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Is a Minimalist Classroom For You?

January 21, 2022 by Suzanne Kelley




I am a hoarder. Is anyone else able to relate? Plus, having a minimalist classroom was not ever on my wishlist. I do not like to get rid of the materials, games, resources in my classroom EVER! But, a new principal leads to new ideas (old ideas brought up again). Then, our whole administration team decided that it needed to go if it wasn’t essential for now. And, if it was necessary, it needed to be in a labeled designated space. These new rules included everything from the floors to the walls and everything in between.

I bet some of you are having palpitations right now, thinking you’d have to get rid of 75% of your stuff. Well, I filled two and a half dumpsters, gave boxes and boxes away, threw out and recycled over 70 binders, and cried. And, I complained. But, now I love it! Welcome to My Minimalist Classroom!

What is a Minimalist Classroom

Minimalist, fortunately, does not mean purge everything! Instead, minimalist means taking away the clutter to create a calm and focused room. First, items that remain in the classroom should serve a purpose and be necessary to teach the students you currently have in your room. So, teachers no longer keep all things for just-in-case situations and fill all the available wall space with matching decor. Next, developing a minimalist classroom involves changing your Pinterest Classroom mindset to being conducive to your students’ needs. Some questions to ask: 

  • Does it serve a purpose for this school year?
  • And, does it promote a comfortable environment with minimal distractions?
  • Is there a structured layout and structured organization that makes it easy for kids to maneuver and find what they need?
  • Plus, do you have specific learning areas?
  • Lastly, does the space feel safe and engaging?

Is a Minimalist Classroom for You?

I had a nicely decorated but not quite Pinterest classroom. I loved when the theme matched throughout the room. And, I loved having my things in my room. My classroom has always been my home away from home. And yes, I had lots of things–over 30 years of things. But, in my opinion, my room wasn’t cluttered. I had all the curriculum printed out and organized in binders. My organization skills were fabulous! I decluttered every two years. So how did I determine I could do this sweeping change (besides the principal directing us to)?

Questions Leaning towards a Minimalist Classroom

  • My classroom served a purpose for every type of student I could have, but I had to ask: was it serving the purpose for my kids today?
  • Were the things hanging from my ceiling, decorating my walls, and filling the sensory, STEM, and morning tubs shelves helping my students or causing them unnecessary distractions? (click on the three links for some ideas for your sensory, STEM, and morning tubs!).
    Use these STEM Story Challenges in your science bins.
  • Was my room open enough to allow student movement but structured enough to have a designated space?
  • Were my students feeling calm or chaos with my oodles and oodles of materials?

Questions Leaning towards a Richly Decorated Room

  • Does it give me a sense of accomplishment to decorate my room?
  • Do I want to get rid of years of work?
  • Are the multiple choices for sensory, STEM, and morning tubs something I want to get rid of right now?
  • Do I feel calm or chaotic in my classroom every day?
  • Can my kids adjust to the distractions over time?

My Compromise on a Minimalist Classroom

I did not and will not part with certain things in my room. I will keep all of my hardcover picture books, chapter books, and PD books that I have worked hard to grow over the years.

**The compromise with my administration: they provided me with locked storage in the school basement for any books I am not using each quarter.

Gifts from children over the years such as bent wires, ugly rocks, sparkly rocks, paper flowers, the artwork will remain in my room. 

**I have created binders (I love binders) for the artwork and allotted one shelf in a closed cabinet for my trinkets. I will rotate them out and off the shelf in small increments.

I love having an accent/focus wall in my classroom. And, I need labels. Who doesn’t love displaying kids’ work?

**My focus wall is now the Sound Wall from ETTC!

**With this resource, your students will have everything they need to produce sounds correctly,
  • identify which sounds correspond to specific spelling patterns
  • read and write words that have those patterns in them.

**Everything and I mean everything, is labeled in my room. Kids know where to go to get anything they need!

**My bulletin board is for kids’ work only.

Additional Compromises

My students need visuals. They need to see math concepts, calendars, numbers, sight words, etc. They need ready access to have reminders of things I have taught.

 

**Every kid has a CORE Binder from ETTC:

  • Comprehensive: A wide variety of math, ELA, and social-emotional tools (fillable content work mats and skill practice) and resources (reference tools)
  • Organization’s Best Friend: Keep everything a student would need in one organized, easy-to-access spot.

 

 

 

 

 

**Math words are on flashcards which are perfect in their binders:

You will find 118 vocabulary cards for your math words inside this packet! They fit perfectly in sleeves inside each binder! Or, if you are not yet Minimalist classroom-ready, they are designed to put on your math word wall!

This packet is no prep; print and go!

ETTC has designed these word wall cards to give you the ability to differentiate between the needs of each student and give you different ways to teach the curriculum. So, I can provide kids with specific vocabulary words and not have my walls cluttered with everyone’s words!

 

**Yes, I still have all of my morning tubs, my STEM bins, and my sensory. But, they are rotated in and out of storage. I keep a selection out for the students, and they LOVE when it is time to bring the new (old) materials into the room.

And Most Importantly:

I need my curriculum on hand! My premium membership to ETTC has solved all my binder problems. I have easy access to every printable item. I do not need to keep any masters in binders as I can download and print worksheets whenever I need them. ETTC is doing all of the storage for me! This step is NOT a compromise; it is a GIFT!

So, I loved sharing with you about my minimalist classroom, but YOU DO YOU! If you are a Pinterest teacher, that’s great! If you are saving your hard-earned cash and keeping everything simple, then good for you!  This process of being made to shift to a minimalist room didn’t kill me! But, it did have me really reflect on what works best for me and more importantly, what works best for my students. And, it has opened my eyes to a whole new minimalist world!

WRITTEN BY – SUZANNE KELLEY

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