Sunday, July 29, 2012

Setting Up a Music Classroom

While I am not an expert in design I do have a lot of experience. This next year is my 10th year teaching and my 10th classroom. While some moves have been by choice, other moves have been due to construction or re-configuration. My plan is to share what I do when I set up a room and to post lots of pictures and examples for you. Hopefully it will help someone get ready for a new year.
Tip #1: Use fabric to cover bulletin boards. Measure your board and determine the size you will need. Fabric is sold 45” or 60” wide and can be cut each 1/8 yard (1/8, ¼, 3/8, ½, 5/8 etc.). Try to find a fabric with only a few colors or it will look too busy. If you use a patterned fabric try using solid colored letters, or switch it, solid back under patterned letters. Wal-Mart sells solid colored flat sheets for $2 if you want to give solid colors a try. I always make a word wall in my room. Not only does this look impressive to administration, but it helps the students learning to speak the language of music. This year, I will have to do this on my cabinets since none of my bulletin boards are large enough.
Tip #2: Make shelving look like a part of the room by painting it all one solid color if they don’t already match. I did this with my shelving and now call it “mega-shelf.” There are many useful sites on-line that have furniture painting tips. Painting tips vary for the surface you are painting and the type of paint you use. Paint is an inexpensive way to change the look of the room. You can see the difference between the large cabinet in the middle painted before and now painted all black.

Tip #3: Organize like items together. All computers should be in the same area, listening area supplies together, all instruments together, all literature together, center game supplies together, etc.

Tip #4: Add something just for the kids. Put elements in the room just for your students. I like to have a special chair in the room that I call my “Star Singer” chair. I pick one student to sit in the chair each week. My older kids get to be the DJ on Friday and play all the music from my iPod. They love this and work really hard to be the star singer. I also saw Mrs. King use a chair as a Need a Rest/time out chair complete with music rests. Thinking about adding this for next year, but depends on the space I have and if I can find another chair to paint. I actually paid a friend to paint my chair for me after I had my second child.

Tip #5: Keep frequently used items close to the door or at the front of the room. Music textbooks, your bag of tricks, toys, reward stickers and stamps, pencils, clip boards, work tubs (crayons, pencils, glue sticks, scissors), CD’s, schedule, and anything else you need easy access to. I also always keep my piano so I can face the kids and my stereo has always been on a table at the front of the room.

Tip #6: Turn trash into treasure. I have found many items on the street corner that I have rescued for my classroom. One summer I even got two dining room tables that were painted and turned into my center table. Paint the table a solid color first. Then use acrylic paints to make a design on the table that fits your theme or something musical. Go over everything with a few coats of poly-acrylic varnish. For fun I used dazzling diamonds glitter from Stampin’ Up on the first coat of poly-acrylic to give it a sparkle. The second and third coat helped protect the paint and evened out the finish. Make sure to give everything plenty of time to dry in between coats.

Tip #7: Add some fun elements. Composer busts, kites, gumball machine, stuffed animals, puppets, colorful rug, fun fabric chair pockets for textbooks, large colored buckets from Wal-Mart or Target for boomwhackers and parachutes, fabric or paint chip garland, etc. Note to reader: Each stuffed animal in my classroom has been won at Worlds of Fun or bought at garage sales. My animals are also named. My big blue gorilla is Mr. Bobo. I frequently tell the kids that Mr. Bobo is listening to them sing, and sometimes Mr, Bobo is sleeping and should not be disturbed when they come in my room. My caterpillar is Mr. Caterpillar. I also let my students cuddle with my animals during center time. I also have Mickey and Minnie mouse dolls that students can put on their chair or carpet spot if they have to use the restroom so I know they are gone, and they have also been a Kagan partner for those students who struggle to work with others.

Tip #8: Use a label making machine to get everything labeled and organized. I have all of my literature books organized on two cabinets from the trash pile that I rescued. They are organized by the themes I use. I can just take out the books and plan my lessons. I also have instruments labeled and in fabric bins ready to use at all times. This has also been very helpful for subs to find materials in the room. I also labeled the CD player from my last room so subs would know which CD deck worked and that only the remote control could turn down the volume even if you turned it down. (Yes it was annoying)

Tip #9: Label all of your personal supplies and keep an inventory for insurance. After moving again I am reminded how important it is to keep items labeled. Over the last three years I have received over $20,000 in classroom grants. Many of these new supplies had to be labeled when I moved.

Tip #10: If you don’t like it…change it. My last room I moved five times before it finally worked for me. I had “mega-shelf” on three different walls. My computers could only go in one spot because that was the only wall they were wired on, but no one told me that before I moved them. My piano and center table moved five times. Instrument shelves moved three times. I had to take out the center table and replace the table with bean-bags. You don’t have to be stuck with a classroom you don’t like. Measure everything and move things around until you can live with it. Classrooms should be functional and sometime we don’t know how something will work until we try it. Give each move a week unless you really can’t stand it.

Hope you have a wonderful year!
Christina (


  1. I have a chair just like yours!

    1. I love my chair!!! My goal is to get my Need a Rest chair done by Aug 7th when I report back.

  2. What are your ideas for the Need a Rest chair? I have a few chairs that I am working on painting and I was curious about your ideas!

  3. I am planning on painting it bright colors like my other chair. For all the graphics I plan on painting different types of rests and for the back I want to write I Needed a Rest. When students go to the chair they will have to fill out a behavior rethink sheet. Christina

  4. What do you use to post things on your cement walls. I've tried lots of things and nothing seems to stay.


    1. I use a hot glue gun on low heat and blue Sticky Tack. Hope this helps, Christina

  5. Hi there!

    I loved your website and wanted to send you an email about it but I couldn't find your contact email anywhere. If you send me an email at I'd love to send you one back to chat a bit.


  6. Nice blog.Thanks for share with us.Here from your post i have got more ideas about chairs.Thanks

  7. Great job with your blog. Excellent photos, very helpful. I am looking for ways to organize/categorize my loose sheets (lyric sheets, copies of activities from books & workshops). Any suggestions?

  8. Thanks for sharing, nice post! Post really provice useful information!

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