Figuring out how to teach virtually from home can be overwhelming. Maybe you spent a lot of time and energy at the beginning of the school year to set up your classroom and you just don't have it in you to try to plan out your house. I get it. This year has been a lot and now many of us are being asked to transition to online. Where do you even begin?
I hope this post helps you to see that your setup doesn't have to be fancy or take a long time to put together. I set up mine in just a couple hours (I needed a little time to build the cart/shelf).
When thinking about how I teach and what I wanted to infringe upon my home space, I realized that I wanted to keep my home looking like a home (or an apartment). I live in a two-bedroom apartment as I write this and have no extra space for an office where I can teach and close the door.
My living room ended up being the best location for me to use for teaching. It gets nice natural light from the windows and I can stand between my coffee table and my TV console and not share a lot of my apartment when I'm live on camera.
Teaching full-time, running an online business part-time and being a single mom means my place tends to be messy. It can be a bit embarrassing so I don't want to show too much of the mess. Plus, my private life should be private and having to teach from my home eeks into my privacy.
I decided to go with a cart on wheels that I could keep everything on and roll away when done. I found my cart at Michael's and it's more of a shelf with wheels. Because I wanted to teach standing up, I purchased a cheap computer stand I found on Amazon. Having a computer stand helped to make sure my built-in webcam on my laptop was at the perfect height to avoid the dreaded double-chin view.
Starting at the Top
I found that to teach virtually I need a lot less supplies than I originally thought I would. Everything I use on a daily basis is now housed on this cart unit.
At the very top is my personal laptop. My school does provide me with a computer, however; I find the small student-sized Chromebook to be almost impossible for the number of tabs I need open throughout my teaching day and the screen size is not great for long hours on the computer.
Next to the computer is a space that in the picture is being taken up by my planner but in reality is usually cleared off. This small space to the left of my computer is just the right size to place my teaching manual or a laminated "whiteboard" I'm using for demonstration. When I need my document camera it fits in this small space as well.
The FIRST Shelf
Moving down the shelving unit is what I'll call the first shelf. This shelf is the second-most used and holds any important books, props, or papers I might need for my lessons during the week.
I like to plan out the whole week at once so I'm not scrambling as I go. This also helps me to see what supplies I'll need. When I was in the school classroom this meant making sure all my photocopies and anchor charts were created for the week. Teaching virtually it means that all my assignments are loaded into Google Classroom before Monday's lessons start and any prerecorded lessons have been completed.
This shelf actually doesn't contain too much but it's quite important. Often since I need the top surface to write and use my document camera as needed, I use this shelf to toss things when I'm not immediately using them.
The little aqua cup contains pens, whiteboards, and highlighters that I'll use during lessons. I like having a Sharpie in there because it can show up better when writing on paper than just using a pen.
The little signs are something I made for myself and a matching set for my students at the beginning of the year to help encourage interaction. You can hear more about how I am using them on this podcast that also details more about my home teaching area.
Last, the purple binder contains just what it says - my important documents for the year. This is where I file previous week's attendance records (I always keep a paper copy in addition to inputting it into the district's system), papers on using the telephone system remotely, school staff phone call list, my class roster, directions on administering the state test, and my paper grades (I also keep this on hand as a backup - already needed twice this school year when my grades somehow got wiped out). I'll also "file" anything else that might come up that I want to have a paper copy on hand to reference such as the weekly staff newsletter my principal provides.
The Second Shelf
Continuing on down is the second shelf of my home classroom. This shelf is not used as much as the previously mentioned shelves but the items do come in handy.
On this shelf are my little document camera, a bucket of markers, and two connecting bins from the dollar store to hold small manipulatives and dice. The document camera I have had for years and actually haven't used it until now. It is a HUE animation studio camera but works great as a simple document camera. It has no bells and whistles but just shares what is is viewing for my class to see.
As you can see in the picture I have a 1 minute timer, a popsicle stick with gems, and cut up pipe cleaners with red pony beads in my little manipulative bins. I was very fortunate to be able to do a student material pick up back in August and I had sent the sticks, dice, and pipe cleaners with beads home to all my students. It doesn't seem like much but it has really come in handy.
Third and Final Shelf
On the bottom shelf I keep my heaviest items - teaching manuals and read alouds for any current units. Unfortunately with less teaching time compared to when in the classroom, I only have time for the occasional read aloud during writing or social studies. For reading I've been asked to stick with a provided reading curriculum (Ready).
Inside the big blue magazine file (a real find from Big Lots) are my less-used but still needed for reference, teaching manuals. To keep the floppy manuals from curving up inside the file box I placed a smaller box inside which you can see from the next picture.
The small white box is from the Dollar Tree and contains the picture books I'll be using - usually in my writing unit but occasionally in social studies. Unfortunately many of my books are inside my classroom and I haven't been able to go back and retrieve them. Some I had at home since my daughter loves to read and a few I've ordered for the year from our friend Amazon. I usually share youtube videos on my screen of my read aloud to get around the issue of not wanting to purchase book duplicates. Many of the videos to popular books can be found that also show the illustrations and the words - probably better than students would be viewing it by me holding up the book in the classroom.
One thing I really loved about this shelf/cart purchase is that the frame is made out of metal. This means I have options to hang things off the side. I've toyed with the idea to DIY it and glue on a pegboard system to one side but for now I'm holding off. Instead, I've used my favorite Lakeshore magnets which are quite strong to hold up a hanging file organizer.
Although hard to see in the picture, this organizer holds files for attendance and paperwork, math, reading and word work, writing and grammar, and small groups. Currently I really only use the math and attendance files daily. After I created the files and began virtually teaching I realized I didn't need as many paper copies as I had originally thought.
The math file gets the most use hands down. I use some element of the laminated papers in this file every single day. My school asks for us to do math number talks and I've found having these pre-formatted laminated math mats that I've created are perfect for our morning warm-ups. Here's a closer look:
A closer look at my math tools will be coming soon in a future blog post so stay tuned.
The other side of my cart (shown on the left in the picture) is just a colored printout of my weekly schedule. Under my schedule is a copy of my daughter's schedule so I can answer the "What is today's special?" that is always bound to come up. If I was in the classroom I would use my posted daily schedule to eliminate this need but I didn't want to post one on my living room walls while teaching from home.
I could create a digital version but then I'd have to post it daily and well, I'm a busy single mom and that just seems a bit unnecessary to add to my already full planning schedule. I do post a daily to-do list for students in Google Classroom and mention the daily special before releasing them for independent work and so far that works for me.
If you are transitioning from hybrid or in person to virtual teaching I hope this post shows that you do not need an elaborate setup or a large space to have an effective teaching space. I have been using my rolling cart idea since August and haven't modified it since. A little of thought and careful planning and you should be able to pull together a space that will work well for you in just an hour or two!
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