As teachers and parents we are constantly waging war against piles, clutter, and the inbox. Each year, I have been better about setting up my classroom in an efficient, yet cozy way. When you manage 20-30 kids every day, organization is paramount! The more organized your classroom is, the less time you will need to spend there each afternoon; that equates to more time at home with your munchkins!
Here are the top 7 things that keep my room neat, tidy and organized!
Bins Bins Bins!
I have been using these teal bins for 3 years now and I see no end in sight. A bin is placed by each pod of students. In my classroom the students are not allowed to have ANYTHING in their desks except for notebooks and folders, plus the pencils for the day.
That means: NO markers, crayons, sharpeners, or any extraneous supplies that become toys and create clutter can be in the desks. Those items go in the bins. The top drawer of each bin holds coloring items and their reading books; the middle drawer holds whiteboards and markers/sock erasers. The bottom drawer holds their personal pencil pouches and science workbooks. The materials managers (whoever sits by the bins) are in charge of passing out supplies when needed.
Don’t worry! This does not get out of hand at all. I use Whole Brain Teaching strategies for most of my classroom management, and this is incorporated into that. We have a quick and efficient process for distributing and putting away the supplies. (I will be discussing these techniques more in my next post on routines!)
Sitting on top of each bin is a basket with 3 cups. In each cup are the most frequently used supplies: highlighters, glue sticks, and scissors. Put whatever you use most in those cups for easy access!
A great way to keep your students organized is to have a “student center” where you keep basic items that they will need throughout the day:
- sharpened/unsharpened pencil buckets
- slots for finished work
- blank paper
- lined paper
- Pickle Work folders (discussed in detail below)
- Tonight’s Homework
A student sharpens the pencils at the end of the day so that in the morning there are plenty in the student center to exchange when needed.
Slots for Completed Work
There are a plethora of collection methods for completed work out there, but this has worked for me since year one. I asked my
super-skilled craftsman step dad to make this for me years ago (thank you, Jay!), but I have seen similar ideas in stores or online. This mailbox is another option. I number each slot so that when I collect finished work it is already in alphabetical order. Easy to add to my grade-book and file! My clerks empty and sort them daily so I can stay on top of grading and easily see who has not turned in work.
Ketchup & Pickle Folders
I could not decide whether this tip belonged in the Organization post or the Routines post, but since I reference it in the above section, I figured I may as well add it! My students are given a red and green folder with their number on it at the beginning of the year.
The red stands for “ketchup” work (to “catch up” on later).
The green is for the “pickle” work- so they can pick which activity to do!
This is their ‘I am finished early what do I do’ folder. If they have any ketchup work, they must finish that first. If not, they can choose an activity from the Pickle folder! I differentiate these and put activities in that they enjoy, but also using skills I need that particular child to practice. Everyone has some of the same activities, but each child also has pickle work unique to them. Pickle work stays in their folder, which stays in the crate! No extra clutter…
Seriously, just label everything. Then, teach the students where everything is! This saves so much time and eliminates clutter. When it is easy to see where all of the materials are, there is a much higher likelihood that they will return to where they belong!
Keep general supply items close together within the classroom. I have a 10-bin supply caddy that I use for extra supplies and some game pieces. In the math center area I have another set of bins labeled with all games and manipulatives. In the reading area, there is a set of drawers with labels for reader’s workshop materials. (For an outline of my reader’s workshop setup, read this awesome post!) In conclusion, just say yes to labels.
So easy! Grab 2 or 3 plastic sheet covers and attach some magnetic tape to the back. I place a colored sheet of paper inside and write “ABSENT” on it so it’s easy to see the writing. My clerks write down anyone who is absent on the outside in dry-erase marker, and they place papers inside as they pass them out throughout the day. Once that student returns, he/she knows to grab their work from the sleeve and erase their name. The teacher is totally hands-off!
Lesson Plan Board/Binders
I actually stole this idea from my neighbor teacher this year but added an additional element that has helped me tremendously. Instead of keeping my plans for the week in a binder by my teaching podium, I keep them in pocket dividers that I tack up onto the board next to me! I can easily refer to them and make notes on them as I go through a lesson.
But wait! There’s more! As the notes and activities are passed out throughout the week, I take one extra copy and place it behind the plans in the pocket. Then, at the end of the week I add the plans and activities to a binder so that next year, everything is all together in one place! Adding extras or pulling things that don’t work is easy!
Where to Put All Those Papers..
Here are a couple of organizational tips just for your desk area:
I have 2 main organizers behind my desk. One is for personal papers, data etc, and the other is for student work. There must be a place for everything!
To File, TO Do, To Office. This pretty much covers where everything would potentially need to go and gets the piles off my desk.
To Grade, Graded, Personal. This keeps me on top of all those assignments, whether they are graded or not, there is a place for them until they get into the grade book! Also, when those random papers from the office or parents show up, the “personal” tray is where they live.
I hope you can take some of these ideas and run with them! What do you think will work in your classroom? Are there any tips that keep you super organized?