Self-contained classroom setup is my jam. I get so excited every year planning how I want to physically set up my classroom. It can be an extremely daunting task, but if you have a plan it can be a fun process. Let me show you how to setup a self-contained classroom.
Plan the areas of your classroom
Whole Group/Small Group
When planning your self-contained classroom setup, decide what kinds of areas you’ll need. Will you need a whole group area, small groups, centers, independent center, play area, calm area? Make a list of all the spaces you’ll need, then you can start drawing up a map of your spaces. The photo above is my whole group center for morning meeting and social skills, as well as small group and independent centers throughout the day. You can find my morning meeting here. The green table serves as a para run center, and the blue table is an independent center.
I use my kidney table for my teacher run small group center. I complete all my direct instruction at this center. We have the two book shelves as a divider between my teacher center and the para run center.
Task Box Center
The next area in my classroom is my task box center. Truthfully, this is one of my favorite areas of my classroom. My task box library is stored in my cubby bookshelf, and I have two desks set up for my task box center. You can find the task box labels I use here.
The above photo shows the setup for my task box center tables. Both tables have a check in, a schedule, and a finished basket. When a student comes to the table, their schedule is set up with 3 labels from task boxes from the library. The student finds the box, completes the task, and puts in in the finished basket. They receive their reward after completing their 3 tasks.
3-Drawer Independent Work Center
I have another independent work center in my classroom. I utilize a 3-drawer work center in addition to my task box library. Similar to the task box center, the students have 3 tasks in the 3-drawer organizer and a schedule of the activities. They complete each task to receive their reward.
Setup Your Schedules
Visual Wall Schedules
The next important part of setting up a self-contained classroom is planning your schedules. I like having my students visual schedules on the wall. I asked my custodian to bolt my bulletin boards to the wall so I could place my vertical visual schedules there. We also have a student that uses a mobile binder schedule.
Next to my visual wall schedules, I have a shelf where I store my students’ mobile schedules. I also have a student that has a mobile token board, so I store that here as well when not in use.
Zoning and Lesson Plans
A zoning plan will be your best friend in a self-contained classroom. Essentially, a zoning plan is a map of your classroom throughout the entire day. It lays out which students are where and who is responsible for them. If you want to learn more about zoning plans, check out my blog post here.
Free zoning plan template is available here.
Your paras need schedules too! I like to provide my paras a copy of our zoning plan and a copy of our Friday duties list. I make multiple copies of our zoning plans so my paras can make notes on it as they need to. We hang up their copy of the zoning plan on their belongings cabinet.
I give this cabinet to my paras to each have a drawer to keep their belongings throughout the day. Plan a space for your paras to store their belongings during the day, whether it be a cabinet, drawer, cubby, etc.
At a Glance Schedule
An At a Glance schedule is incredibly helpful in a self-contained classroom. I put our class schedule, gen ed schedules, specials, related services, staff schedules, and notes on this board. You can find the daily whole group schedule here.
Setup “Extra” Areas
The next step in self-contained classroom setup is to plan your extra areas. These could be your wishlist areas that you want to have but aren’t a total necessity. Once you have your must have areas setup up, then you can start to add in your wishlist areas. I have a few of these areas in my classroom:
Calm Down Area
One of the very important areas of my classroom is our calm down area. I have mats, bean bags, a calm down kit, and visuals prepared for students as they need them. Sensory mats are available here (affiliate link)
The play area is another great space in my classroom. I have the toy shelves covered so students aren’t in them all day, but it is easy to uncover them during play time.
My class library has lots of books and some comfy places to sit. I also keep a core communication board on the shelf in between the play area and class library for social communication skill practice.
One of our favorite areas in our classroom is our sensory room. We made this area in an adjoining room to our classroom. It has a trampoline, curtains, sensory lights, a mirror, rockers, bean bags, and a shelf full of sensory items.
The next step I take in self-contained classroom setup is planning my material storage. I think about center materials, gen ed time materials, IEP goal materials, IEP binders, communication logs, etc. There are a lot of materials that we use, so we have to have a way to store it all in a functional way.
Each center has a shelf next to it, so I store the materials for each center at the corresponding shelf.
IEP Goal Bins
I use IEP goal bins to store all IEP materials in my classroom. If you want to read more about my IEP goal bins, check out my blog post here.
Weekly Unit Plans
I use a bulletin board to display my weekly theme for each of our units. I like having the visual reminder for my students, and it keeps me organized each week with what materials I need to prepare.
iPad and Communication Device Storage
I have a command center in the front of my classroom by our visual schedules that houses all our iPads, communication devices, and chargers. I also have a sign in and sign out sheet for the iPads.
The last step I take in self-contained classroom setup is all my organization. There are a lot of moving parts in a self-contained classroom, so staying organized is especially important. Let me show you some of the organization in my classroom.
IEP Binder Organization
I use IEP binders to store all student data, information, and notes. This system works great for me and my staff keep all our students’ documents in order. Learn more about IEP planning in this blog post.
Home-School Communication Binders
My students put their daily communication log binders in these bins each morning for me to look over. Then, when I write their notes at the end of the day, they find their binder to pack up.
Bathroom Checklist and Class Jobs
We use a checklist for the bathroom for each change of each student. We also track their independence in the bathroom. These checklists are great for tracking the students’ progress. I also have a class jobs chart attached to this door.
I also use lunch checklists with my students. I use these so I can track what the students eat, if they try any new foods, etc. It is also helpful to be able to tell the parents what their child ate that day.
Related Services Sign Out
I have a sign in/out sheet for each related service. I use these so I can track service minutes for each student. It is helpful to me and the service provider if anyone was absent and they need minutes made up. I also keep my walkie talkies here for whenever my students and staff come and go to various places around the school.
Self-contained classroom setup is a big task. When broken up into steps, it is much easier to manage. Remember, function should be your top priority in your self-contained classroom. If you want to see more classroom setups, check out this blog post!
Charmain Durham says
Hello my name Ms. Durham
I need ideas on primary ( Autism ) K-2
I need website and activities for them .
I haven ‘t done this in twenty years .
My class is out of control .
They were feed candy for the whole year . I am not sure but I was told by others .
I need an assessment for them also . Any ideas ! Thank You !!!
Whitney Kaiser says
Hello! Thank you for reading my post!
-For ideas for primary: search my “Whitney” or “Michelle” here on simplyspecialed.com. We write several blog posts per month, many geared toward primary autism classrooms
-Websites: I use ABCMouse, Boom Learning, Starfall, Epic Books
-Activities: Check out the Simply Special Ed Shop for TONS of activities
-Assessment: I have used the VB-MAPP and ABLLS-R in my classroom
I hope this helps!