How to Set Up Your Computer Science Classroom for Success

A female students with dark brown hair is working on a computer in a classroom. Another female student with brown short hair is standing behind her. The two students look like they are collaborating together.

Are you new to teaching computer science? Are you new to teaching in general? No need to fear! We have compiled a list of helpful tips and ideas to support our computer science educators in preparing for a successful year. 

Constructing Your Classroom 

The first key to creating a smooth-running classroom is to be intentional in your setup. Here are three suggestions to support you in accomplishing this:

  1. Spend time getting to know your classroom technology - understanding your technology will give you peace of mind knowing everything works prior to being in front of students. Use this time to learn how everything connects. This prevents day 1 fumbling to connect cords. In the case where you discover technology is not functioning, this gives you time to submit a work order to ensure it is working properly when you need it.

When troubleshooting bugs that may arise during a lesson, reach out to the Skill Struck support team. Letting them know what types of devices your students are using, as well as the browser offers helpful information towards fixing the issue. Skill Struck works best on Google Chrome and is also supported on Safari and Firefox.

  1. Designate a teaching station - A teaching station is a place where you organize and arrange your teaching materials for the day or week. This may include copies, lesson plans, pencils, and more. Your teaching space should be somewhere easily accessible by you to ensure optimal use of instructional time and limited opportunities for students to misbehave.
  2. Clear your entry and exit way - Students are entering and exiting your classroom multiple times each day. Minimize the clutter in this space to limit student distractions and foster a seamless transition.

Setting Expectations 

Expectations are explanations of how students should behave and perform in your classroom. Expectations should be individualized for your classroom, but general enough to apply to all students. Research tells us that over the past 60 years, “researchers have consistently found that teachers who explicitly teach expectations have students who are: on-task at higher rates, have more prosocial behaviors with peers, and overall are more academically successful than children who have not been systematically taught classroom expectations” (Croce & Salter, 2022). 

Several experts recommend outlining expectations as positive statements. Such expectations should be clear standards that motivate students as they thrive knowing what is expected of them. Here are a few expectations for students working with technology:

  1. Only visit websites the teacher has given permission to visit
  2. Keep passwords private
  3. Respect the computer (i.e. Hold it with two hands, walk if transporting your computer, no food or drink around the computer, only use it on a flat surface)
  4. Keep your personal coding files private (i.e. No cheating)
  5. If you finish early, help those around you who might need some extra support

Creating Procedures

“A routine is a process or action that is done automatically without prompting” (Wong & Wong, 2014). Imagine your students walking into class. They put away their bags, pull out their chairs, and get right to work on the morning task. This is an example of a start-of-class routine or procedure. A procedure is a step-by-step list of instructions that students are to follow at a given time. Think of these as your very own algorithms! It is important to be specific when writing procedures. Think about how you want a procedure to look, sound, and feel when in action. Setting classroom procedures not only make the flow of a daily classroom routine smoother, but they save you valuable instructional time. Here are a few common tasks that typically require a procedure:

  1. Entering the classroom
  2. Getting or returning a computer to the computer cart
  3. Submitting work
  4. Working in groups
  5. Lining up

Preparing For Lessons

At least one day before a lesson, read over your lesson plans so that you are familiar with the content you will be teaching. Print and prepare any resources you will need, and check that digital resources, such as slideshows, work. Reviewing the content and materials before the lesson will help you feel prepared and one step ahead. You may find it useful to bookmark websites on your computer that you will refer to often during lessons, so that you can easily pull them up when needed. In addition, consider having a hard or digital copy of student passwords and usernames handy. This way you can help them when they forget!

Functioning in a Limited Space

Do you feel there is limited space in your classroom? If this is the case, it is crucial to utilize the space you do have in creative and effective ways. Here are some suggestions for doing this:

  1. Vertical wall space - Add a hanging shoe organizer to give yourself 24 pockets of storage on your wall. These organizers can often be found at your local stores. Store anything from a class set of headphones to water bottles, or even your various school supplies.
  2. File crates - If you use file crates to store things in your classroom, add a cushioned seat or pillow to the top to create an extra seating space that doubles as storage.
  3. Need more wall space? - Consider hanging poster boards in front of shelving units used for storage. Not only does this limit the visual clutter that can be distracting to both you and your students, but it allows you the space to hang more intentional visuals to help your kids. Pro tip: Tape the boards in a way that they can be flipped up to still access the shelved items easily.
  4. Use small space storage - Rolling carts, boxes, bins, storage cubes, shoe shelving, and more. There are loads of small space storage options out there. Consider using these to help consolidate the supplies you are looking to keep in the classroom.
  5. Turning Desks into Tables - You can flip student desks around and into tables, allowing you to store your items in their desks. You may be asking, where do student supplies go? Consider attaching a command hook to the back of their chair with a hanging pencil bag to store the small items they might need (i.e. pencil, scissors, erasers).

Being new to the field of teaching computer science doesn’t have to be scary and overwhelming. Take things one step at a time and you’ll soon be feeling the successes of your efforts. 

Croce, K. M. & Salter, J. S. (2022, May 6). Beyond the Walls: Establishing Classroom Expectations in a Virtual Classroom. Frontiers in Education.

Wong, H. K. & Wong, R. T. (2014). THE Classroom Management Book. Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

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