Setting Up My Art Room 2017-2018

I'm finally back from maternity leave and ready to teach (kinda)! Can I bring my baby with me? Can he be my assistant? No? Awe. :(
Towards the end of the last school year, I came back from my maternity leave early so that I could work the two days of post-planning. I decided it would be best if I were the one to clean up and put away my classroom, so I’d know where everything was when I officially returned. Last school year, we had to take EVERYTHING off of the walls so that our custodial staff could clean them during the summer. And while it was a pain to take everything down, it did give me a blank slate for the new school year! Fun Fact: My classroom looks HUGGGGEEEE when it’s empty!

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Before I went back for pre-planning this year, I started work on a colorful new set of drawers for my classroom. The idea was that I would use each drawer to store all of my prepped paper for each of my grade-level projects (that way it wouldn’t end up all over my desk and every other flat surface in my room like usual). So I got online and found the perfect set of drawers from Target. As you can imagine I was overjoyed when I saw that the drawers could hold 12″x18″ paper – an art teacher’s dream! Unfortunately in all my excitement, I neglected to thoroughly read the product description and ended up buying a unit whose overall dimensions were 12″ deep by 18″ long; the drawers themselves were much smaller. And of course I didn’t realize all of this until after I had already primed and repainted all the drawer covers and assembled the whole thing. Upset with this realization, I took to Instagram where a fellow art teacher gave me the amazingly awesome idea to use the drawers to organize my scrap paper by color instead.

 Once pre-planning started it was all about getting my classroom put together.
My first project was to paint the edges of my tables and stools to color-code them!
For the past several years I used colored masking tape to color-code my tables, but as I’m sure many of you already know – kids LOVE picking at tape! I was constantly having to replace it as it got worn and torn in order to save my sanity. The sanity that was slowly being picked away with every scratch of the fingernail. Yeah… I’m a bit of a perfectionist. 🙂 So I was more than relieved when my administration gave me the green light to use paint in my room instead! The tables in my classroom have a laminate surface on them, so the first step was to lightly sand the sides of my tables. My husband (who is not a carpenter, mind you) suggested that I use 220 grit sandpaper. In retrospect however, I wish I would’ve gone with something a little lower so that it would’ve scratched up the sides a bit more. Butttttttttt you live and you learn.
After sanding, I cleaned off the laminate shrapnel, then taped off the table edges and started painting using a small roller and Behr Marquee paint (this paint already has the primer mixed into it). Each table took about 3 coats to fully cover the sides (I wasn’t using the 1-coat guarantee colors). After the paint was dry, I removed the painters tape and then used an oil-based sharpie paint marker to write my table numbers (I use these for classroom jobs). Once that had a chance to dry, I painted overtop of everything with coat of glossy mod-podge. When painting my stools, I just went straight in with the paint and then covered with mod-podge as well (in retrospect I could have done without the mod-podge on the chairs).

**UPDATE: This particular type of paint didn't stay very well (still very pickable). So I took it off and repainted with Martha Stewart multi-surface acrylic and sealed it with Delta Creative polyurethane varnish. It is working INSANELY better. 


This year I used the same type of bins I've used in past years.. but got some nice new ones that weren't colored all over (who doesn't love shiny and new?). To color-code the bins I once again used ribbon. Click here to see how to attach it!
I also created some new labels and then added those on as well to help my students know where to put things away.

Once again, I will be using art centers as part of my classroom management plan!

In my classroom I do a table point system using Class Dojo. When students are doing what they are supposed to be doing (coming in quietly, being on task, helping each other, cleaning up on time, etc), they receive table points. When they aren’t following directions (being too loud, being super off task, not cleaning up, etc), they lose them. The way I record all of this in Class Dojo is by having 6 “classes” set up (one for each grade-level). Then in each class I have 8 “students” (one for each of my table colors). Since I see my students multiple days in a row before they rotate to their next special, I use only one class for each grade-level, then reset their points once their rotation is over so it’s back to zero for the next group. So what is the motivation to earn points? Great question! The number of points each table has determines which art centers they can participate in during free time (once a project is finished). Each center has a point value assigned to it. Once a table has that many points or more, they can use that center. If the table does not have that many points, they cannot. The way I determine how many points each center is depends on the interests of my students. If I know they’ll really enjoy something (like jewelry center), I give it a higher point value. In the past few years that I’ve been using this system, I’ve found a lot of success with it. It keeps my students motivated to make the right choices and rewards them with experiences instead of tangible items (like candy). The centers I currently have in my classroom are:
Weaving/Lacing Cards - 1 pt
White Boards - 1 pt *This is the one bone that I throw my students. They LOVE white boards!
How to Draw Books and Free Draw - 2 pts
Pattern Blocks - 3 pts
Texture Rubbing - 4 pts
Puzzles- 5 pts
Origami - 6 pts
Spirograph - 7 pts
K'NEX - 8 pts 
Play Doh - 10 pts
Jewelry Center - 14 pts

Now this isn't something new.. but the way that I'm displaying it is. I used to have just the elements posters hanging up on my bulletin board, but now I've hung them along with my principles posters to just above my centers (near my classroom door). I also printed them out larger this year. Instead of being 8.5"x11", I printed them out at 13"x18".
If you like the look of these posters, be sure to check them out in my store!

My word wall is probably the single most popular thing in my classroom with my administrators. My thought when I created them and first hung them up was "Cool! Now my kids can see art words and pictures that help those words make sense." My administrators think "Wow! She's incorporating literacy into her art program!"
At the end of last year I took down all my word wall cards and tossed them, so this year I had to print them all out again (which was fine with me because I'm made a million updates to them over the past few years).
Once I had them all printed out I knew I needed to laminate them. Trying to get stuff laminated through the school in the beginning of the school year can be a bit challenging however, so I decided it was time to invest in my very own home laminator!
Guys... I WANT TO LAMINATE EVERYTHING NOW! I mean.. the process of laminating itself is fun AND cutting out things that are laminated is fun. There's just something very rewarding about cutting through laminated paper. Either you know exactly what I'm talking about, or you think I'm crazy. That's okay. I probably am. ;)

I personally bought my laminator at Wal-Mart for about $20... but you can also order the same Scotch Thermal Laminator from Amazon (theirs comes with 20 laminating pouches).

Once I had all my cards laminated it was time to cut them out. Lucky for me I recently purchased an X-ACTO Commercial Grade 12" x 12" Paper Cutter (off of Amazon) which made cutting them out at home WAY easier. Seriously Amazon gets all of my money. Their 2-day Prime shipping is dangerously convenient.

I decided that this year I was going to hang up my word wall cards on my bulletin board instead of the wall so I wouldn't have to cut like 30,000,000 pieces of tape to stick them up. Yay for staples!
The only thing I didn't consider before starting was how to keep the cards straight on my bulletin board. 😔  By the time I got to the letter "D" I noticed that my cards were gradually moving upwards. Soooo I took them all down and started again. I'm going to be real with you guys.. I did this a few times.
Then FINALLY I figured out an easy way to keep things on track; I measured how far down from my border I wanted the word wall cards to start, and then put a staple at that height along the length of the bulletin board.
Helpful tip: Hang your word wall cards BEFORE you hang your bulletin board letters. The letters "C" and "S" have like a gazillion cards, while the letter "U" only has one. 

If you like my word wall cards, check out my store!
If you like the bulletin board letters, you can find them here! *I warn you to not use them on a black background however. Hah! I wish I would've thought that one through!

Like I mentioned before, I see my students a few days in a row before getting my new rotation, so the way I organize and store artwork may not be applicable to your situation.

When students are working on dry artwork at their tables, I have them put their work into their table folder at the end of class. The table folder consists of a sheet of 12"x18" construction paper folded in half with the grade-level written on the front. These folders are then stored in my labeled grade-level drawers. So the next time students come to class, I can just put their folder on their table so they can pull out their work and get started (no time wasted calling out names).
If their work is wet and needs to be put into the drying rack, I have them place their work on a 1/4 size sheet of posterboard and then slide it into the drying rack within the their table color band (added with colored masking tape). That way work is easily accessible for students to get from the rack or if I want to put stuff up into their table folders once it's dry, I'll know which folder they go into.
To help me tell my grade-levels apart (in case they're doing similar projects) I have clothespins with grade-level tags on them that I just clip onto the top of each drying rack.
Aside from my table buckets (which contain pencils, erasers, colored pencils, color, sticks, and crayons) I have a couple of other ways of storing ready-to-go materials.
First are the color-coded baskets I have. If I'm doing a project with a class that has a LOT of materials, I will often use these buckets to pass out supplies for each table. Otherwise I would just call table numbers (how I distribute jobs) and have them come pick up various things.
Last year I also started taking advantage of the cabinet storage I have under my countertops and started prepping paints for different classes and storing them under there in copy box lids. At one point I had all this stuff spread out all over my countertop and knew there HAD to be a better way.
Using the copy box lids allows me to quickly take out and put away supplies without the giant mess.
Last year I also started storing my paintbrushes in labeled drink pitchers. Why? Because it is WAY easier to walk around to distribute them when the container has a handle!

And finally - paper storage. I used to have a cardboard holder like this when I was at my old school, but then neglected to bring it with me when I changed schools. This one isn't a revolutionary storage tip - unless you've never used one before. In which case - BOOM! Just blew your mind with its awesomeness!
I'm so glad I got one again. :)

Over the past few years, the teachers at my school had been using laminated paper hall passes for our students. The main problem with those though were that they would come back from the bathroom with wet spots on them (is that water or something else?). Eww. 
So this year our principal had us make our own instead. As she was telling us about this during our staff meeting, she happened to have an example picture of a hall pass on a paintbrush on the PowerPoint slide. Obviously I immediately fell in love! To see my how-to on these paint brushes click here.
Now they hang on the back of my door!

These are a few of the other things I have hanging up on my walls.
I made these color posters to complement the bulletin board letters I made for my word wall. :) You can get a copy of them here!
I moved my shape and form posters from last year onto my large metal storage cabinets so they wouldn't just be wasted space. 
I also repainted these color mixing posters that I had originally created a few years ago. My old ones were looking pretty worn down.
If you don't want to paint your own, consider checking out my TPT store for some smaller printables.

If you have questions about anything else you see, please feel free to leave me a comment and I'd be happy to talk to you about it! :) Hope you all have a great school year!


  1. Your room looks fabulous! I LOVE how you did the edge of your tables and the stools. Very cool!

  2. WOW everything looks so amazing! I was kinda in the same boat last year at this time... spent the last few weeks of the previous school year back from maternity leave, and then started the school year fresh that next year. I was not as prepared as you! Actually, I ended up missing the first day of school because of cancelled flights! BEST of luck with your newbie baby and you're doing such great work, fellow Art Teacherpreneur Mama! -Stephanie

  3. I love your post - so many great tips! What a beautifully organized art room! The class dojo app is wonderful... My it concern is does it consume a lot of the class time to it in the points and do you do it together with each class? Would love to hear more about it. Thanks!

    1. Hi Shira!
      No it isn't really time consuming.. especially since I have the app on my phone. It's easy to just quickly add or subtract points.
      I do dojo with 1st-5th grades.

  4. Thanks for sharing - I came away with some great ideas for my room.

  5. I LOVE YOUR ART ROOM! How many days of the week do you teach?

  6. Wonderful room! What kind of paint did you use for your chairs? Also, are your tables black, or did you paint those as well?

    1. Thank you!
      I used semi-gloss Behr Marquee paints.
      My tables were already black.

  7. I am in love with your room!! I want to be in your room and I didn't even like art when I was in school.

  8. I don't know how I JUST stumbled upon your blog, but THANK HEAVENS! I'm in Muscogee County, GA, at 2 title 1 schools in my 1st year teaching! SO, You will immensely help me with all your provided resources! I've needed some visual guidance from another art teacher :)

  9. Regarding the class dojo... How do you show the kids the points? How often do you tell the kids how many points they have - at the end of every class?

  10. Hey Mrs. Nguyen! I love your room!! I have been researching ways to get prepared as it is my very first year teaching!! I stumbled across your page on pinterest and I am so nervous because I have one week to prepare my classroom before school starts and I have absolutely nothing! I wanted to ask you, did you create the principals of design and elements of art posters yourself? I really want to do something like that in my classroom but have been searching and haven't found something as cool as yours. Also are there any tips you could possibly give me as a new teacher!? Thank you!! =]

    1. Hi Carla! Thanks so much for the compliment and congrats on going into your first year teaching! Yes I created them myself. There is a link next the picture to my TPT store if you are interested. :)
      Best tip I can give you is to be flexible with your plans! During my first year I had all these lessons that I wanted to do.. but had no idea what type of pace my kids would be able to work through them. You gotta be flexible and willing to change parts of your lesson if necessary.
      Also.. if you feel like you're drowning.. know that you're not the only one! I felt that way for the first few YEARS teaching! But it does get better!!
      I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have. Just email me at

  11. Hey Mrs. Nguyen! I am absolutely in love with your classroom! It is inspiring to me as a new incoming Art teacher. This will be my first year teaching k-8, and I am finding myself overwhelmed... I am trying to figure out how to decorate/ organize my classroom, and I only have one week or so to do it! I am in love with the posters you have of principals of design and elements of art, did you design those your self or did you find them online? Also if you have any tips or websites you could recommend to me that would be amazing!!! Best of luck this school year! Thank you! =]

  12. I want to LIVE in your classroom! The Visual Art Word Wall Cards are genius!

  13. I'm envious! I'm curious about how your painted edges held up. Did they look good as new or were they scratched up by May? I had thought to spray paint mine hoping to get better adhesion, but if the Behr paint worked that would be easier.

  14. Mrs. Nguyen, I have really enjoyed and appreciated looking through your organization and preparations for your school year. I commented a few days ago but haven't seen it up on your blog - I hope this means your taking some well deserved time off. But I'm still wondering if your hand painted table edges stood up to a school-years worth of fidgety, scratchy, picky students. I've been toying with the idea of trying to use spray paint, but if your Behr paint worked and doesn't need to be repainted every summer than I would totally go that route. Crossing my fingers that this comment gets cleared, posted and, at some point sooner than later, answered. I appreciate your time!!

    1. Hey I am so sorry for the delay! I haven't been getting comment confirmation emails lately.. or I've just missed them completely. :/
      To answer your question - the behr paint did not last.
      Spray paint might be a more durable option.. but I've not tried it. My tables weigh a crazy amount.. so I never would've been able to move them outside to a more ventilated area to spray them.
      About halfway through the year I repainted my table edges with Martha Steward multi-surface acrylic paint and sealed it with a polyurethane coating and that worked like a charm!
      Again - so sorry about the wait on a response!! If you have any other questions don't hesitate to email me at :)

  15. Where did you get your tables? I would love to have these!

    1. Honestly I have no idea. They came with my room.

  16. Beautiful room! It's SO organized and neat! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Could you look at your tables and see if there is a manufacture? Maybe i could find the tables that way. Thanks in advance.

  18. I absolutely love your room and your lessons! Where did you purchase your rug?

    1. I got mine from target! :)

  19. What is the brand name of your white drying rack and the maximum size art work it can handle? Where did you buy it? Really like your room.

    1. I'm not in this classroom anymore and the rack was ordered through our county so I'm not sure about brand. Sorry I can't be of more help. :/