Confession time – I barely have a classroom library as a resource room teacher. Okay, give me a second here to explain. It is not that I think reading isn’t important. Obviously, giving students access to a variety of books is a very big deal in an elementary school. Let me tell you why my classroom library is not a huge priority.
During college, I collected books like crazy for my classroom library. I used to volunteer at Scholastic Warehouse sales to get free books for my future classroom. Then I made my mom and now husband also volunteer so I could get even more free books. Who doesn’t want ALL THE BOOKS?
In my first teaching job, I had all my books organized by genre, separated into white bins for easy access and labeled with adorable, colorful labels from TPT. After that first year, I realized the books were in the same exact places I put in them August. Turns out, when teaching intervention groups, there just was not time for my students to explore my classroom library.
As a resource room teacher, I pull students out of their regular ed classroom and provide instruction based on their IEP goals. Whether it is working through Heggerty Phonemic Awareness or Wilson Reading System, my students just did not have a lot of time to explore my classroom library.
Maybe your resource room special education classroom is run differently than mine. This system is just what I have found happened in all eight years of my teaching. I do use my classroom library for teaching comprehension strategies and working social skills into instruction. I wonder if I would use it differently if I had a magic fairy who would come level all my books and give me an endless supply of decodable readers. Sadly, that fairy has not shown up yet.
When I took a new position last year and had to really consider my resource room layout, I now knew not to prioritize my classroom library because it was not going to be used as much as other areas of my classroom.
In this post…
Let’s look at different things a resource room teacher should consider when planning their classroom set up. We want to maximize space, organize storage well and prioritize what is actually important.
1. What do you do as a resource room teacher?
But for real, what do you do? Do you coteach? Are you only in your classroom for one or two groups? Do you have three separate groups running at all times? Knowing what you actually do will help you decide how to setup your resource room layout.
When I was teaching multiple grades of learning support (what we call resource room in PA), I almost always had three groups going. I really needed three different work spaces so having multiple tables with large dividers in between was a must. Now, I only teach one grade so I can get away with a teacher table for me and a smaller table for my para to use when she is working with students.
Try to figure out what your largest group will be. This is how many you need to be able to fit in your main teaching area. Also, you know kids will be added to your caseload throughout the year so try to think about how you could add a few extra spots to this main area.
2. How do you organize your teaching materials?
What is your style when it comes to organization and planning? Does your brain like to plan for a whole day at a time? You could use a cart like this to hold your plans, worksheets, etc. Each drawer could be a different day and you would have access to a whole day all at once!
Do you prefer to plan by lesson/group? This is the way my brain likes to work. Each week, I sit down and plan a week’s worth of phonics lessons. This helps me see the progression of instruction and just makes more sense to me. I use these book bins to organize my teaching materials. I keep a clipboard with a week’s worth of lesson plans in the front of the bin. Any teaching manuals, copies, or progress monitoring materials go behind the clipboard.
No matter how you chose to plan, think about where it makes the most sense to store these things. This year, I stored my bins right next to my desk, because I thought that would make planning easier to have everything I need close by. However, that was only helpful once a week when I was writing lesson plans. It would have made more sense for these book bins to be closer to my teaching table where I could easily get to it in between lessons. These bins are totally moving this year.
When you are deciding where to put your teaching materials, create a spot that is easy to get to you based on your room and your schedule. If you always have a few minutes in between groups, maybe having your bins by your desk makes sense because you have time to check your email and grab the next group’s bin. If your groups are always back-to-back, having bins close to where you are teaching makes a lot more sense.
3. What manipulatives do you use most?
Do you rotate the clothes in your closet? If every room in your house isn’t blessed with great big walk in closets, you may be in the rotating party. I always change out the clothes in my kids’ drawers based on the season. It doesn’t make sense for me to have a drawer of bathing suits in the middle of winter. Instead, I fill that drawer with long sleeve shirts and pants for easy access.
Let’s do the same thing in your classroom. Do you have a class set of fraction tiles? Awesome! If you know you won’t be working on fractions until April, those fraction tiles don’t need to be anywhere near your teaching table. However, if you know you use base ten blocks or unifix cubes almost every day in math, then you should probably have a set close to each teaching table.
In my classroom, I like to keep individual sets of base ten blocks in meal prep containers close to my teacher desk. I also keep letter keyword cards from our phonics curriculum. Plain white boards and dry erase markers are also a must. I leave a space by my teaching table for rotating manipulatives based on our math unit. My rule of thumb is if I use it every day, it needs to be close to the table. If I only use it once a week, I can use the extra steps.
4. Have you seen other resource room setup ideas?
Do you have other teachers that you can get inspiration from? Whether in your building or online, you can find great ideas from someone else! Make sure you think about if your teaching style matches theirs because what works for them may not work for you. The teacher who was in my room before me was more traditional with a ton of posters hanging every and 5 different tables crammed in a tiny room. She told me that this was the only way the room could be configured. But my style is much more minimalistic! I can get by with just two tables based on the size of my caseload so the rest went into storage.
5. Does it spark joy?
Okay, now that you know I am a minimalist in the classroom, this idea will make more sense. If you watched, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” you know all about letting go of things that no longer spark joy. Whether it is the partially broken plastic three drawer cart or the crazy old posters that you never hang up, maybe it is time for a new home.
When I switched to a new district last year, I did a major clean out of the classroom I inherited. I am not kidding, there were three Christmas trees left for me. I came from a district where we did not touch holidays with a ten foot pole so a place where a tiny room had three leftover trees. Although it can be super time consuming at first, going through everything in the room was super helpful. Everything that I donated, gave away, or pitched made room for things I would actually use in my classroom.
I know when my house is cluttered with crap, I get super irritable. Let’s talk about the fact that we spend 1,440 hours in our classrooms each year. That’s a whole lot of time to be surrounded by stuff you don’t want or don’t need. Bring in pictures of your family, plants, or a coffee machine if that’s your thing. You basically live in your room for 9 months of the year, so it should be pretty comfy.
Big Takeaway for You Resource Room Teacher
My main tip for planning your resource room classroom is to make it as efficient as possible. Take the time at the beginning of the school year to do a deep clean and purge what you aren’t going to use. I promise there has never been a day when I regretted tossing stacks of transparencies. Do whatever is going to work best for you. Get ideas from other professionals or from trusty internet friends. Don’t stress about making a room that looks like Pinterest threw up. Ultimately, the thing that makes your classroom feel like home is you. You are the one creating the relationships and making students feel seen and special. If having a clean and organized classroom makes you more relaxed and helps you show up better for your students, then today is the day to make it a priority. It’s going to be a great year!