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Advice for Handling Overcrowding

Bobee-Kay Clark, an elementary school teacher in Sparks, NV., has some experience with supersized classes—and she doesn’t expect to see her class numbers drastically reduced any time soon.

“The largest class roster I had was 54 students when I taught 6th grade music,” says Clark. “I currently teach second grade at a multi-track school built for 850 kids; our enrollment topped out at almost 1,200 a few years back. My clever, creative colleagues invented ways to turn closets into welcoming classrooms.”

She offers some practical advice for making your crowded classroom feel bigger:

• Use tables instead of desks.

• Use chair pockets for storage.

• Removable stick-em hooks and plastic milk crates make cheap improvised cubbies.

• Leave one wall completely blank. Yes, blank. Your students are as overwhelmed by all the bodies in the room as you are.

• Border chalkboards and whiteboards with twinkle lights. When the overcrowding gets too noisy, turn off the main lights, and turn on the twinkly lights; the students will quiet down.

• Use area rugs; they cut down noise and define tight spaces.

• Keep hand sanitizer at the door, and encourage folks to use it; praise students openly for sneezing into their elbows. (Swine flu, anyone?)

• Keep houseplants about the room to keep the air fresh.

• Think of your room in levels. Use the space above the students, and under their desks.

• Declutter and simplify.