As an introvert I am really a fan of this. In many mainstream classrooms  here in  NZ children's desks are arranged in groups so the children are constantly facing each other.  Having small desks for one or two children and quiet areas honours the child who does not like to be inundated by people and noise. Having spaces for children who like to work with others is important too, however I have found that when tables can hold 4 or more children noise starts to become an issue and those tables become 'party tables!'

3) See it through child's eyes
I spent a lot of time setting up my classroom. One thing I liked to do when I was trying out an idea of where shelves or tables were was to sit on the floor or sit at the seat in a certain area to see what it was like. What could I see from that position? What couldn't I see? Was my seat near a main 'transport route' ? Did it make sense?
Often after I did this I tweaked things!

4) Don't put everything out on the shelves
When I first did my training through NAMC this was a tip I learned and is one that is mental health saving. On the first day of class I only put things out that I know the majority of children know (so if a new child wants to do it an older child can possibly teach it to a child) or are things that are very very simple to teach. Having lots and lots of books is really important!  The first day of school is intense enough without having children come up to you asking for lessons that you are unable to teach because you are busy trying to settle in 6 new children (common in Public School Montessori!)
5) Name Tags
I first was put onto the idea of name tags from the wonderful montessoriforeveryone website. I wrote children's names on them and laminated them. The children then use the name tags to show where they are working, My children used to come into class at the beginning of each day and set up their work space by grabbing their name tag and work diary - that is how much a habit it became! This is an incredibly helpful thing all around the year as it makes it very quick for you to see who is working where when a table is empty but there is work on it for example! Additionally if children want your assistance they can place their name tag beside you and you can come to them when you are ready.
6) Think what you have out on the shelves - this links to number 4
In my first Montessori classroom I was not trained (shock horror) so I just left out ALL.THE.THINGS. I had been left in my class from the previous teacher. Hilarious really on reflection. Many of them I had no idea what to do with them - I quickly learned my lesson and got rid of the things I didn't understand while rapidly  starting and completing my training! Another version of this is putting things out on the shelves that no one will be working with e.g. having sandpaper letter out when all the children are way past it (in a 6-9 classroom). The things we have on our shelves should be a)Montessori style and b) things that we will be using regularly with the children!
7) Have a plan!
What things do you really want to emphasise on the first day? Set up the classroom so that this can happen and write it down as things get really busy on that first day! Part of my plan involved having chocolate and pain killers for the head ache :)
If you are looking for more quick tips and helpful Back to School stuff (organisation tools, tips, work plans) you may be interested in my Back to school resources like my Montessori Teacher Binder
Also check out these stunning Montessori Elementary Classrooms for some ideas of setting up your classroom
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