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Tips for Making the Most of Small Classrooms
By Carolyn Tomlin

If you’re one of those teachers who has a small classroom, you can sympathize with “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe,” the Mother Goose rhyme that has delighted children for generations. Perhaps a small classroom isn’t your ideal teaching space. However, “a place for everything and everything in its place” will bring out the creativity in any teacher. Think of your small space as a challenge. While you may have to look for storage in unclaimed space or transport extra materials to your car prior to Parent Open House, here are some inexpensive ideas to help you organize clutter, make your classroom a happy place for young children and a more manageable environment for you!


Storage for Teachers and Staff

•   Build simple shelving with PVC pipes and painted 3/8-inch plywood. The materials are inexpensive and shelving takes up little space. 

•   Resource books and curriculum materials can be easily organized using wicker baskets or boxes covered in fabric. These baskets or boxes will hide the clutter and add to your classroom décor.

•   A brightly colored curtain on an adjustable shower-curtain rod is a great way to hide the clutter inside an open doorway. Try hanging a curtain across a corner to hide supplies.


Storage of Children’s Personal Items

•   Secure wooden pegs within easy reach of the children for a coat rack. Place a second peg or hook directly below the first and about 15-inches from the floor to hold a bucket of the children’s personal belongings (such as mittens, school supplies, etc.). Check with your local paint company for new gallon-size 

aluminum buckets. Spray paint them bright colors. Then place a child’s photo on each bucket for easy identification. 

•   Make or purchase for each child a supply holder made of canvas that can tie on the child’s chair. Scissors, crayons, glue and other supplies will always be in reach and stored away neatly when not in use. Invite the children to decorate their canvas bag with paint and collage materials.   

•   Place empty three-gallon ice cream containers on low shelves

for take-home work, including art and other projects which arecompleted each day. Identify each child’s container with pictures or photos.


Storage and Arrangement of Learning Centers

•    Check with a carpet center for squares of (often free) brightly colored rug samples. Place the squares on the floor in a pattern, secured with carpet tape. Use this area for small group activities, as a reading center or block center.

•     Place a small section of a white picket fence to section off a Home and Living Center. 

•     A vertical coat tree requires little space and can be placed in a corner to hold costumes and dress-up clothing.

•     Cover a second-hand wooden coffee table with vinyl cloth as a workspace for artwork and modeling clay. 

•     Use large, soft pillows (covered in removable pillowcases for easy laundering) near the reading center to encourage looking at picture books and for early readers. When not in use, tuck the pillows under a table or stack them in a corner.

•     Place wicker baskets on low shelves for storage. Secure a picture or photograph of the items which belong in the basket on the outside as a prompt to the children and a way to teach organization skills. 

•    Turn doors and windows into bulletin board space with cork board or felt board. Hang artwork and holiday decorations from the ceiling with transparent tape and fishing line. 



As you incorporate these ideas, coordinate with a unifying theme or select from either primary or secondary colors to make your room more attractive. Not only are you making the most of a small space, you are teaching young children organizational skills for now—and for the future.



Carolyn R. Tomlin has taught kindergarten in public schools and early childhood education at Union University, Jackson, TN. She writes for numerous educational publications.