This past week I visited Ford Elementary in Denver, CO. Teachers there are committed to creating welcoming classroom environments. We visited classrooms from ECE (4-year-olds) to 5th grade and moved a bit of furniture along the way. I recommend starting with classroom environment at the beginning of the year. It sets the foundation for all the teaching we will do throughout. When we have a well-organized whole-group teaching/meeting area, it is easier to help students focus on what we are teaching.
Likewise, a smal-group teaching area (with everything we need at our fingertips) helps our small-group lessons stay focused and within our time budget. We can minimize interruptions and distractions. One thing to keep in mind is to be sure you can easily see every child in the classroom from your small-group table.
A third space to focus on at this time of year is your classroom library. Does it invite students in to read a book? Is it easy for children to choose just right books and return them to the library for others to easily find? Does the library support reading comprehension, too? You might have a set of fiction shelves and a separate set of nonfiction shelves to get students thinking about genre.
Here are some pictures of our work at Ford: