Your Classroom Set-Up Matters

Your Classroom Set-Up Matters.

For many, the set up of the classroom is mindless; especially in the online environment.

But it’s online that it matters MOST. 

IMG_3790Everything in this space is well thought out. Everything. Even the placement of the lamp and space between the wall and chair.


Let’s break it all down…

NUMBER ONE: I purposely chose to put my set up in a corner, and not have only a wall behind me. I wanted to use the wall space next to me to keep within arms reach my main props. Drawers are fine, but seeing them on the wall kept them visually accessible to me at all times. There have been many times in the moment of teaching I have seen a prop and realized the best way to teach a concept for that child was with that prop and was SO GRATEFUL it was next to me!

Being in a corner allows me to teach abstract concepts such as edges, corner, behind, next to, near, and far more easily.

NUMBER TWO: What the student can seeIMG_3793Hey guess what… it’s 8:37!

What do they see?

  • Magnetic Chalkboard: allows me to hang props on, draw and write on it, as well as use it as a prop.
  • Flags: I have purposely chosen Japan, Britain, China and USA flags because they are referenced in the classes I teach constantly. I will soon be adding in Canada as well. I want it visible to point at when I ask the question, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘where do you live?’ I can also use them when I reference country, flag, and several other vocabulary words.
  • Clock: Great for vocabulary! Circle, numbers, teaching time, morning, afternoon, evening, night. Fantastic conversation starter! What do you do at _____ o’clock? Teaching opposites (black and white, 12 and 6, 3 and 8, long hand and short hand (long and short), front and back, turn around. We can also talk about the abstract concept of a time change, morning and night more easily.
  • Lastly, my world map. The world map is NOT fully visible in my camera. I have it purposely set to only show the bottom 1/4 of the map (map = vocabulary word!). The part that says, ‘The World’. (The world = vocabulary!) You can see the ice, water, the bottom of South America. It makes a great educational background and excellent prop for vocabulary. By also not showing many of the continents and countries, it avoids any controversies other countries have over what the accurate boundary of countries are.


IMG_3169Keeping props visible allows me to visually prompt myself when needed

Why do I have them in pockets?

By putting my 3-D props in pockets, I am able to see the props and they are close by. This allows me to visually prompt myself in lessons when needed to use the prop. Sometimes, I don’t think we will need specific props. But after the conversation starts, its clear, that prop would be useful.

What are in my pockets?

Each of my pockets has a “purpose” for example:

01-06 are my art supplies. In one of my companies, we do projects together. So it is necessary. In the other company, I have the benefit of having them there as props 🙂

07-12 are my easter eggs, peg dolls, conjugation envelopes, money, and travel props.

13-24 are a jumble. It has my calculator, cords for plugging in my phone (I use it as a prop sometimes to show google images), bottom of the easter eggs and company-specific props.

It also has all of my extension games for teaching additional vocabulary and phrases.


  1. Just like I my rewards are open ended and not specific so are my props. I purposely chose to have humans, art supplies, 2 funny items (my wig and big glasses), magnetic numbers, animals, vehicles. Open-ended is important.
  2. I needed them to be small enough to fit in the pockets and large enough to show on the camera
  3. They need to have color. Not just black and white images. Give depth to what they see on the camera. Slideshows are very flat looking. You are flat and consistent (no variety), pictures on your phone are very flat looking. For anyone except Logical/Mathematical and Verbal and Linguistic learners, they need a variety of visual stimulus to learn. For more information about multiple intelligences and learning styles, please see my post here.
  4. They need to be quality looking toys. They do not have to be expensive. Just have them look professional.


NUMBER FOUR: 2-D props and images


On the wall above the pockets are my 2-D google image open source

Just like the 3-D images, your 2-D images should have color. You can get open-source images on google images for props (avoid copyright images). I came up with these props OVER TIME. I did not start out with these images. Many of my images were obtained by doing the following:

  1. Go to and type in the prop you need (for example type in Rainbow).
  2. make sure to add in “coloring page, open source” at the end of the word. For example, this is what I would type:   rainbow coloring page, open source
  3. Print out an open source image. And color it in (if you have a black and white printer or do not want to use color ink). **remember, in the USA, ink, and paper are tax write-offs.”

I chose my images based on the words I used often that I wished I had a prop for. This is my list:

  • Farm animals
  • Pet animals
  • Wild animals
  • Barn, House, (I will be adding in an apartment soon)
  • Snow, rain, cloud, sun, storm, rainbow ( I will be adding a moon and a star soon)
  • Fish, insect, mammal, reptile, dragon, bird
  • Fire
  • nest, egg, home
  • Cloths
  • Food
  • Birthday / Holidays


Some of my props are my kids’ old toys that they no longer use. A doll that you can dress up, a cake and ice cream, play food.

(The red bag are instructional forms I use and the clipboard has rewards. More on those in later posts)

NUMBER FIVE: Instructional versus Vocabulary props

IMG_3796THE BOWL CAN BE USED AS A PROP! In, out, on, inside


As a visual, kinesthetic, musical learner, I really value props. They are so important to me in how I teach.  It is important to keep 3 things in mind:

  1. What kind of teacher are you?
  2. What type of learner is your student?
  3. How does your student best show what they know?

Based on these 3 answers, you will know what type of instructional props to choose from. Notice depending on the type of teacher you are, some of your instructional props is also the same vocabulary building props.

  • Visual/Spatial teachers – use a lot of visual props. 3-D and 2-D. Remember as a possible auditory learner, you may need to focus on not talking a lot as they may not be. By talking a lot, the learner does not have a lot of time to speak about what they are learning. An important part of learning a new subject. Build in receptive learning activities where they practice listening to the language. This will help you feel successful, and also give them something specific to focus on.
  • Logical/Mathematical teachers– have symbols that will represent concepts that you can refer back to often
  • Verbal/Linguistic teachers– will need heading words to help categorize the content. Using the chalkboard will be important for you. Perhaps even have a chalkboard and a whiteboard, being able to separate out vocabulary, root words and so forth
  • Musical/Rhythmic teachers – use your props to reference songs that the students may know. For example, show the days of the week and sing the song for the days of the week. A good morning song versus a good night song holding a moon and a sun
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic teacher– use the props and put them in different areas of the camera view. Perhaps a mammal on the left and a fish on the right. Point to each keeping the categories separate. Use the space in your classroom to your benefit.
  • Naturalist teacher – Use the space in your classroom to set up a mock scenario such as a store or mock vet etc. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. For example. Use all of your animal props and tape them to your wall according to the type of animal. Use your money and go buy a pet a jungle animal and farm animal.  Then quickly pull them off, and tape up your house and barn. Have the child put the animal in the correct place.
  • Interpersonal teacher- you will not need a lot of props to teach unless the student does. Use your chalkboard and minimal props to design conversational building activities. For example, use the screen to ask questions and then paraphrase each other’s comments. The set up of your classroom will be more geared toward having space as headers or 1 or 2 props as the main theme to build teamwork in answering questions. It may be important to have a 2-D image that says “Your turn, my turn” and another 2 images that say “Teacher” and “student”. Holding these props up will cue the student to know it is their turn to talk or yours. 
  • Intrapersonal teacher- It will be important for this type of teacher to recognize that many students are not deep thinkers. They have to learn to think deeply. A good way to have them reflect back is to have a prop that is a question mark. This will cue the student to realize you are giving them extra time to think. Using a lot of props will also help the student cue into that you are allowing them to reflect back on their own situation. For example, hold up a dog picture and you can say, “do you like big dogs or small dogs?” “Do you have a dog?” And this will build more of a thinking activity rather than the labeling vocabulary activities. You can also utilize the chatbox as a prop. Have them write to you, and you write back. Practicing spelling and grammar. 

To learn more about which type of teacher you are, look at my blog post here about multiple intelligences and learning preferences. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

NUMBER SIX: Space to move

IMG_3791It is so important to give yourself space. To stand, to sit, to lean, to turn around, to bend over. For kinesthetic students, you will be encouraging them to move. And therefore, you will have to move too. In my classroom, I have enough room to move my chair to the side and stand up. And to move my chair all the way to the wall and back. Always staying within camera view.

NUMBER SEVEN: Your chairIMG_3798Your chair should be:

  • Easy to move when necessary
  • Comfortable to sit in
  • Allow you to lean back
  • Allow you easily to move your arms up and down, right and left without bumping and hurting yourself

NUMBER EIGHT: Always have a keyboard ready for typing and mouse ready as a prop if you teach English online to ESL students. The chatbox is super helpful. More on that later.IMG_3797

NUMBER NINE: A good set up headphones is a MUST. IMG_3792

A good set of headphones is a must! If your students cannot hear you… it won’t be a good class. I personally use gaming headphones. Mine are SADES Model SA-901. I bought them on ebay. Here is a non-affiliated link:

Headphones brand and model: SADES Model SA-901

Features that were important for me:

  • Comfortability. I teach for anywhere between 4-8 hours a day. I needed my headphones to not give me a headache.
  • A mute button for me. As I was preparing the class, or was there early, I did not want my students to hear me. You know… sometimes you get to class early and you have to go to the bathroom… mute button can be important. Or suddenly a little one decides to randomly walk into your class and start talking to you? (what the heck?)
  • A mute button for the student. I will sometimes mute the student when they are literally screaming (what the heck?) into the headphones. Not angry… just screaming. (Gotta love 3 and 4 years old children).
  • A volume button. Help the student be louder, by turning them up. Or maybe down when necessary.

*This brand and model is a USB port based headphone model. You must have an available USB port on your computer to plug in the headphones.*


NUMBER 10: Keep a lamp nearby…. AND EXTRA LIGHT BULBSIMG_3788

I use my lamp CONSTANTLY. Teach the difference between good morning and good night by turning on and off the lamp. Light and dark. Bright and dark. FABULOUS!

A TIP FOR THE NEWBEE… KEEP EXTRA LIGHTBULBS NEARBY. More than once my lamp has gone off and I have been stuck in the dark. I keep an extra one in my number pocket holder so it’s easily accessible.



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